Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


32nd Annual Convention; Atlanta, GA; 2006

Event Details

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Symposium #213
Terrorism: How Can Behavior Analysts Help?
Sunday, May 28, 2006
3:30 PM–4:50 PM
Area: CSE; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Roger W. McIntire (University of Maryland)
Abstract: Terrorism presents an urgent challenge to our civilization. Does behavior analysis know enough to help in the struggle against this threat? While the nature of threats can take many forms, the presentations here will focus on behavioral applications that illustrate strategies in selected problem areas. Dr. Donald K. Pumroy's presentation examines three sources of influence on the behavior of suicide bombers and how beneficial modifications of these sources could be accomplished. Dr. Leo Walder will address the setting conditions that might restrict the efforts of behavior analysts in investigating alternative strategies. He examines the language of patriotism as a limiting factor in our creative approach to the broader problem. Dr. Judy G. Blumenthal will discuss how the emotional effect a terrorist creates can extend to a large population of persons who do not directly experience or witness the terrorist events. She identifies possible physiological changes and perceptual processes that may mediate the broader effect. In addition to the impact of media policies, Dr. Roger McIntire will address personal freedom issues involved in home security policies and how, even with a large margin for individual freedoms, the behavior analytic approach may still improve the identification of terrorists and influence their intentions.
Suicide Bombers and Their Mentors.
DONALD K. PUMROY (University of Maryland)
Abstract: The author would be quick to admit that his only knowledge of terrorism comes from the media and he is in no way connected with government. However, the suicide bombers are people and as such their threatening behaviors are controlled by familiar behavior principles. As in any people problem, one looks for the reinforcers for these young men and the factors involved in their learning. Three groups of key people can be identified that have taught and reinforced the behaviors leading to the crucial suicidal behavior of blowing themselves up near a target. The first is the clerics who may inadvertently shape and encourage misguided religious interpretations of these young men. Another powerful influence and one that might have an opposite and positive effect on the crucial behavior would be mothers and family who may have not attended important developments in religious interpretations. The last group and a powerful one would be their peers. Each of these groups will be discussed and analyzed from a behavioral view that suggests how the behaviors of these three groups might be changed so that they in turn could reduce the suicide behavior of their potential terrorists.
Terrorism: Emotion and How Behavior Analysis Can Help.
JUDY G. BLUMENTHAL (Associates for Behavior Change)
Abstract: Emotion is the relationship between mind and body in which physiological reactions influence perceptual events that result in further physiological reactions. The way an individual perceives an event can cause the body to subsequently respond in certain ways, such as elevating blood pressure and increasing perspiration. Through this process variables perceived as terrorist events or threatening behaviors can cause fear, terror, anger, panic, anxiety, long after the circumstances of the original event. These responses increase stress level, producing short-term and potentially long-term negative consequences to the body. Since emotions are intertwined with thoughts and behavior, responding with appropriate behavior to a perceived negative event can neutralize, reduce, or reduce that particular emotion, thus reducing the overall stress on the body. This paper will present methods and exercises using principles of applied behavior analysis that facilitate the restructuring of specific perceptual reactions that in turn can reduce the emotional reaction to terrorist-like events and behaviors.
Patriotism and the Behavior Analysis of Terrorism.
LEOPOLD O. WALDER (Behavior Service Consultants, Inc.)
Abstract: In our struggle with Terrorism we all need well-designed and properly implemented behavior analyses that will reduce the dangers from surprise attacks and will increase safety. My purpose in this presentation is to identify some events that are likely to lower the quality of the design of such behavior analyses or of their implementation. This paper examines the negative effects of patriotism upon our collective safety. In 1755 Samuel Johnson defined patriotism as the last refuge of scoundrels. In times of danger there are those who tell us what is patriotic behavior. They lay out prescriptions for behaviors to be rewarded and proscriptions for behaviors to be punished. Calling these pronouncements Patriotism wraps it all in a flag to make their words sacred and not subject to challenge.Given such edicts, we all can become less able to cope with the real dangers of terrorism because the officially defined thinking stifles our ability to devise creative solutions to the problem of terrorism. We shall examine the current effects of patriotism in an historical context extending back to Pericles in ancient Athens.
Homeland Security, Behavioral Profiling and the Media Viewpoint.
ROGER W. MCINTIRE (University of Maryland)
Abstract: This paper addresses the challenge to homeland security in areas of personal freedoms and other practical restraints needed to identify potential terrorists and prevent dangerous terrorist acts. The extent and nature of profiling is examined as an example of the personal freedom issue in improving public safety. In airline passenger screening, employment, and immigration, the use of profiling may be very effective, even under restrictions that differ for citizens and non-citizens. Dr. McIntire also explores the media's impact on the balance of personal freedom and safety in these times of terrorist threat. While media coverage may facilitate fear of terrorists, examples concerning the media policies presented in this paper show that the media may also encourage viewers, listeners, and readers that some aspects of the threat are under personal control. These aspects include individual travel and vacation habits, daily commuting routines and alert attitudes in public places. The feeling of personal control provided by the media viewpoint may also highlight the predictable aspects of the terrorist event and thereby reduce its terrorizing effect.



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