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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #212
Music and the Behavior of the Listener: Theoretical Propositions and Future Research Directions.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
W179b (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: CBM/TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: David R. Perkins (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

The human experience of music is encountered in all corners of the world, and is intertwined with an almost infinite number of cultural practices. The current symposium examines the relationship of music to complex psychological experience from a functional contextualistic perspective. Three different papers will be presented examining different aspects of investigating this area. The first paper examines ways in which emotional avoidance can be studied with respect to its effects on listening to evocative musical material. The second paper explores in more depth possible ways of studying how music could potentially be utilized to enhance the psychological flexibility of the listener. The third study reviews a portion of the existing literature on the various structural components of a musical piece and proposes possible research avenues to investigating these topics from a perspective that emphasizes the functional aspects of the musical experience. These presentations serve as an introduction to a developing research program on the functions and effects of music, with early research results expected in the near future.

Keyword(s): Emotional avoidance, Music Research, Psychological Flexibility

The Effects of Emotional Avoidance on Complex Human Experience: Developing Empirical Strategies.

BRENTON ABADIE (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), David R. Perkins (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Experiential avoidance is a concept that has been the focus of clinical and theoretical interest to clinical behavior analysis for decades. Experiential avoidance has been described as "the tendency to alter the type, length, or occurrence of negative private events (thoughts, feelings, memories, somatic sensations, etc.) and the situations in which they may occur" (Gird & Zettle, 2009, p. 537). Experiential avoidance has been proposed as a possible underlying factor of numerous psychological problems and subjective distress. Recent research has investigated the possible relationship of emotional avoidance to the subjective experience of physical pain, uncomfortable perceptual experience, and dysphoric mood. While these studies have shed some light on the effects of emotional avoidance, additional research may be helpful to investigate how emotional avoidance may impact the experience of, and response to, complex psychological events. One specific possible direction may be a precise and thorough study of the effects of emotional avoidance on the behavior of the listener of evocative music. This paper presents possible directions of empirical research examining music listening choices as a function of levels of experiential avoidance as well as suggestions for how music can serve as a facilitator of psychological flexibility.


The Psychological Experience of Music: Tool for Emotional Avoidance or Facilitator of Psychological Flexibility? Yes!

SKYLAR FUSILIER (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), David R. Perkins (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Brenton Abadie (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Music can serve a variety of functions for human beings, ranging from being a tool for emotional avoidance, to a facilitator of social or cultural practices, or even serving as a method of contacting difficult psychological material. Given the wide range of musical forms and functions, it would seem plausible that a specific individual's behavior with respect to music is or would be influenced by his or her generalized learning history. For example, an individual with a general tendency towards emotional avoidance may choose to utilize music as a way of distraction from unpleasant psychological experience. At the same time, music, when encountered from the perspective of acceptance, can bring the listener into contact with a variety of emotional responses on a powerful immediate level. Thus, it remains an appealing empirical question as to whether the facilitation of acceptance-based music listening can be an effective tool for promoting psychological flexibility. This paper explores the potential power of music listening towards enhancing "willingness", and upcoming research endeavors to investigate these themes.


Lyrical Content and Psychophysical Aspects of Music: A Discussion of Various Research Strategies

JANNA M. BOURQUE (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), David R. Perkins (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Brenton Abadie (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Music listening is an extremely complex psychological experience. For example, there are numerous components to the structure of a single song with lyrics. On the one hand, the music itself contains psychophysical dimensions. A psychophysical dimension of music has been defined as "any property of sound that can be perceived independent of musical experience, knowledge, or enculturation" (Balkwill & Thompson, 1999, p. 44). These components can include tempo, timbre, pitch, and loudness. In addition, the lyrical content of a song can interact with a complex set of historical variables influencing the behavior of the listener. These various components of music have been examined by previous research, but mostly from the perspective of precise description and structural analysis. However, from a functional contextualistic perspective, what is of particular interest are the functions that these components may serve for a useful behavior analysis of a given individual. This paper proposes several possible research directions for investigating the specific units of music and their influence on the experience of the listener, such as, for example, "peak experiences" for them or lyrical preference.




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