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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #152
CE Offered: BACB
The Impact of Behavior Analysis Jargon on Dissemination: Increasing the Accessibility of Our Terminology
Saturday, May 28, 2022
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Room 203
Area: TBA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Paul D. Neuman (Independent Scholar)
Discussant: David P. Jarmolowicz (The University of Kansas, Cofrin Logan Center for Addiction Research and Treatment)
CE Instructor: Kimberly Marshall, Ph.D.

As behavior analysts, we have a responsibility to disseminate the science of applied behavior analysis (ABA) in an accessible manner. It has been asserted that the use of behavior analysis jargon makes our science inaccessible to those outside of the field because technical terms obscure behavior analysts’ intelligibility and are off-putting to the general public (Friman, 2006, 2021). Previous research has shown that the use of technical terminology has negatively impacted the general public’s perceptions of ABA (Becirevic et al., 2016) and negatively impacted therapist performance of behavior analytic procedures (Jarmolowicz et al., 2008). The studies within this symposium extended the previous research on the impact of technical jargon by evaluating the acceptability and effective training of behavior analytic procedures with two novel populations with whom behavior analysts frequently collaborate, community mental health providers and parents of individuals with disabilities. The potential detrimental impacts of using technical terminology with these populations and recommendations for practitioners to improve their dissemination of behavior analysis will be discussed.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Intermediate level audience. Participants will require existing knowledge of behavior analytic terminology and a basic understanding of statistical analyses.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Participants will be able to identify methods for analyzing technical jargon on an individual basis. (2) Participants will be able to identify specific behavior analytic terminology that may be problematic in interactions with stakeholders. (3)Participants will be able to identify the detrimental impacts of jargon on interactions with stakeholders.
The Impact of Behavior Analysis Jargon on the Effective Training of Stakeholders
KIMBERLY MARSHALL (University of Oregon; Endicott College), Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College), Thomas S. Critchfield (Illinois State University), Justin B. Leaf (Autism Partnership Foundation; Endicott College)
Abstract: There has been a long-standing debate in the field of behavior analysis about the impact and value of behavior analytic technical terminology. Some have argued that jargon negatively impacts the dissemination of the science while others have asserted that technical terminology is necessary for precise descriptions of behavior. Previous research has shown that technical terminology elicits negative emotional reactions in the general public (Critchfield et al., 2017; Critchfield & Doepke, 2018) and has a detrimental impact on the implementation of behavior analysis procedures by therapists (Jarmolowicz et al., 2008). A total of 17 parents of individuals with disabilities participated in the present study. The parents completed a pre-evaluation, allowing for jargon to be individually determined for each participant, based on their existing knowledge of the technical terms. Parents were asked to implement discrete trial teaching (DTT) both prior to and after accessing written instructions with high or low percentages of jargon. Parents who received instructions with a low percent of jargon increased their correct implementation of DTT significantly more than parents who received instructions with a high percent of technical terms. These findings show that technical terminology does have a deleterious effect on the dissemination of behavior analysis.
The Social Validity of Behavior Analytic Interventions: Descriptions Versus Jargon
STEVEN PAUL SPARKS (Sparks Behavioral Services)
Abstract: Behavior analysts working in professional settings often find themselves misunderstood when collaborating with professionals from other disciplines. Aside from the problems this creates in disseminating our science to non-behavior analysts, problems also frequently arise when behavior plans based on functional behavior assessments are reviewed by other professionals. In community mental health settings, multi-disciplinary committees made up of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and recipient rights experts are often responsible for reviewing behavior plans that include restrictive measures. The primary goal of these reviews is to ensure that if restrictive interventions are recommended, they are necessary for safety and are the least restrictive measures likely to be effective. Without a behavior analytic background, these professionals often will choose whether to approve a plan based on how restrictive the term sounds rather than what it entails. The data in this study were gathered through surveys sent to community mental health professionals. Participants were asked to rate the acceptability of technical terms for behavior analytic interventions in hypothetical behavior plans as well as descriptions of those same interventions without the use of behavior analytic terminology. Results suggest descriptions of interventions were often more acceptable than terminology without description.



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