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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Symposium #59
Morality: Theoretical Issues
Thursday, November 29, 2001
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Photographs Hall
Area: DEV; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Gary D. Novak (California State University Stanislaus)
Discussant: Jacob L. Gewirtz (Florida International University)
Abstract: This symposium will deal with behavioral approaches to the analysis of moral and religious concepts, behavior, and control systems, with considerable emphasis on the role of rule governance.
On the Parallelisms between Scientific Behavior and Moral Behavior as Rule-Governed Systems
MARTHA PELAEZ (Florida International University)
Abstract: Parallels between scientific practices and morality are identified. As rule-governed systems, both scientific and moral practices involve reasoning and acting. They refer to the quality of acting in accord with standards of “good” conduct (or “good” scientific practices), while possessing a system of verbal behavior (language repertoire) about “right” and “wrong” conduct (or “successful” and “unsuccessful” scientific practices). The present theoretical approach stresses that scientific behavior (including reasoning) just as moral behavior has certain exclusive characteristics that make it different from other social behaviors: (1) It is behavior that is intentional or deliberate (not automatic). (2) It is behavior that is perceived, named, or thought of as right or good (as classes) by the agent (the scientist) and has no obvious or apparent direct benefit for the behaving agent (but for society or humanity). (3) It is behavior that is governed by verbal rules. Thus, from the present approach like “morality,” “science” results from a system of rule-governed behavior. The case will be made that, by identifying and studying the different forms and dimensions of rules (a taxonomic study), their different functions, their controlling relations, and the various processes involved in the derivation or transfer of new rules, we would be able to address effectively some of the paradoxical questions related to scientific practices -- where there are no obvious, direct, extrinsic contingencies for the scientists. It will be conclude that as a multifaceted, socio-cultural process, science is established in much the same was as moral practices. I will call into question longstanding views and traditional scientific practices of the production of knowledge and conclude that the practice of science itself should be one of our main objects of study in behavior analysis. Moreover, I will be critical of and challenge the idea of the “scientific method” as the only or privileged way of producing knowledge and understanding behavioral phenomena.
Aversive Control: The Dark Underbelly of Religion and Morality
RICHARD W. MALOTT (Western Michigan University), Jason T. Otto (Western Michigan University), Moira P. McGlynn (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: Immoral behavior and illegal behavior don’t differ fundamentally. Both usually interfere with the well being of life in the universe. Society must add both moral and legal contingencies to counteract the natural contingencies of reinforcement and punishment that support immoral and illegal behavior. Both moral and legal contingencies are usually indirect-acting analog contingencies. So they control behavior only when they are expressed as moral and legal rules. Generally, society adds moral analog contingencies to control behavior that’s harder to observe and legal analog contingencies to control behavior that is easier to observe. Moral analog contingencies usually have outcomes that don’t materially affect the individual who is behaving. For moral analog contingencies based on religion, the outcomes are supernatural or spiritual, not material. For moral analog contingencies based on secular humanism, the outcomes for the behaving person are social—the well being of others. Legal analog contingencies usually have material outcomes. Rules describing analogs to punishment and penalty contingencies suppress behaviors that shouldn’t occur. Rules describing analogs to avoidance support behaviors that should occur. In most cases it seems necessary that the moral and legal analog contingencies be based on aversive control.



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