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 #80
Some Surprising Ramifications of Behavioral Contingency Analysis
Saturday, May 29, 2010
3:30 PM–4:50 PM
Bonham B (Grand Hyatt)
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Philip N. Chase (Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies)
Discussant: Paul Thomas Andronis (Northern Michigan University)
Abstract: The papers presented in this symposium, taken together, attempt to show how the formal language for the codification of behavioral contingencies can reveal details and dynamics of analyzed situations that can be difficult to penetrate and understand by other means. Surprising insights can be gained when the language is applied to the analysis of complex and challenging contingencies—the dynamic ones that involve multiple parties that have changing perceptions of each other’s behavior, changing predictions as to the consequences of what each may do, or misperceptions and mispredictions of these, all of which may be further modified by temporal factors and by the probabilities of the potential events and of their positive or negative valences for the involved parties. Examples are deception, and frequently seen processes in economics and psychotherapy. The three papers demonstrate how many types of “theory of mind” situations (in which one party perceives or predicts the perceptions or beliefs of another), readily lend themselves to rigorous behavioral contingency analysis due to the ability of the language’s recursive features to express subtle nuances with flexibility. Also discussed is the analysis of changing and fluid interactive contingencies like combat, negotiation, verbal communication, and various types of interactive games.
Teaching an On-Line Course in Behavioral Contingency Analysis
LAURILYN DIANNE JONES (The Mechner Foundation), Francis Mechner (The Mechner Foundation)
Abstract: The formal symbolic language (Mechner, 2008) for codifying and analyzing behavioral contingencies was taught as an Internet graduate course. Basics of the language will be presented, and the method and progression of teaching behavior analysis students to use it will be discussed. The students were provided with a 222-slide PowerPoint presentation as their basic reference source. Every week, they were provided with a new set of exercises indexed to the presentation, and were sent feedback on their responses. The students first mastered the conceptual issues, including the nature of a behavioral contingency and its relationship to behavior analysis. Next, they mastered the elements of the formal language and its application to straightforward and familiar situations, including the value and practical benefits that the language’s precision and analytic character can provide. And finally they learned to apply the language to novel and more complex situations, including some that they encountered in their own professional work, whether in applied behavior analysis, organizational management, treatment of children with developmental disabilities, or other fields. The course instructors, too, learned a great deal, and experienced some surprises as to which concepts in behavioral contingency analysis proved more difficult to teach.
Analysis and Codification of Complex Multiparty Dynamic Behavioral Contingencies
FRANCIS MECHNER (The Mechner Foundation)
Abstract: The formal language for the analysis of behavioral contingencies, although it can deliver benefits even when applied to seemingly straightforward contingencies, offers the greatest benefits and insights when applied to complex changing and variable contingencies, as well as to behavioral contingencies that involve “theory of mind” situations in which an individual perceives or predicts the perceptions or predictions (or the misperceptions or mispredictions) of another, as in complex negotiations, social interactions involving multiple parties, mutual deterrence, deception, and certain types of property transfer. Contingency analyses of several such situations will be presented. One features of the language that comes into play in the analysis of such situations is the recursive feature, which permits the codification of multi-level regresses of possible combinations and permutations of perceptions, misperceptions, non-perceptions, predictions, and mispredictions. Familiar multi-level regresses of this type are those involved in the various forms of deception contingencies. Analysis of these provides unexpected insights into the dynamics of common types of financial transactions and economic phenomena. Another feature of the language—mathematical cross references that show relationships between operative variables—comes into play in the analysis of changing and fluid interactive contingencies like certain games, competitions, negotiations, business dealings, and fighting.
Applications of Behavioral Contingency Analysis in Psychotherapy
PARSLA VINTERE (Queens College, The City University of New York)
Abstract: The paper examines the application of a formal symbolic language for codifying behavioral contingencies in psychotherapy. Several clinical case studies are presented to demonstrate the method of analysis and its ability to provide useful insights. The distinction is drawn between the behavioral contingencies that have been and may still be operative in the client’s life outside the therapy situation, and the behavioral contingencies that are operative in the clinical situation that includes the therapist as an involved party. The parties involved and their potential actions, temporal relationships, and the consequences of acts, are the basic elements of the contingency structures. The effects of histories are indicated through the use of modifiers of the elements , such as the party predicting, perceiving, not perceiving, misperceiving, or mispredicting the consequences and their valences. The recursive features of the language provide the tool that permits the “theory of mind” situations and contingencies that are common in clinical situations to be analyzed in useful behavioral terms, including hierarchical combinations and permutations of the modifiers. These tools make many psychological disorders, including autism, amenable to behavioral analysis and codification. They can serve as assessment tools as well as tools for the formulation of potential treatments.



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