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.


First International Conference; Italy, 2001

Event Details

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Paper Session #16
Feminism and Behaviorism
Thursday, November 29, 2001
11:00 AM–11:25 AM
Hall of the Ceiling
Area: TPC
Chair: Maria R. Ruiz (Rollins College)
The Feminist Critique of Science and Radical Behaviorism
Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
MARIA R. RUIZ (Rollins College)
Abstract: The feminist verbal community is highly diverse. Nevertheless, feminist perspectives share a series of orientating assumptions regarding science, which in turn guide feminist work. We can begin to talk about the value of a feminist perspective to radical behaviorists by examining two such assumptions. First is the notion that science is not a value-free or gender neutral enterprise. Instead, the values of a culture, including those related to gender come into play in the subset of cultural practices which we tact when we speak of scientific activity. A feminist perspective in scientific work includes an examination of both values and gender. Second, the notion that science is a means to achieving solutions to practical problems and as such it is political activity. While the assumptions do not themselves define or delineate research areas, they can influence the types of research questions that we might ask in virtually any investigation, such as, "what is the gender configuration amongst the research participants?" and "are there gender related power differentials that could influence the results?" Besides these questions relating to the research setting or context of discovery, we might also ask questions related to the context of justification. Specifically, behavior analysts adopt the pragmatic "truth criterion" of "effective action". A feminist perspective brought to bear on this process encourages us to consider potential tensions. For example, the rules of evidence we follow in justifying and validating our scientific activity explicitly authorize and privilege the scientist as sole arbiter. They do not, however require the reflexivity called for by a feminist perspective. I will argue that this perspective brings a special prism to bear on the analysis and the process of social validation leading to very specific types of questions, which might not otherwise suggest themselves as obvious pauses for further inquiry. I will examine these questions and explore the value of a merger between feminist scholarship and radical behaviorism.



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