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.


31st Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2005

Event Details

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Invited Symposium #136
CE Offered: BACB
Cambridge Center Symposium: Unity of Purpose, Unity of Effort: Collective Response to the 9/11 Commission Report
Sunday, May 29, 2005
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
International South (2nd floor)
Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Mark P. Alavosius (Western Michigan University)
CE Instructor: Mark P. Alavosius, Ph.D.

The 9/11 Commission Report provides a detailed account of the nature and extent of terrorism facing us and recommendations for a global strategy to combat terrorism and build respect among cultures. Their recommended strategy includes a remarkable range of initiatives seeking a coalition of forces to build respect for cultures, tolerance for diversity, opportunities for the disadvantaged, defense of western values, and defeat of terrorism. Many of their recommendations pertain to restructuring the US governments systems for security and defense and will require wide scale organizational change. The challenges and complexity of this are enormous and the struggle will require a unity of purpose and effort perhaps unseen in our lifetimes. The 9/11 Commission has wisely called for an open dialogue on this process. In response, this symposium presents four papers by behavior analysts reacting to the 9/11 Commission report. Our purpose is to contribute to the dialogue needed to develop a coherent response to global terror and suggest contributions by behavioral scientists to this endeavor.

The Struggle Against Intolerance
JASON LILLIS (University of Nevada, Reno), Steven C. Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno), Akihiko Masuda (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: The war on terrorism is at its core not so much a war on terrorism as it is a struggle against intolerance. It is not possible to overcome that struggle with bullets alone: we must also learn to how to change human prejudice. The usual view is that we are without prejudice until a sick culture pours it into us. While there is a seed of truth in that view, it misses the larger truth. Prejudice is built into humans beings through our ability to arbitrarily form verbal categories, give those categories attributes, to compare one category to another, and to do so in such a way that we end up on top at the expense of others. Because the human nervous system works by addition, not subtraction, we have little hope of getting rid of prejudicial categories once they are formed, as least as echoes of the past. We can, however, reduce or even eliminate the perverse role these categories play in human behavior. Evidence of the impact of acceptance, defusion, and values based methods on human prejudice will be presented.
Jason Lillis is a doctoral student of Clinical Psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). He received his B.A. from Loyola College in Maryland and his M.A. in clinical psychology from UNR. His interests include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approaches for enhancing treatment compliance and outcomes in medical populations, and Relational Frame Theory (RFT) accounts of prejudice and discrimination.
Seeking Cooperation Post 911: A Behavior Analytic Account of Linked Contingencies
DWIGHT HARSHBARGER (Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies)
Abstract: Events like those of September 11, 2001 change political, economic, cultural, and psychological forces and powerfully influence how we live, work and play. Uncertainty, fear, economic instability, anger, patriotism are just some of the factors that influence our everyday behaviors. The complexity of these contingencies creates enormous challenges to those leaders seeking to maintain the stability, productivity, and security of populations under their span of influence, be they leaders of work organizations, communities, and nations. Some may find appeal to ‘faith-based’ initiatives that inform public policy and sustain a clash of opposing faiths; others can find guidance from a science of behavior that serves as a foundation for initiatives seeking to establish common ground among conflicting cultures. This presentation provides an overview of how behavior analysis contributes to understanding the complexity of socio political contexts under threat of terror and how consideration of contingency management, particularly linked contingencies, might assist efforts to enhance cultural awareness and renew communities, economies, businesses, and relations with other nations.
Dwight Harshbarger, Ph.D. is Executive Director and Senior Fellow of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. His interests are in strengthening human performance in organizations. Dwight has headed human resources in two corporations; as a corporate senior vice president for Reebok International, Ltd., and corporate vice president of Sealy, Inc. He served as a consultant in RHR International’s Chicago office and later as director of strategic consulting and vice president at Aubrey Daniels International. He heads The Browns Group, Inc., and has successfully implemented behavior-based performance improvement programs in the United States and Asia. Prior to entering corporate work, Dwight was a tenured professor of psychology at West Virginia University and later served as CEO of a community mental health center in the southern West Virginia coal fields. Dwight has edited and authored books and articles on organizational performance. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and American Psychological Society.
Verbal Networks in the Face of Terror
RAMONA HOUMANFAR (University of Nevada, Reno), Joe Rodrigues (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Environmental ambiguity is one factor affecting verbal networks in organizations and is the topic of this paper. Our analysis considers the investigative data offered by the 911 Commission Report particularly in terms of the complex verbal networks among security agencies. Our descriptive recount demonstrates the gaps and redundancies in verbal networking processes that appears to have contributed to the failure of the US government and military to thwart the attacks on September 11, 2001. The ambiguity associated with the chain of command and individuals’ roles are discussed particularly in regards to the ‘lack of imagination’ that the 9/11 Commissioners identified as underlying the systemic failure of our security forces. Process analysis occasions a number of behavior analytic interpretations of verbal events and their role in organizational effectiveness. We address the significance of the analysis of reciprocal relations among verbal networks and human performance in organizations by using data from a series of analog preparations that shed some light on the design of effective organizations operating in times of terror.
Dr. Houmanfar is an Assistant Professor, the Program Coordinator of the Behavior Analysis Program, and Director of Performance Systems Technology Program at the University of Nevada, Reno. Currently, Dr. Houmanfar is serving as the senior co-chair of the Association for Behavior Analysis, a trustee of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, editor of the Performance Systems Analysis of Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, and an editorial board member of Journal of Organizational Behavior Management. In the area of improving human performance Dr. Houmanfar has published articles and chapters, delivered more than 100 presentations at regional, national, and international conferences, and has co-published a book, “Organizational Change” (available through Context Press).
Life in Wartime: Organizational Behavior, Systems Analysis, Private Sector Preparedness
MARK P. ALAVOSIUS (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: The publication of the 9/11 Commission Report provides a detailed accounting of the nature and extent of terrorism facing our culture. The report reviews extensive investigative data available on the 9/11 attack on the United States and recounts the evidence revealing al Queda as the perpetrator. The Commission report provides a vivid and unsettling assessment of the extent and sophistication of terrorists' threats to homeland security and the current limitations of our government's ability to detect and preempt future attacks. One stark assessment of the 9/11 Commission is that more attacks more terrible than those of September 11, 2001 will occur. This talk summarizes the report and offers considerations for behavioral science applications towards improving the private-sector’s prevention of and preparedness for future attacks.
Mark P. Alavosius, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of psychology joining the faculty of Western Michigan University in August, 2003. Dr. Alavosius received his BA in psychology from Clark University in 1976 and earned his MS (1985) and Ph.D. (1987) in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His interests are in developing behavioral and instructional systems to improve work performance particularly in the areas of health and safety. Dr. Alavosius has a proven track record with NIOSH as a recipient of Small Business Innovations Research Grants to develop and test behavioral safety technologies. With over twenty years of experience in behavioral approaches to work performance and occupational safety, Dr. Alavosius has over 90 publications and conference presentations. As President of MPA & Associates, Inc., Dr. Alavosius works with specialists in instructional design, multi-media interactive systems, software development, business strategy, and performance management to develop and provide behavioral systems to improve performance in business and industry.



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