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.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #12
Utilizing Behavior Change Strategies to Achieve Political Change
Saturday, May 29, 2010
1:00 PM–1:50 PM
Ballroom A (CC)
Area: AUT; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Rita M. Gardner (Melmark New England)
JOHN SCIBAK (Massachusetts House of Representatives; The Vice-C)
State Representative John Scibak has served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives since January, 2003. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where he received a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology with a specialization in developmental disabilities and applied behavior analysis. Previously, Rep. Scibak worked for many years in health care and human services and held academic positions at Indiana University, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Westfield State College. His research focused on the analysis and treatment of severe inappropriate behaviors and functional skills training. Rep. Scibak currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and the Co-Chair of the Oral Health Legislative Caucus. Since his election in 2002, Rep. Scibak has been actively involved in the development and passage of significant legislation. He was the key sponsor of legislation to establish a comprehensive, statewide program to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome in Massachusetts and, played an important role in the development of Massachusetts’ pioneering health care reform legislation. He also sponsored legislation this session to establish a licensure process for behavior analysts in Massachusetts and to require greater safeguards for treatment interventions which utilize aversive consequences in Massachusetts.
Abstract: For over 40 years, professionals have relied on the theory and practice of applied behavior analysis to address a multitude of behavioral issues. From the early studies which targeted problem behaviors in autistic children to more recent applications focusing on seat-belt use and improving sports performance, behavior analysis has provided a foundation for behavior change across different populations and settings. Today, there even are a number of television shows (e.g., Dog Whisperer, SuperNanny) which utilize behavior analytic principles to address everyday problems. Despite these widespread applications, behavior analysts have yet to recognize politics as a viable area for research and practice. Candidates spend tremendous sums each year trying to influence the behavior of individual voters, yet never analyze why their specific strategies worked or not. This presentation will review some of the most common tactics from a behavior analytic perspective as well as provide specific examples from recent political campaigns. The presentation will also address how behavior analysts can become more effective advocates by relying on strategies employed in their clinical practice and applying them with their own elected officials.



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