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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Symposium #298
CE Offered: BACB
No More Nickel and Diming: Behavioral Economics Bestsellers That Take Behavior Analysis Seriously (Even When They Don't Recognize It)
Sunday, May 30, 2010
4:30 PM–5:50 PM
Bonham D (Grand Hyatt)
Area: TPC/EAB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Susan M. Schneider (University of the Pacific)
CE Instructor: Michael Dorsey, Ph.D.
Abstract: Behavioral economics has produced bestseller after bestseller lately, and the authors are increasingly incorporating psychological principles, including behavior analysis. For example, Thaler and Sunstein's "Nudge" includes some of the self-control literature and recommends behavioral self-management techniques. Ariely's "Predictably Irrational" describes classical conditioning effects on decision-making and changes in reinforcer value. We cover the breadth of the field by reviewing these two recent successes along with two classics that continue to be influential: Ainslie's "Picoeconomics" and Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed." Attendees will learn (1) how operant principles such as delay discounting and choice dynamics are being applied in behavioral economics, and (2) how its cognitive and economics principles relate to behavior analytic principles. In addition to describing his book, Ainslie will serve as an informal discussant.
"Predictably Irrational": Sense Making in Behavioral Economics and Behavior Analysis
T. V. JOE LAYNG (Headsprout)
Abstract: Where differential costs and benefits are attached to a minimum of two alternative behaviors, choice is defined. When the ensuing pattern produces the overall greatest gain with the least loss, one may be said to behave rationally. When patterns occur that deviate from these observations--that is, where the overall economic gain is sacrificed, or choices appear to be influenced by variables other than economic considerations, one may be said to behave irrationally (in economic terms). Experiments and real world observations tend to suggest that people often forego longterm economic gain or are influenced by a range of other considerations in choice situations. Dan Ariely describes an approach to behavioral economics that suggests that much of human behavior is in his words, “predictably irrational.” This presentation will briefly describe Ariely’s approach, and suggest both the rational and irrational approach to choice in economics and other disciplines would be better served by a more complete understanding of consequential contingencies, their satellite variables, and their programming. Accordingly, seemingly irrational behavior may often be the sensible outcome of alternative consequential contingencies. Examples of seemingly irrational behavior drawn from the clinic will be shown to be quite sensible when so considered.
"Nudge": Really Behavioral Behavioral Economics
PAUL K. BRANDON (Minnesota State University, Mankato)
Abstract: Nudge, by Thaler and Sunstein, is an example of a field referred to by itself and others as behavioral economics. It is an application of principles of cognitive science going back to Kahnemann and Tversky. It may be viewed as a set of tacts of behavior and environment interactions, drawn from the verbal repertoire of cognitive science. I will attempt to tact the same events using the verbal repertoire of behavior analysis. Much of the book describes what we would term a set of prompts to make individually and socially beneficial behaviors more likely. The authors also describe ways in which we can rearrange reinforcement contingencies to take advantage of phenomena such as delay discounting, to minimize the immediate cost of making a commitment to behaviors such as investing which have immediate costs and long term benefits. I will show that a behavioral analysis makes most of the same predictions as a cognitive one, and does so without introducing hypothetical constructs. Finally, I will point out some discrepancies between their predictions and behavioral ones.
"Nickel and Dimed": Behavioral Economics on the Front Lines
SUSAN M. SCHNEIDER (University of the Pacific)
Abstract: At the turn of the millennium, several years after welfare-to-work programs took effect in the United States, journalist and Ph.D. biologist Barbara Ehrenreich famously spent months undercover working minimum-wage jobs in three different states. Her experiment took place at a time when unemployment was very low. Nonetheless, even with good health, no kids, and a car, she was unable to make a go of it. Her book translates the bigger economic picture--including ample statistics from the period--into the harsh realities for her and her fellow low-wage workers. From a behavior-analytic viewpoint, day-to-day operant principles shed light on the coping--and failing--strategies of the working poor. Ehrenreich recently provided an update.
"Picoeconomics" at 40
GEORGE AINSLIE (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)
Abstract: Forty years since the first evidence of hyperbolic discounting appeared, and 24 since the study of its implications got a name, picoeconomics remains more controversial than other branches of behavioral economics. Hyperbolic discounting has been an irritant to orthodox economists, since it is mathematically less tractable than the exponential kind, and it implies a personal planning process that depends on game theory rather than straightforward value estimation. Game theory is a mainstay of modern economics, but an intertemporal bargaining model within the organism troubles not only economists but also social psychologists—because it undermines a holistic vision of the self, and behaviorists—because it recognizes conflict among different states of a single organism and hypothesizes that self-knowledge creates conflict-resolving motivational contingencies. Various authors have lately championed an alternative, dual exponential (“quasi-hyperbolic”) model (without crediting a similar idea that was introduced at the 1997 SQAB meeting). I will review the history of both models, and describe some recent empirical findings that bear on them.



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