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.


35th Annual Convention; Phoenix, AZ; 2009

Event Details

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Symposium #177
Behavioral Contingencies and Metacontingencies: Levels of Analysis, Intervention and Assessment
Sunday, May 24, 2009
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
North 131 BC
Area: TPC/OBM; Domain: Theory
Chair: Thomas C. Mawhinney (University of Detroit Mercy)
Abstract: Determining the level of analysis to use when describing, assessing and changing cultural practices and their colligative (aggregate) consequences presents a problem for those who would assess cultural phenomena conceptually and practically. Papers by Glenn and Houmanfar address conceptual issues regarding, respectively, establishing the means by which lines of fracture among behavioral and cultural contingencies and dynamics of behavioral and cultural contingencies involving emergence may be determined. The importance of these conceptual vantage points is reflected in a paper by Dagen and Alavosius. They focus attention on assessment of behavioral and cultural contingencies involving conflicting interlocking contingencies among motorists and bicyclists when sharing public roadways. They then explore potential large and small scale interventions aimed at changing interlocking contingencies among motorists and bicyclists. Mawhinney employs both published and hypothetical performance data to illustrate how formal organizational leaders might monitor colligative consequences of formal organizational practices and change them via OBM type interventions. These presentations should provide insights regarding the ongoing conceptual development of behavior analytic vantage points on and the interplay among behavioral level and cultural level contingencies, metacontingencies, and the practical implications of these vantage points on development of interventions aimed at changing practices and related metacontingencies
Lines of Fracture and Levels of Analysis
SIGRID S. GLENN (University of North Texas)
Abstract: The locution different levels of analysis has been applied to somewhat different kinds of conceptual problems. Sometimes the “different levels” are within a scientific domain (e.g. molar vs. molecular analyses in behavior analysis, or whole organism vs. molecular biology, or classical vs. quantum mechanics). Sometimes “different levels” refers to the different domains themselves (e.g. biology vs. behavior analysis and biology vs. physico-chemistry; or behavior analysis vs. cultural analysis). The pragmatic interest of scientists is usually to establish the lines of fracture that result in classifications that work in their scientific explanation of phenomena in the domain they are investigating. However, the phenomena studied in the various scientific domains are substantively related, and apparently came into existence in a particular, and possibly requisite, historical order; therefore the boundaries of the various scientific domains are fuzzy. This paper explores, within the context of this general perspective, the fuzzy boundaries between biological and behavioral domains and between operant and cultural domains, and argues for non-reductionist theories in each domain, based on clearly defined units of analysis. It also suggests a meta-theoretical language for all three domains.
Emergence & Metacontingency: Points of Contact and Departure
RAMONA HOUMANFAR (University of Nevada, Reno), N. Joseph Rodrigues (University of Nevada, Reno), Todd A. Ward (Univeristy of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: The behavioral contingency and the metacontingency describe phenomena at different levels of analysis, the former at the individual level, the latter at the group or cultural level. The relationship between these levels is similar to the relationship between the physiological and the psychological levels of analysis. Simply stated, behavior is not simply the sum of physiological activity, but is rather more than or qualitatively different from physiological activity. We believe this emergent relationship may be crucial to distinguishing phenomena at different levels of analyses. The term ‘emergence’ is used in several ways within behavior analysis. Some uses suggest that novel behavior or more complex behavior is emergent upon simpler behavior. The term is also used to suggest that molar patterns of behavior emerge from molecular contingencies of reinforcement. For others, the term is reserved for describing connections between levels of analysis. Our aim in this paper is to contribute to an understanding of the phenomenon of emergence in the interdisciplinary interaction between behavior analysis and sociology or anthropology. In presenting this analysis, we examine the utility of interdisciplinary concepts such as metacontingency and discuss the points of contact and departures between behavior analysis and cultural analysis throughout this process.
Interlocking Behavioral Contingencies to Plan Cultural Change
JOSEPH CHARLES DAGEN (University of Nevada, Reno), Mark P. Alavosius (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Transportation preferences in the United States are shifting away from fuel-thirsty SUVs to more economical automobiles and bicycles. This is driven by the rising cost of fuel, concerns with global warming, desire for increased fitness, and other influences. As an increasing number of bicyclists share the roadway with motorists, attention must be given to the safety of these bicyclists. Media reports suggest that collisions and conflicts between cyclists and motorists are increasing. In attempting to curtail perfunctory government responses to the increasing prevalence of bicyclist injuries and fatalities, consideration is given to the systems and interlocking contingencies necessary to support wide scale change of cultural practices. This paper discusses the feasibility of creating more powerful community and government conglomerates that might influence the safe adoption of new transportation practices. Designing interlocking contingencies and functional data systems to power and evaluate them are proposed as the pragmatic foundation for planned cultural change.
Behavioral Contingencies and Metacontingencies in a Microcosm: Levels of Analysis, Intervention and Assessment
THOMAS C. MAWHINNEY (University of Detroit Mercy)
Abstract: Data from a study by Mawhinney and Fellows-Kubert (1999), viewed from a behavior analyst’s vantage point, included prima facie evidence of counter control (Skinner, 1953) by two members of one shift. The dysfunctional behavior of the two “deviants” persisted during a lottery-based performance incentive intervention that produced dramatic performance increases among other organizational members, but only belatedly by the two deviants. Had the two shifts been two independent organizations, the one with deviants would have perished while the other would have survived. This is because there was a performance quota that had to be met for both groups to avoid termination of their employment. These data are used as a vehicle for discussing implications of metacontingency assessment and change at multiple levels of analysis by treating the two shifts as elements of an organizational microcosm. In so doing, this paper addresses a recommendation by Mawhinney and Fellows-Kubert (1999); they suggest positive and negative side-effects of behavior based organizational interventions be assessed at multiple levels of analysis.



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