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 #539
CE Offered: BACB
Radical Behavioral Conceptual Analyses of Complex and Private Behaviors: Spirituality and Mindfulness
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
St. Gallen, Swissotel
Area: TPC/VRB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Elizabeth Meshes (Chicago School for Professional Psychology, Los Angeles)
Discussant: William F. Potter (California State University, Stanislaus)
CE Instructor: Jonathan J. Tarbox, Ph.D.
Abstract: The utility of a behavior analytic approach to analyzing and intervening upon relatively simple behaviors is well-established, through hundreds of basic and applied studies. Relatively more complex behavior, particularly private events, have received significantly less conceptual and empirical attention. This symposium brings together two presentations comprising conceptual analyses of highly complex and subtle behavioral repertoires. The first presentation, by Dr. Jonathan Tarbox, consists of a radical behavioral conceptual analysis of mindfulness. The second presentation, by Elizabeth Meshes, is a radical behavioral and interbehavioral interpretation of spirituality. The symposium concludes with a discussion by Dr. Bill Potter.
Keyword(s): conceptual analyses, mindfulness, private events, spirituality
Radical Behavioral Conceptual Analysis of Mindfulness
JONATHAN J. TARBOX (FirstSteps for Kids), Evelyn R. Gould (FirstSteps for Kids), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Abstract: The term mindfulness is used ubiquitously in American culture to refer to a very wide and ill-defined range of concepts, beliefs, and practices, most of which have absolutely no scientific basis. However, mindfulness, as a practice, has many confirmed psychological and medical benefits. In addition, it is a central component of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an empirically supported behavior analytic treatment for chronic pain, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression. So, on one hand, mindfulness is a nonscientific term, laden with unclear meaning. On the other hand, the term appears to refer, at least at times, to behavioral repertoires that have real benefit for humanity. Despite how much has been said and written about mindfulness, relatively little sound behavior analytic attention has been paid to this repertoire of behavior. The purpose of this presentation is to conduct a conceptual functional analysis of the behavior – environment relations that may constitute repertoires of behavior referred to as mindfulness. Implications for expanding behavior analysis into a broader science of psychology, as well as implications for treatment will be discussed.
Toward a Behavioral Conceptual Analysis of Spirituality
ELIZABETH MESHES (The Chicago School for Professional Psychology, Los Angeles), Jonathan J. Tarbox (FirstSteps for Kids)
Abstract: Many twelve step programs state that the "spiritual experience" is a key part of the recovery process. In addition, spirituality is a central component to nearly all religious traditions. However, spirituality has also become a common concept in popular culture and is a term that is used much more broadly than only religious contexts. Musicians, poets, naturalists, and countless others, often report having spiritual experiences. Therefore, it appears that spirituality is a broad concept that is not necessarily tied to any particular religious doctrine, nor to religion, per se. The purpose of this conceptual analysis is to investigate one commonly reported component of spirituality, connectedness, from a radical behavioral perspective. Despite the many obvious mentalistic and fictional uses of the term spirituality, it seems likely that very real behavior - environment functional relations occur that are commonly referred to as "having a spiritual experience." This conceptual paper will attempt to analyze the functional relations involved in the verbal, perceptual, and emotional behavior involved in such psychological events. Skinnerian, Kantorian, and Relational Frame Theory perspectives will be discussed. Implications will also be given as to how the behaviors involved in spirituality might be strengthened or weakened through environmental manipulations.



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