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

Previous Page


Symposium #373
CE Offered: BACB
Behavioral Developmental Approaches to Interventions with People and Organizations
Monday, May 29, 2006
3:00 PM–4:20 PM
Area: DEV; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Patrice Marie Miller (Salem State College)
CE Instructor: Patrice Marie Miller, Ed.D.

We examine how the Model of Hierarchical Complexity, a behavioral-developmental model of stage-like development, improves interventions with people and organizations. Behavior analytic techniques are helpful in bringing about the acquisition of single behaviors in a sequence. But almost all ABA approaches are limited to the acquisition of 2 or 3 behaviors in a sequence. Each sequence has to be discovered on its own. Here, we address some issues which people and organizations find difficult. We examine how elemental behaviors are formed into complex behaviors, and those in turn are formed into even more complex behaviors. The more complex behaviors are more than chains; they are defined in terms of the elemental behaviors and organize them. This model identifies what new behaviors must be more hierarchically complex, specifying the sequence of actions that would be most helpful. It also helps identify what current behaviors can be combined to form a more complex combination and what the entire sequence of increasingly more complex behaviors should be. With a universal notion of how complex behaviors are formed, many problematic issues stand a better chance of being successfully solved. Using this model, we address interventions with interpersonal and social relationships, teachers, and organizations.

Organizing Components into Combinations: How Transition Works.
MICHAEL LAMPORT COMMONS (Harvard Medical School)
Abstract: To plan how to intervene in problems that people and organizations may have, it is important to understand both the new behavior to be acquired and the means by which the intervention is to proceed. The Model of Hierarchical Complexity, a non-mentalistic model of development, suggests that more complex behavior results from non-arbitrarily combining two or more less complex behaviors. The resulting combinations are not arbitrary chains, but instead, new, more powerful behaviors that can be shown to more effectively address the problems at hand. Using this model as a generator, sequences of tasks can be constructed. These sequences, as will be illustrated in this symposium, allow specification of both prerequisite behaviors, and the behavioral goals of interventions. Performance of a task at a particular order of complexity is said to be at a particular stage. Transition from one stage to the next is posited to consist of alternations in previous-stage behavior. As transition proceeds, the alternations increase in rate until the previous stage behaviors are “smashed” together. Once the smashed-together pieces became co-ordinated, new-combination behavior can be said to have formed. This view of transition is used to make suggestions for interventions in the papers that follow.
Teaching Stages and Interventions to Change Teacher Stage.
PATRICE MARIE MILLER (Salem State University)
Abstract: We present a sequence of minimal behavioral developmental stages at which teaching takes place. The stages range from the Primary Stage, exhibited by many Teacher’s Aids, who are closely supervised, to the Concrete stage for the early grades of Elementary School in which teachers carry out an established curriculum, to Formal Operations for High School teachers, and Systematic stage for four-year college instructors. Metasystematic performance is required to design an entire educational enterprise such as computer aided instruction that works really well. Serious problems occur with concrete and abstract stage performance. Formal stage performance is needed to have the skills to provide empirically based solutions to individual student problems. But with extensive training and support, people who normally function at the abstract stage may also solve such problems. Performing at a higher stages may increase the teacher’s effectiveness but may lead individuals to leave teaching at that level for better opportunities. Following the overall model of how to bring about transition, when individual’s current strategies of doing things fail, sets the conditions for them try different behaviors. If new behaviors modeled and reinforced stage change may take place.
Deficits in “Attachment Stages” in Adults and Suggested Interventions for Each Stage.
SUSANNE T. LEE (Dare Institute)
Abstract: The Model of Hierarchical Complexity has generated descriptions of predictable sequential behavioral changes in close relationships with others. Here, we argue that behaviors characteristic of each stage determine what kinds of interventions to carry out. For example, the Preoperational stage is characteristic of young children do not differentiate between individual’s their fantasies and reality, and tend to provide magical explanations for occurrences. This stage is usually seen only in highly disordered adults, such the most dangerous prisoners. Suggested interventions focus on providing supervision and support to understand others’ perspectives and to differentiate fantasy from reality. At the formal stage -- the adult modal stage -- individuals generate simple one-cause models for explaining behavior of themselves and others. As a result, formal operational explanations of relationships often include blaming the other or oneself for relationship problems. Because of the greater tendency of individuals at this stage to reflect upon their own behavior, the strategy is to expose them to situations in seeing how each person’s behavior contributes to the success and failures. This may occur during impasses when focusing on the bidirectional interaction begins to improve both individuals’ behavior.
Bringing About Changes in Workplace Behavior.
MICHAEL LAMPORT COMMONS (Harvard Medical School)
Abstract: stage organizations are characterized by bureaucracy, and one-dimensional logically-understood regulations. Systematic stage organizations look to the purpose of regulations, balance multiple relationships to achieve goals. We propose that the hierarchical complexity of the contingencies that constitute a particular workplace atmosphere affects how the individuals within it behave. Individual’s stage of performance is described by the hierarchical complexity of the task demands and contingencies that they discriminate and prefer. Most organizations have short lives because below the Metasystematic stage, conformity is valued over creativity. Organizations that show unchanging allegiance to their founders and their principles do not flourish in the long run. Organizations that are democratic are also less creative, especially those relying on a popularity vote. At the metasystematic stage, the contingencies tend to be based upon absolute creative achievement alone, not popularity. Research universities and start-ups are the exceptional organizations and many tend to be organized using metasystematic principles. Some companies are also experimenting in being “learning” organizations by reorganizing along the lines of research universities.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh