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 #169
CE Offered: BACB
Behaviorists for Social Responsibility Symposium: Functional Assessments Writ Large-Making Sense of the Sociocultural Milieu
Sunday, May 30, 2010
10:00 AM–11:20 AM
Seguin (Grand Hyatt)
Area: CSE/TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Jerome D. Ulman (Ball State University)
Discussant: Ernest A. Vargas (B. F. Skinner Foundation)
CE Instructor: Barbara Metzger, Ph.D.
Abstract: Given that the purpose of Behaviorists for Social Responsibility is to "act to expand applications of behavior and cultural analysis addressing social issues," one vital challenge we must face is how to analyze the sociocultural conditions that may be responsible for generating these social issues. Merely jumping from one issue to the next without regard to the prevailing institutional arrangements—the sociocultural context—seems analogous to implementing a behavioral intervention plan without first conducting an functional behavioral assessment; metaphorically, in today’s world, the equivalent of rearranging deck furniture on the Titanic. Behaviorists who wish to improve problem behavior of individuals have a well-established technology for identifying the variables responsible for the target behavior. Is there something to learn from this technology that can be applied to the investigation of large-scale social problems? Is it possible to get beyond the problem of methodological individualism, the view that only the behavior of individuals is real (or the perspective that behavioral scientists call “atomism”). The purpose of this symposium is to explore this daunting problem within the framework of Skinnerian science. Three presenters have accepted this challenge and a discussant will appraise their results. Considered here are (a) the develop a conceptual framework for the study and design of existing and future experimental communities, (b) a behaviorological analysis of the social contingencies that maintain and sustain social power, and (c) the development of a conceptual framework for investigating sociocultural contexts within which large-scale social problems arise.
Experimental Communities: Microcosmic Exploration of Sociocultural Context
ANGELA MARIE SANGUINETTI (University of California, Irvine)
Abstract: In 1976, B. F. Skinner suggested that something like a Walden Two would not be a bad start to addressing the problems of overconsumption and environmental degradation. Over 30 years later society is facing the same problems and more people are arriving at the same conclusion as that of Skinner—small planned communities can be a test and testimony of the kinds of social and cultural practices that are sustainable, equitable, and healthful. There are roughly 900 intentional communities (e.g., eco-villages, co-housing, housing cooperatives) in North America, many of which utilize, or at least welcome, research and experimentation. However, most of these establishments are missing a key ingredient: the science of human behavior. Behavior analysts have steadily and rapidly been building their conceptual and methodological repertoires in a variety of relevant areas, but few have explicitly addressed the design and study of experimental communities. Once a connection is made between the experienced knowledge of intentional communities and the skills of behavior analysts, Skinner’s solution could be well on its way. The purpose of this paper is to develop a conceptual framework for the study and design of existing and future experimental communities.
Social Power: A Behaviorological Analysis
JOHN E. GLASS (Collin County Community College)
Abstract: The analysis of social power has been an integral part of the social sciences for some time. As with many other social scientific explanations of behavior however, precise specification of social power for purposes of not only understanding, but also changing power and power relations has been lacking. As such, the typical social scientific analysis of these dynamics has been unsatisfactory. For better or for worse, power and/or an analysis of power, has not been addressed within the behaviorological literature. To be sure, it has been inferred (see Skinner's discussion of controlling agencies), but a clear definition of power using behaviorological principles has been lacking. This presentation attempts to rectify this shortcoming by providing a behaviorological analysis of the social contingencies that maintain and sustain social power. By offering this functional assessment of power, behaviorologists can begin to develop effective interventions to that will lead to the improved and more humane use of power.
Expanding the Behaviorological Perspective: Viewing the World Through a Conceptual Macroscope
JEROME D. ULMAN (Ball State University)
Abstract: The aim of this presentation is to consider the development of a conceptual framework for investigating sociocultural contexts within which large-scale social problems arise; to advance from description to analysis of such problems. This “functional assessment writ large” may be described as a conceptual macroscope, the focus of which may extend from behavioral relations within groups or institutions to social structures composed of entire constellations of institutions. The functional unit of analysis for this conceptual framework is the macrocontingency, defined as the conjoint actions of two or more individuals (possibly thousands of individuals) under common contingency control. Macrocontingency relations are considered as “behavioral glue”; giving cohesion to social relations. However, this conceptual macroscope necessitates the development of an appropriate philosophical foundation: emergent materialism. Issuing from Skinner’s view of selection by consequences as the causal mode for all live processes—biological, behavioral, and sociocultural—emergent materialism incorporates behavioral materialism, the philosophy underlying behaviorology that rejects presumed inner causal agency in explaining behavioral phenomena. Emergent materialism goes on to conceive of sociocultural phenomena as having emergent layers of stratified social structures, but without endowing them with hypothetical causal powers such as a group mind or social consciousness.



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