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 #516
Understanding Through Accepting: Contextual Behavioral Science and Stigma
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
W179a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: CBM; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Ryan Albarado (University of Louisiana Lafayette)
Discussant: Sandra Georgescu (Chicago School of Professional Psychology )

Stigma is a pattern of negative opinions and behaviors towards a person based on their possession of an attribute that is against social norms. Stigma is a common phenomenon that seems to emerge through the normative processes in which humans develop and understand language. Because of their root in verbal processes, stigmatizing attitudes tend to be overgeneralized and extremely rigid. Stigma results in harmful consequences in every aspect of the lives of those who are stigmatized, and threatens psychological well being for the stigmatizer as well. Contextual behavioral science (CBS) offers a better understanding of stigma as well with implications for the development of more effective stigma prevention and reduction. Research on stigma from the contextual behavioral perspective suggests that CBS interventions can introduce flexibility among the most rigid of behaviors to decrease experiential avoidance, and foster more meaningful living. Early applications . The two papers in this symposium aims to explore stigma associated with mental health difficulties. The first paper will explore the implications of characterizing gaming problems as an addiction. The second paper will consider the divergent impacts of different forms of education on mental health stigma. Implications for understanding, assessing, and intervening on stigma will be discussed.

Keyword(s): CBS, Stigma

On Being Addicted to Killing Dragons, Aliens, and Zombies: Analyzing Functions and Stigma of Gaming Behavior

KAIL H. SEYMOUR (Southern Illinois University), Chad E. Drake (Southern Illinois University)

Due to its quick rise in the past 10-15 years, the phenomenon of habitual online video gaming (i.e., "online gaming addiction) may pose a new set of challenges for clinicians. The recent technological advances that spawned such behaviors make it exceedingly unlikely that most seasoned therapists have either a) received training in the area or b) have seen enough clients to have a comprehensive understanding of the specific clinical presentations they may encounter. Further, the relative ubiquity of online gaming cultural influences on younger people may exacerbate clinically relevant cross-generational issues; this may result in increased difficulty along multiple dimensions such as rapport building, empathy, etc. This presentation is an early attempt to examine online gaming behavior from functional contextual standpoint. The content focuses on a theoretical functional analysis based on both experiential familiarity with gaming communities and discussion with clinicians who have clients described as "gaming addicts". Stigma and addiction language will be discussed in an attempt to delineate how the lack of a focus on contingencies could potentially be detrimental when working with such clients. The relationship between appetitive/aversive therapeutic techniques and functional contextual therapeutic sensibilities will also be discussed.


Lessons Worth Learning: Education and Flexibility with Mental Health Stigma

SUNNI PRIMEAUX (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Matthieu Villatte (University of Nevada, Reno)

Mental health stigma, while common, leads to harmful consequences. There is some evidence to show that education reduces stigma. The reduction, however, is short term and only observed in those who are relatively open and flexible with their beliefs. Emerging research suggests that psychological flexibility may be a key process in stigma reduction. Relational Frame Theory (RFT) provides a framework for understanding the development of stigma, the role of inflexibility in maintenance of stigma, and how education that targets flexibility might facilitate reduction in stigma. Applications of RFT have resulted in the development of the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure, a tool that can be applied for assessment of not only implicit stigmatizing attitudes, but also the flexibility with which they are held. The current study examines the impact of divergent educational experiences on mental health stigma using college students with various levels of formal education relevant to psychological difficulties both implicitly with self-report measures and explicitly with the IRAP. We also examine empathy and psychological flexibility as moderators of the relationship between education and stigma. Preliminary data suggest that mental health bias is a function of education, but that didactic and experiential education may have differential effects. Implications for creating more effective education interventions will be discussed.




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