Behavior Analysts Study Brazilian Graffiti Culture

Photo by Talles Alves on Unsplash

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

In a 2017 article in the journal Behavior and Social Issues, Lucas Couto de Carvalho, Ingunn Sandaker and Gunnar Ree from Oslo and Akershus University College, conducted an ethnographic study of tagging culture from a behavioral science, and behavioral systems, perspective.

Tagging is a particular type of graffiti marked by self identification and is purported to be a significant issue across Brazil.  The authors took an ethnographic approach to the study of tagging cultures, with a focus on the functional relations that influence tagging behavior across the country.

The study was qualitative in nature, which combined naturalistic observation and interviews.  A researcher conducted 27 direct observations of tagging crews across the country over a month.  They noted “he visited the taggers’ homes; went to pubs with them; observed their tagging activities; participated in their WhatsApp group; accompanied them in bomb activities…participated in their private parties, and went to graffiti events and concerts with the crews (p. 70).”  Observations were supplemented with formal interviews with seven members of tagging crews via WhatsApp voice messaging.

The ethnographic methods employed by the researchers are not common in behavior analytic work, but the authors offer the following justification “recognizing life outside the operant chamber is complex, messy, difficult to control and observe, and to a large degree unpredictable, we must develop other tools for extracting knowledge about it (p. 70).”

The authors highlighted several aspects of tagging culture from their work.  One relates to rule-governed behavior embedded in, and maintained by, the tagging culture.  For example, rules emphasizing tagging in public places for maximum exposure are prominent, and consequences relate to media exposure and acceptance in the tagging community.  Another relates to the evolution of increasingly complex tagging repertoires.  The authors noted how novice taggers sometimes start by writing in a notebook before using spray cans.  They also described support systems in which master taggers help develop more sophisticated uses of tagging in novices over time.

To read the full study, and many more findings that were not covered here, be sure to check out the full article.  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world, bSci21.org.  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at todd.ward@bsci21.org

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