This article reviews the origins and characteristics of the positive behavior support (PBS) movement and examines those features in the context of the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA). We raise a number of concerns about PBS as an approach to delivery of behavioral services and its impact on how ABA is viewed by those in human services. We also consider the features of PBS that have facilitated its broad dissemination and how ABA might benefit from emulating certain practices of the PBS movement.
Behavior analysts have been called mechanists, and behavior analysis is said to be mechanistic; that is, they are claimed to be aligned with the philosophy of mechanism. What this means is analyzed by (a) examining standard and specialized dictionary and encyclopedia definitions and descriptions of mechanism and its cognates and (b) reviewing contemporary representations of the mechanistic worldview in the literature on the philosophy of psychology. Although the term mechanism and its cognates are sometimes an honorific (e.g., "natural science"), their standard meanings, usages, and functions in society, science, psychology, and philosophy do not aptly characterize the discipline. These terms mischaracterize how behavior analysts conceptualize (a) the behavior of their subjects and the individuals with whom they work and (b) their own behavior as scientists. Discussion is interwoven throughout about the nature of terms and definitions in science.
The differences within behaviorism in general and behavior analysis in particular have been described in many ways. Some of the more common distinctions are "basic versus applied", "clinical versus non-clinical", "behavior therapy versus behavior analysis", and "experimental analysis of behavior versus applied behavior analysis". These and other such distinctions do not seem to refer to truely important differences, or refer to important differences in confusing ways. It is suggested that there are two main dimensions which divide behaviorists into meaningful units: the type of paradigm (behavior analysis versus methodological behaviorism) and the level of analysis (technical, methodological, conceptual, or philosophical). By considering these two dimensions a number of issues in the field are recast. In particular, many of the differences within behavior analysis are recast into questions of the relationship between theory and technology.
Although applied behavior analysts often say they engage in evidence-based practice, they express differing views on what constitutes "evidence" and "practice." This article describes a practice as a service offered by a provider to help solve a problem presented by a consumer. Solving most problems (e.g., increasing or decreasing a behavior and maintaining this change) requires multiple intervention procedures (i.e., a package). Single-subject studies are invaluable in investigating individual procedures, but researchers still need to integrate the procedures into a package. The package must be standardized enough for independent providers to replicate yet flexible enough to allow individualization; intervention manuals are the primary technology for achieving this balance. To test whether the package is effective in solving consumers' problems, researchers must evaluate outcomes of the package as a whole, usually in group studies such as randomized controlled trials. From this perspective, establishing an evidence-based practice involves more than analyzing the effects of discrete intervention procedures on behavior; it requires synthesizing information so as to offer thorough solutions to problems. Recognizing the need for synthesis offers behavior analysts many promising opportunities to build on their existing research to increase the quality and quantity of evidence-based practices.
The quality of behavior analysis is of interest to many individuals within the community. Other professionals are including behavior analysis in their credentials and excluding from practice those qualified behavior analysts who do not have their credentials. Existing credentialing programs do not seem to regulate behavior analysis adequately. This article examines reasons for a professional credential in behavior analysis, various components of credentialing programs, the forms of programs available, and alternative professional credentials for behavior analysts.
Skinner described behavior analysis as the field of values and purpose. However, he defined these concepts in terms of a history of reinforcement and failed to specify whether and how human and nonhuman values might differ. Human values have been seen as theoretically central within a number of nonbehavioral traditions in psychology, including humanism and positive psychology. However, these approaches have failed to provide explanations of the behavior-environment relations involved in valuing that might allow prediction and influence with respect to this phenomenon. Modern clinical behavior analysis in the form of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), however, succeeds in providing a functional definition of human values that meets this latter criterion. ACT is rooted in behavior analysis and relational frame theory (RFT) and defines values in terms of verbally established motivation. ACT empirical research into values has begun to blossom in recent years, and ACT-RFT researchers are currently investigating the concept at the most basic empirical level as well as in the applied clinical arena, heralding new interest in and insight into values within clinical behavioral psychology.
The paucity of transferred behavioral technologies is traced to the absence of strategies for developing technology that is transferable, as distinct from strategies for conducting research, whether basic or applied. In the field of engineering, the results of basic research are transformed to candidate technologies that meet standardized criteria with respect to three properties: quantification, repetition, and verification. The technology of vitrification and storage of nuclear waste is used to illustrate the application of these criteria. Examples from behavior analysis are provided, together with suggestions regarding changes in practice that will accelerate the development and application of behavioral technologies.
Although laboratory study of human behavior seems an obvious vehicle for strengthening the scientific base of behavior analysis, the place of the human subject within the operant laboratory remains problematic. The prevailing research strategy has been to link principles developed with animals to human affairs, either through interpretation of naturally occurring human behaviors or through application of the principles to the solution of human problems. The paucity of laboratory research on human operant behavior derives from several misconceptions: the possibility that experimental demand characteristics and pre-experimental behavioral dispositions of human subjects contaminate the results; that ethical considerations place undue constraint on research topics and experimental designs; and that uncontrollable variation in subjects' histories and other relevant personal characteristics prevents observation of reliable functional relations. We argue that these problems do not pose insurmountable obstacles to the experimental analysis of human behavior; that adequate methods of control and analysis are available; and that operant techniques, by emphasizing experimentally imposed contingencies, are well suited for the laboratory study of human behavior.
This paper explores some of the ways in which the environment functions with respect to behavior within an explanatory framework analogous to that of evolutionary biology. In both the behavioral and organic domains, the environment functions differently with respect to individual occurrences and evolutionary units. Within the behavioral domain, the problem of accounting for an occurrence of an operant instance differs from that of accounting for the existence of the operant unit of which the instance is a part. Maintaining these distinctions in levels of analysis within the behavioral domain, we focus first on operant units and operant instances as products of evolutionary processes occurring in the behavioral domain and second upon the causal role of the environment with respect to the existence of operant units and the occurrence of operant instances. The environment's function is selective with respect to origin, maintenance, suppression, and extinction of behavioral populations. At the level of operant instances, the environment has instantiating functions-evocative or alterative. Evocative functions are exemplified by discriminative relations, and alterative functions include both conditional and motivative relations. Implications are considered regarding extension of the analogy to more complex behavior-environment relations.
Although behavior analysis has been criticized for failure to account for response novelty, many common behavior-analytic concepts and processes (e.g., selectionism, the operant, reinforcement, and stimulus control) assume variability both in the environment and in behavior. The importance of the relation between variability and novelty, particularly for verbal behavior, is discussed, and concepts used to account for novel behavior are examined. Experimental findings also are reviewed that suggest that variability in behavior can come under discriminative control, and these findings are applied to describe novel instances of behavior that may arise during problem solving. We conclude that variations provided and selected by the terms of the three-term contingency are powerful means for understanding novel behavior.
August Dvorak is best known for his development of the Dvorak keyboard. However, Dvorak also adapted and applied many behavioral and scientific management techniques to the field of education. Taken collectively, these techniques are representative of many of the procedures currently used in applied behavior analysis, in general, and especially in precision teaching. The failure to consider Dvorak's instructional methods may explain some of the discrepant findings in studies which compare the efficiency of the Dvorak to the standard keyboard. This article presents a brief background on the development of the standard (QWERTY) and Dvorak keyboards, describes parallels between Dvorak's teaching procedures and those used in precision teaching, reviews some of the comparative research on the Dvorak keyboard, and suggests some implications for further research in applying the principles of behavior analysis.
Students of philosophy have struggled with the question, "Why should I be moral?" Many diverse theorists have constructed elaborate logical arguments that explain why people in general should behave morally, but have had difficulty explaining why any given individual, safe from detection or retribution, should behave in a moral fashion. To avoid this problem, the notion of a supernatural deity (one who is always watching and thus removes the notion of nondetection and nonretribution) has been introduced by numerous thinkers. Philosophical systems that pride themselves on being based only on natural phenomena, however, can make no such recourse (leading to the charge, particularly from the religious, that without a god concept there can be no morality). Naturalistic humanists and behavior analysts are two groups who have found themselves unable to invoke a deity and thus face the question "Why should I behave morally?" Parallel attempts from both camps will be described and analyzed, with the conclusion being drawn that although such naturalists may not be better off than their more religious friends, they are certainly no worse off.
The purpose of this article is to provide a coherent story of Skinner's graduate-school (1928-1931) research projects, adding to Skinner's own accounts a different emphasis and a number of interesting details. The story is guided by the proposal that a search for quantitative order was the "unifying force" amid the variety of apparatus changes and shifts of research topic in Skinner's early development as a researcher. Archival laboratory-research records from several apparatuses which Skinner constructed between 1928 and 1931 (1) indicate that his research program was more complicated than he has implied; (2) show that he worked on three interdependent lines of investigation simultaneously; (3) suggest that change or abandonment of an apparatus or a project was markedly affected by his success (and failure) in his primary objective, which was to find quantitative orderliness in measured behavior. Frequent apparatus change in the period of 1928 to 1930 ceased when he obtained quantitative orderliness in the panel-press and lever-box preparations. In the examination of archival records, questions about the enterprise of biographical understanding are considered.
Edward Stanton Sulzer was born in New York City on June 4, 1930. He attended school in Laureltown, N.Y., until the age of 15, when, after two years of high school, he was admitted into the University of Chicago. Leaving prematurely due to his mother's death, he returned to New York to work in film production. Sulzer completed his undergraduate work at the City College of New York, studying film production and psychology. In 1953 he entered the doctoral program in clinical psychology at Teachers College, Columbia. Spending two years in the Army during his graduate training, his work was completed in 1958. He then joined the faculty of the Upstate Medical School of the State University of New York, Department of Psychiatry, moving on two years later to the Psychiatry Department at the University of Minnesota. In 1965 Sulzer moved to assume the directorship of the Behavior Modification Program, in the Rehabilitation Institute at Southern Illinois University, where he remained until his death on February 28, 1970.In observance of the 10th anniversary of the death of Edward Stanton Sulzer, these reminiscences are presented. They describe how an individual psychologist could affect the professional and personal lives of many. Edward Sulzer is described in terms of the environment that shaped his values, how they affected the actions of his students and clients, and how they are reflected in current social policy. The account leads to a conclusion that the actions of single individuals may influence the course of human events.
Skinner's pragmatic selectionism shows up strongly in his 1945 publication, "The Operational Analysis of Psychological Terms," in which he introduced a probabilistic three-term contingency for verbal behavior. This probabilism was accompanied by an expanded contextualism and an increased emphasis on consequences with a clear alignment to pragmatism. In total, these changes represent Skinner's most striking shift from mechanistic and necessitarian values to pragmatic selectionism, and these changes may be indebted more to the conceptual contributions of others than Skinner acknowledged. Before 1945, Skinner made at least some positive associations with the views of Watson, Russell, and Carnap. From 1945 and afterwards, he strongly disassociated his views on verbal behavior from theirs. Before 1945, Skinner did not associate his views with those of Darwin or Peirce. After 1945, he strongly associated his views with those of Darwin and Peirce (in one published interview). No sources for his pragmatic selectionism, however, were referred to in 1945.
Marian and Keller Breland pioneered the application of operant psychology to commercial animal training during the 1940s and 1950s. The Brelands' story is relatively unknown in the history of behavior analysis. Using information from the Breland-Bailey papers, this paper describes the development and activities of Animal Behavior Enterprises (ABE), the Brelands' animal training business. We also review popular press coverage of the Brelands between 1947 and 1966 to investigate the level of public exposure to ABE-trained animals and to the principles and methods of operant psychology. An examination of 308 popular print articles featuring the Brelands indicates that there was public exposure of behavior analysis through the popular press coverage of ABE-trained animals. Furthermore, the expansion of operant methods to the marine mammal and bird training industries can be linked to the Brelands' mass media exposure.
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These comments address Laties', Dewsbury's, and Rutherford's papers on the extension and application of Skinner's operant psychology during the 1950s. I begin by reflecting on the papers' overall theme-that the success of behavior analysis lies in its practical applications-and add some comments on Planck's principle. I then turn to the three papers and address such topics as (a) other applications and extensions (e.g., the U.S. space program), (b) relations between the research and researchers at the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology (e.g., a Yerkes' researcher in Skinner's laboratory), and (c) human schedule performance (e.g., continuity and discontinuity with nonhuman behavior). I end with a discussion of the fundamental reason for the success of the extensions and applications of behavior analysis-the experimental analysis of behavior.
A census involving several major journals was conducted to survey the content and scope of the experimental analysis of human behavior. While the percentage of reports involving human subjects published each year in JEAB has lacked consistency, it was shown that JEAB has been the primary outlet for human work among the journals surveyed. Few areas of interest within the study of human behavior have received extensive scrutiny. The normal adult (typically undergraduate students) has been the preferred subject for human research. The results of a citation analysis of JEAB reports featuring human research are also presented.
Sidney W. Bijou is among the founders of behavior analysis, but the record of his contributions is incomplete. It has not systematically described his contributions beyond his tenure at the University of Washington (1948-1965). The purpose of this paper is to describe his contributions over the course of the next decade-his years at the University of Illinois (1965-1975). I begin by reviewing his education and training, contributions at Washington, and why he left and moved to Illinois. Then, I describe his Illinois years: his appointments, colleagues, and service; the Child Behavior Laboratory; grant funding and publications; further service, awards, and recognition; and influence on his colleagues, students, classroom teachers and research supervisors, and visiting scholars. Bijou is modest about his contributions at Illinois, but he advanced the field in many ways over the course of the decade, especially the careers of his colleagues and students.
It is frequently claimed that the influence of behaviorism in general and of B. F. Skinner in particular, is declining. Data obtained from the Social Sciences Citation Index for the years 1966-1989 document that in the last twenty-four years the number of citations to the works of Skinner has been reasonably steady. There is no evidence of a decline in the absolute number of such citations, suggesting that claims of the demise of behaviorism may be, once again, premature.
Citation data from 1970 to 1989 were examined in order to determine whether the "isolation" of the experimental analysis of behavior (EAB) that was originally documented by Krantz (1971, 1972) has persisted beyond the early 1970s. Our findings from analyses of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (JEAB) and of related journals support the following conclusions: (1) In the 20-year period since 1969, JEAB has continued to cite its own articles ("self-cite") at a higher rate than related journals; (2) JEAB's self-citation rate decreased by a larger amount since 1969 than did that of related journals; and (3) JEAB was cited with diminishing frequency by some related journals during the 20-year period. These findings and other disciplinary comparisons provide information relevant to the issue of the health of behavior analysis and related specialties.
We examined women's participation, relative to men's, at the annual meetings of the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABA) between 1975 and 2005. Among our findings are upward trends in female presenters across formats (e.g., posters), types of authorship (e.g., first authors), and specialty areas (e.g., autism). Where women have attained parity, however, they are still often underrepresented, given their percentage of membership. Women also participate less than men as sole and invited authors and discussants and in the domains of basic research and conceptual analysis, but participate more than men in the applied domain. Data from the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior and the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis show parallel but delayed trends toward parity in basic and applied research, whereas data from The Behavior Analyst show only modest gains in the conceptual domain. We discuss the gender disparities in ABA's more prestigious categories of participation (e.g., invited addresses) and across its content domains, as well as in science in general, and the role of social and cultural factors in producing the disparities and how behavior analysts might aid in correcting them.
The present paper comments on and extends the citation analysis of verbal operant publications based on Skinner's Verbal Behavior (1957) by Dymond, O'Hora, Whelan, and O'Donovan (2006). Variations in population parameters were evaluated for only those studies that Dymond et al. categorized as empirical. Preliminary results indicate that the majority of empirical research in the area of verbal behavior has been conducted with the younger developmentally disabled population and has focused on verbal operants from the introductory chapters of Skinner's book. It is clear that Verbal Behavior has influenced empirical research over the past 50 years. We believe, however, that there are many underdeveloped research areas originating from Verbal Behavior that have not yet been addressed. Suggestions for extended areas of research are provided.
The present study undertook an updated citation analysis of Skinner's (1957)Verbal Behavior. All articles that cited Verbal Behavior between 1984 and 2004 were recorded and content analyzed into one of five categories; four empirical and one nonempirical. Of the empirical categories, studies that employed a verbal operant from Skinner's analysis were assigned to either basic, applied, or observational categories. Empirical studies that did not employ a verbal operant were categorized as other-empirical. The total number of citations remained stable across the review period and averaged just over 52 per year. Of these, 80% were from nonempirical articles, 13.7% were from other-empirical articles, 4% were from applied articles, 1.4% were from basic articles, and 0.9% were from observational articles. An "obliteration" analysis was also conducted to identify articles that employed Skinner's verbal operant terms but did not cite Verbal Behavior. This analysis identified 44 additional articles, suggesting that a degree of obliteration had occurred in the half century since the publication of Verbal Behavior. In particular, the analysis suggests that the verbal operant of manding has sufficient presence in the applied empirical literature to render citation of Verbal Behavior redundant. Overall, Verbal Behavior continues to make an important contribution to the psychological literature.
This article is a transcription of an interview with William N. Schoenfeld made in 1990. William N. Schoenfeld (1915-1996) is one of the outstanding contributors to the initial stages of the experimental analysis of behavior. After graduating from Columbia University, Schoenfeld wrote, in collaboration with Fred S. Keller, what was at that time the most significant book introducing, and updating, the seminal contributions of B. F. Skinner and other behavioral psychologists: Principles of Psychology (1950). Schoenfeld was also instrumental in the design of a psychology course at Columbia University based on the integration of theory and laboratory work, as well as in the foundation of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior in 1958. In 1968 Schoenfeld moved to the Queens College of the City University of New York, where he developed a doctoral program based in the research of stimulus schedules (T system), the analysis of conceptual and theoretical problems in operant conditioning, and the study of respondent and operant interactions under pharmacological agents. After his retirement from Queens College, Schoenfeld taught at Bar-Ilan University and the Hebrew University in Israel. The interview forms part of a research project on the experimental analysis of scientific behavior (Ribes, 1994), which also included two other distinguished and original contributors of the experimental analysis of behavior, B. F. Skinner and R. J. Herrnstein.
To summarize, I agree with Watkins (1990) that there has been a problem of too many theories and too few constraints in contemporary research in memory and cognition, but I disagree as to the source of the problem or its likely solution. Any discipline should evolve, and in the process establish linkages with related disciplines. Those other disciplines can then be a valuable source of constraints on theories, and can also provide powerful new sets of methodological or analytical tools. It remains to be seen whether those constraints and tools will be effectively employed in the field of memory research, but the fact that they exist and are starting to be recognized suggests that Watkins’ (1990) prognosis may be too pessimistic.
Participation by women and men in (a) the editorial process and publication of three behavior analysis journals, (b) leadership in the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABA) and the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, and (c) participation in the 1982 and 1991 conventions of the Association for Behavior Analysis are described. The data indicate that the relative involvement of women in all three areas is lower than the percentage of ABA members who are women (31%) and is considerably lower than the percentage of women in society at large (51%). This underrepresentation of women in editorial and leadership roles in behavior analysis mirrors the reported phenomenon of a glass ceiling for women in leadership roles in business and industry. The men who control our institutions are asked to share power and responsibility by increasing the involvement of women in behavior analysis.
In a quantitative review of human operant experiments, Kollins, Newland, and Critchfield (1997) found that humans are less sensitive to reinforcement contingencies than nonhumans are. Human performances were not as consistent with the matching law, and they were more variable from subject to subject. Some of the variables correlated with reduced human sensitivity were surprising. These included collection of the data under more controlled conditions (laboratory rather than naturalistic settings), and inclusions of discriminative stimuli correlated with alternative sources of reinforcement. We discuss these unexpected findings in the light of criticisms that have been leveled against meta-analytic literature reviews (e.g., the wisdom of grouping studies with widely diverse methods), and we suggest ways of improving future analyses of the behavior-analytic literature.
The academic discipline of human geography is concerned with human activities, especially as these relate to physical landscapes and contribute to the modification of those landscapes. Although little attention has been paid to objectivist philosophies to inform human geography, behavior analysis might offer a useful explanatory model. As an example, a behavior analysis of selected aspects of 19th-century Mormon movement and settlement in the intermontane West is conducted. Mormons are a society of believers who practice cooperative effort and support for other members, and the Mormon church is governed by priesthood authority with members being called to perform tasks. This analysis employs the concepts of metacontingency, rule-governed behavior, and delayed reinforcement to analyze how Mormons settled the intermontane West.
In his article, Uttal (2004) lays forth several, rightly justified, caveats in the pursuit of elucidating the neural basis of higher cognitive functions using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Adding to the onslaught of criticism from cellular physiologists, Uttal’s central tenet is that the increased utilization of this new technology may be "ill advised," and should be replaced with more effort and time being directed towards a "revitalized behaviorism." Although we agree with many of Uttal’s views, we contend that it is not the methodology of fMRI itself but the application of fMRI to unravel more intangible cognitive phenomena that is ill advised. Specifically, we believe that Uttal has mistakenly disregarded the potential role that fMRI research could make in the advancement of behavioral science.
Forty years after the publication of Beyond Freedom and Dignity (Skinner, 1971) and the continuing growth of behavior analysis, the future of humanity and the role of behavioral science in that future remain uncertain. A recent paper by Chance (2007) documented a shift in Skinner's views during the last years of his life. Skinner had long advocated a science and technology of behavior for finding and engineering solutions to cultural and global problems and advancing human development. This optimism had given way under a gradual realization that the science of behavior was in fact showing how such problems were unlikely to be solved in time to avert a variety of possible disasters. Chance described nine behavioral phenomena that appear to interfere with effective problem-solving behavior on a large scale and in effective time frames. These phenomena are reviewed toward an analysis of common themes. Research is also reviewed that involves nonverbal, verbal, and cultural contingencies that may lead to applications designed to address the common themes. Problems and strategies of implementation are also discussed. The challenges are daunting, but may nevertheless be regarded as technical problems best suited for a science and technology of behavior.
From its inception and through to the present day, progress in all areas of behavior analysis has been fueled by advances in basic science. With the successful application of behavioral principles to an ever-widening array of practical problems, however, the science behind the application is sometimes overlooked. To underscore the vital importance of science to our discipline, a special track of the 2008 annual convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) was created to highlight and amplify the good science that has and continues to infuse the various branches of behavior analysis. The keynote event in this track was a session that brought together luminaries in the field to give state of the science lectures- presentations that traced the development of key ideas and concepts in a specific area of research and theory. Each of the speakers graciously agreed to prepare a manuscript based on his ABAI lecture. The result is the following series of papers. The authors have each made pioneering and enduring contributions to our science; at the same time, each remains active and well positioned to comment on key developments for the future. Edmund Fantino's paper traces the concept of conditioned reinforcement from its early days as a mediating or bridging stimulus through to more contemporary accounts based on temporal context and reinforcement value. As Fantino's stimulating paper shows, conditioned reinforcement is a ubiquitous phenomenon and remains a fundamental concept in the analysis of behavior. Tony Nevin's paper addresses the problem of privacy, a much-discussed but poorly understood phenomenon, in light of contemporary research and theory in conditional stimulus control. Bringing sophisticated quantitative techniques to bear on the problem, Nevin illustrates how private events can be brought within reach of an experimental analysis. Murray Sidman's paper reflects on the broad topic of stimulus control, identifying conceptual threads running through the literature. Sidman's astute observations regarding behavioral units and the fundamental importance of class and relational concepts show how behavior-analytic principles apply to an ever-widening array of complex phenomena. Travis Thompson's paper outlines a behavioral account of self-awareness that combines a sophisticated analysis of verbal behavior with contemporary work in behavioral neuroscience. The paper touches on an impressive range of topics, from brain imaging to skills deficits in children with autism, and serves to illustrate some ways in which behavior analysis may contribute to cutting-edge interdisciplinary science. Together, the papers reflect well on the current state of our science, providing interesting perspectives on the historical roots, as well as the future directions, of important scientific problems.