Arrogance in Behavior Analysis
Behavior analysis is a highly specialized discipline, with unique cultural practices, including rites of passage, values statements, and almost-religiously-held beliefs and rules. The way that we behavior analysts talk about ourselves and our field, and the relative value of our field in comparison to others, is one such cultural practice. In many respects, behavior analysis is superior to other disciplines. In particular, the conceptual foundation of behavior analysis is more scientifically rigorous than many other disciplines. In addition, the treatment effects obtained by applied behavior analytic treatments are more robust and more empirically supported than those of many other disciplines. Being aware of and standing up for the many strengths and virtues of the field of behavior analysis is important. However, as a group, we tend to foster a sense of arrogance or superiority that has many potential negative side effects. This presentation will describe what we believe is a systemic problem in the behavior analytic culture and will provide practical suggestions for how we might make behavior analysts better at respecting and interacting with others. Actively valuing others and being respectful of others is not merely an ethical imperative. We will argue that behavior analysts “playing nicely” with others (or failing to) has very serious practical consequences for the health and vitality of the discipline of behavior analysis, particularly with respect to the field’s ability to affect change on a broader, more mainstream level. Practical suggestions will be made for how to train current and future generations of behavior analysts to be more effective in their interactions with those outside of the discipline, while simultaneously maintaining hardcore behavioral philosophical, scientific, and practical repertoires.
Behavioral Approaches to Teaching “Executive Function” Skills to Children with Autism
The term “executive function” (EF) refers to a broad class of putative brain functions, primarily studied by researchers from cognitive, developmental, and neuropsychologi-cal branches of psychology. The term EF generally includes such cognitive functions as working memory, attention, self-regulation, rule acquisition, planning, and problem-solving. The various executive func-tions are said to be the ways in which the brain controls and directs goal-oriented behavior. Most EF terms refer to mentalistic hypothetical causal constructs and are, therefore, not useful as causal expla-nations, in themselves. It is no surprise, then, that the science of behavior analysis has generally ig-nored EF. However, all situations in which EF is said to be at work involve people behaving in relation to environmental events, so it follows that EF always involves behavior. In various conceptual writings, Skinner discussed such topics as self-control, self-awareness, and consciousness of one’s behavior. We will argue that most EF involves such repertoires. Furthermore, most such circumstances are terribly important to successful daily functioning. Individuals with autism have documented EF deficits and yet very little research has been published on addressing these deficits. This presentation will present a preliminary behavioral conceptual analysis of EF and review data from a few recent studies that have attempted to teach EF skills, including working memory, self-monitoring, and problem solving.