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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #244
CE Offered: BACB
Evaluating the Professional Judgment of Behavior Analysts: How do we do?
Sunday, May 25, 2014
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
W185a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: PRA; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Edward J. Daly III (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Discussant: Keith D. Allen (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center)
CE Instructor: Edward J. Daly III, Ph.D.

Behavior analysts promise their clients the best available solution. The best available solution is defined by standards of scientific evidence. However, application of the best available solution requires many localized judgments pertaining to the particulars of the case. Frequently, professionals are unaware of commonly occurring contingencies that have been shown in the research to have a detrimental effect on their decision making. This symposium will present three papers that review related facets of professional decision making that have significant implications for how behavior analysts should go about providing solutions. The first paper will review the literature on commonly identified judgment errors that are likely to occur in the professional contexts in which behavior analysts operate. The second paper will review the literature on the development of professional expertise, with particular emphasis on contextual factors that contribute to good and poor judgment. The third paper will do a behavioral analysis of commonly identified judgment error types. The unobservable intermediary processes used as explanations in the literature are not necessary when decision making is viewed through the lens of robust principles of behavior. In each presentation, implications for practice will be presented to help attendees better meet the ethical requirement of applying the best available solution.

Keyword(s): decision making, judgment errors, professional expertise, professional judgment
Factors that Influence Our Professional Judgment: Heuristic Strategies and Cognitive Biases
MAUREEN O'CONNOR (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Mackenzie Sommerhalder (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Abstract: Professionals view themselves as possessing expertise that allows them to arrive at sound clinical judgments. Yet, there is over 50 years of research indicating that judgment is biased and often produces wrong decisions. To make matters worse, professionals are not aware of their errors and often only grow in confidence about the accuracy of their decisions (Dawes, 1994). Judgment errors are attributed to cognitive shortcuts (heuristics) and biases that result from systematically ignoring relevant information and relying on irrelevant information (Kahneman, 2011). For example, the confirmation bias refers to the tendency to selectively seek, interpret, and accept evidence that supports our beliefs or hypotheses and to ignore or deemphasize contrary or non-supportive evidence. By exclusively focusing on one hypothesis we fail to consider and rule out plausible alternative explanations which can lead to errors in professional decision making. This presentation will review most common judgment errors identified in the literature for the purpose of helping professionals to recognize that their professional decision making is susceptible to error and to encourage them to identify their own biases and adjust their professional decision making practices accordingly. Gaining awareness about the sources of professional error is an important first step in promoting sound professional decision making.

A Behavioral Analysis of the Controlling Variables Affecting Professional Judgment

WHITNEY STRONG (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Polly Daro (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

The research on professional judgment documenting the many heuristics and biases that routinely influence decision making has been carried out almost entirely within a cognitive paradigm. Yet, behavior analysts possess robust principles of behavior with strong explanatory power that may be very useful for examining the contingencies influencing decision-making. For example, clinicians often fall prey to the base-rate fallacy by ignoring the antecedent probability of a diagnostic condition, which leads to many incorrect diagnostic decisions. From a behavior-analytic perspective, this is a case where relevant information exerts insufficient stimulus control over the clinicians diagnostic behavior. In other cases, prior information can influence clinical decisions through anchoring effects or availability biases, whereby prior information (e.g., referral comments, appealing but unrelated symptoms) exerts too much antecedent control and leads the practitioner to fail to examine alternative explanations adequately. This presentation will provide a behavioral analysis of common judgment errors that have been identified in the literature by examining the antecedent and reinforcement contingencies that appear to be operating for these robust biases. Attendees will benefit from learning about the contingencies influencing their decision-making and how to overcome these pitfalls by managing the contingencies more effectively and adhering to a rigorous data based problem-solving process.




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