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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Symposium #504
CE Offered: BACB — 
The Current State of Social Validity on Aversive Control, What We Know, What We Don’t Know, What’s Next?
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
St. Gallen, Swissotel
Area: TPC/PRA; Domain: Theory
Chair: Jill Marie Harper (Melmark New Englnad)
Discussant: Saul Axelrod (Temple University)
CE Instructor: Michael F. Dorsey, Ph.D.
Abstract: This symposium will present a brief history of the definition and use of punishment, raise terminological questions regarding the use of the word “punishment”, ethical missteps in the application of punishment procedures, and the social validity of continuing to use aversive procedures without proper evidence of effectiveness. Current research on punishment will be reviewed, as well as a discussion on the use of punishment procedures utilized in the field today. Preliminary results indicate that 80% of current BCBA’s utilize punishment procedures in their current practice. The ethical issues included with utilizing punishment procedures will be highlighted through a review of several missteps observed in the field of applied behavior analysis or behavior modification. Based upon the lessons learned from these occurrences, considerations for practice will be proposed. Additionally, rarely is social validity conducted when utilizing these effective procedures. A recent review of 2014 JABA demonstrated that only 10% of experimental studies conduct social validity assessments and a review of punishment studies in JABA yielded only 9.5% reported treatment integrity or social validity data. Additional data will be reported on a complete review JABA studies, 2000-present day and the authors reports of social validity and treatment integrity.
Punishment: A Systematic Review
AMANDA COLLINSWORTH-COFFEY (Endicott College), Bryan J. Blair (Endicott College), Michael F. Dorsey (Endicott College)
Abstract: Few literature reviews have been completed on punishment studies with humans. Given this relative lack of information on research studies that employed punishment procedures, a systematic review seemed warranted. The following is a review of published literature on punishment (from 1968-2014, across 32 journals), including a categorization of punishment procedures by type, setting, diagnosis and behavior. In addition, punishment studies were categorized according to whether functional assessment procedures or reinforcement procedures were used in conjunction with punishment, whether other procedures were used, whether generalization/maintenance procedures were implemented, and whether the magnitude or schedule of the punisher was systematically assessed. These results are summarized and presented. Finally, publication rates for punishment studies are compared to the publication rates for other procedures (e.g., reinforcement, extinction etc.). The results suggest specific areas in the literature that lack clarity regarding the efficacy and applicability of punishment procedures. Recommendations are made regarding future areas of study and how those areas can and will contribute to applied interventions.

Punishment: Is It Conceptually Systematic?

BRYAN J. BLAIR (Cape Abilities/Endicott College), Cheryl J. Davis (7 Dimensions Consulting/Endicott College), Paul Mahoney (Amego Inc/Endicott College), Michael F. Dorsey (Endicott College)

A conceptual analysis of punishment will be presented. A brief history of the word punishment (both in vernacular usage, and in clinical usage) is presented. Writings from B.F. Skinner, Jack Michael and Murray Sidman are reviewed, summarized, and compared. Given the significant departure that these writings take from traditional descriptions of the effects of punishment on behavior, two competing analyses of punishment are presented. These two analyses, punishment as a direct procedure and punishment as an indirect procedure, are explained and directly compared. Data from previously published studies supporting both conclusions will be presented and analyzed. In addition, the effects of reinforcement and motivating operations on punishment and learning are explored. Finally, recommendations are made to refine how aversive control procedures are conceptualized, researched, trained, and implemented. Recommendations are made regarding how behavior analysts talk about punishment, how they describe procedures, and how to better understand a seemingly simple, yet ultimately complex phenomenon.

The Current State of Social Validity in Applied Punishment Research
MICHAEL F. DORSEY (Endicott College), Cheryl J. Davis (7 Dimensions Consulting/Endicott College), Bryan J. Blair (Cape Abilities/Endicott College), Paul Mahoney (Amego Inc/Endicott College)
Abstract: The current state of social validity in applied research is rarely assessed in punishment studies with as demonstrated by a recent review of 1968 to present day JABA where only 9.5% of experimental studies conducted social validity assessments. Ensuring social validity within the applied world is the basis for the field of ABA (Risley, 1997). The challenge with social validity is that it is difficult to objectively measure and the field is not typically concerned with private events (Skinner, 1953). However, social validity cannot be ignored as feedback from the participant or people around them regarding behavioral treatment matters in regards to implementation; people will not use the technology if they do not like the process (Wolf, 1978). Wolf (1978) urged the field of ABA to view social validity as an attempt to determine acceptable practices. Adkins (1997) actually aligned social validity with ethics, making the point that scientists may need to be satisfied with societies report on procedures and not actual certainty of the data. This presentation will discuss data from applied behavioral journals and rates of assessing social validity, as well as the ramifications for not assessing this in the field of ABA especially in regards to punishment procedures. Additionally, survey data will be presented regarding BCBA’s current use of punishment procedures.

Ethical Blunders in the Application of Punishment Procedures

PAUL MAHONEY (Amego Inc; Endicott College), Michael F. Dorsey (Endicott College)

The use of aversive consequences has resulted in several instances of questionable ethical behavior that has severely affected the field of applied behavior analysis throughout its relatively short history. This component of the symposium will provide a review of the role of behavioral principles in the implementation of punishment procedures in the development and perpetuation of unethical and abusive behavior demonstrated by clinicians and staff in programs such as Willowbrook, Sunland Developmental Center, Behavior Modification Units in prison settings, etc.. Survey data provided by Behavior Analysts on abuse investigations, conclusions, and recommendations will be presented with the purpose of validating or invalidating the purported commonalities among the conditions present at the programs reviewed above. Recommendations and considerations will be provided on how to better prevent such missteps from occurring in the future. It is imperative to remember the past ethical issues in order to progress as a field and not repeat history.




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