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 #551
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Enter Interbehaviorism: Examining the Applied Utility of an Interbehavioral Philosophy
Monday, May 30, 2022
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Meeting Level 1; Room 156C
Area: PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Thomas B. Sease (Texas Christian University)
Discussant: Karen Kate Kellum (University of Mississippi)
CE Instructor: Karen Kate Kellum, Ph.D.

The implications of the philosophical underpinnings of behavior analysis have, of late, increasingly become a point of interest for behavior analytic practitioners in the context of their applied work. Despite this increasing interest, practitioners may continue to benefit from increased opportunities to engage with these concepts that have robust applied utility. One such philosophy of behavior science that has garnered a recent increase in attention is that of J.R. Kantor’s Interbehaviorism (Kantor, 1924). Kantor’s approach to analyzing behavior is naturalistic, and dismisses many assumptions that other approaches operate within. In this symposium, we will discuss key behavior analytic concepts from an interbehavioral lens, and examine how approaching these concepts differently could be beneficial in applied settings. The aim of the symposium is to demonstrate how Interbehaviorism can increase a clinician’s sensitivity to responding occurring within sessions potentially even over other modern philosophies of behavior science, including Radical Behaviorism and Functional Contextualism.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Function, Interbehaviorism, Learning History, Psychological Event
Target Audience:

-Basic competency in philosophical concepts of Radical Behaviorism (as a prerequisite to contrasting RB conceptualizations with Interbehaviorial conceptualizations).

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Identify the differences between the Interbehavioral Field Construct and Skinner’s three-term contingency. (2) Identify the potential drawbacks to causal constructs (including contingencies) in applied practice. (3) Identify the differences between the use of the term "function" from an Interbehavioral perspective, and the use of the term "function" from a traditional Radical Behaviorial perspective. (4) Identify two benefits of conceptualizing learning history as part of the current interaction for applied practice.
Orienting Toward the Entire Organism: Unit of Analysis From an Interbehavioral Perspective
BRAD MICHAEL PARFAIT (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Michael C May (Louisiana Contextual Science Research Group; Compassionate Behavioral Healthcare, LLC), Thomas B. Sease (Texas Christian University), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette)
Abstract: As philosophical systems, Skinner’s Radical Behaviorism and Kantor’s Interbehaviorism both approach behavioral science as a natural science focused on the interactions among aspects of context and behavior. However, the two philosophies diverge decisively with respect to how they conceptualize their respective subject matter (i.e., behavior) in terms of its units. Perhaps Interbehaviorism’s most distinctive feature is the integrated-field approach from which its subject matter is characterized. From an Interbehavioral perspective, the subject matter of behavior analysis is interbehavior and the primary unit of analysis is the Interbehavioral Field, a.k.a., the psychological event (Kantor 1959). According to Kantor, the interbehavioral field is composed of five co-occurring, participatory factors: stimulus function, response function, history of interbehavior, setting factors (or immediate circumstances), and the medium by which the stimulus is contacted (Lichtenstein, 1984). This presentation will (1) review the Interbehavioral Field as the unit of analysis in behavior analysis, and (2) propose implications for practitioners both within and outside of the therapeutic setting.
Does Causality Help or Hinder Our Clinical Agenda?: An Interbehavioral Perspective
MICHAEL C MAY (Louisiana Contextual Science Research Group; Compassionate Behavioral Healthcare, LLC), Thomas B. Sease (Texas Christian University), Janani Vaidya (Louisiana Contextual Science Research Group ), Brad Michael Parfait (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette)
Abstract: Historically, notions of causality have been central to the natural sciences’ endeavor of explaining respective phenomena of interest. This agenda of identifying causal relations has continued in behavior analysis and carried over into its applied domain. Despite Skinner’s call to abandon mechanistic notions of causality as a means of explaining human behavior, the contingency relation promulgated within his philosophical system has continued to function as a linear causal construct. While the contingency relation has facilitated progress in the behavioral sciences, is this search for causality useful to the practitioner? The present paper enumerates the potential problems resulting from continued reliance on notions of causality within clinical contexts and offers a robust alternative drawn from the JR Kantor’s Interbehaviorism (Kantor, 1924). Building upon Kantor’s own criticisms of the validity of causal relations outside of tight experimental conditions, the paper will critically examine the utility of causal relations in the context of applied practice with a particular focus on clinical behavior analysis. Have we gone far enough in diminishing reliance on causal notions in applied behavior analysis, or is it time that we as behavior analysts dispensed with causal constructs altogether?
Conjunction Junction, What’s a Function?: Function from an Interbehavioral Perspective
EVA LIEBERMAN (Western Michigan University), Janani Vaidya (Louisiana Contextual Science Research Group ), Michael C May (Louisiana Contextual Science Research Group; Compassionate Behavioral Healthcare, LLC), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette)
Abstract: Function is arguably one of the most important concepts involved in behavior analysis. In everyday contexts, “function” refers to the natural or intended purpose of an event. Applied to behavior, then, the function of a behavior is its effects. This orientation is part of what distinguishes behavior analytic explanations of behavior from mentalist ones. While behavior analysts may traditionally use function as an explanation of behavior, we offer an alternative perspective. Rather than explanatory, an interbehavioral approach would suggest that “function” serve as a descriptor of behavior, and a term that refers to the observable, bidirectional relationship between stimulus and response (Fryling & Hayes, 2011). Building upon the discussions of units of analysis and causality in the previous papers in this symposium, this paper will approach function in terms of functional relationships, inclusive of co-occurring response functions and stimulus functions. This presentation will also discuss how an interbehavioral perspective on function might be applied in intervention contexts.
The Past is Present: An Interbehavioral Approach to Learning History
HEATHER VOLCHKO (Old Dominion University), Mary Abbott (Mary Abbott Therapy Services), Michael C May (Louisiana Contextual Science Research Group; Compassionate Behavioral Healthcare, LLC), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette)
Abstract: Learning history and the role it plays in our behavior has been conceptualized differently throughout the history and development of psychology. While cognitivistic conceptualizations of learning history focus on the mediating role of structural constructs like memory, the traditional behavior analytic account has treated learning history in terms of past contingencies of reinforcement coming to bear on present behavior via changes in the biology of the organism (Skinner, 1974). Whether in the form of memory, or hypothetical biological changes to the organism, both treatments of psychological history appeal to hypothetical unobservable constructs to explain how events of the past come to influence behavior in the present. . The current paper considers these dominant approaches in contrast to the treatment of learning history from an interbehavioral perspective - that is, as an aspect of the interbehavioral field. This paper will further explore how approaching history as part of the psychological present (Hayes, 1992) might inform intervention, with a particular emphasis on educational contexts.



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