Whatever happened to “saving the world” with ABA?

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By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21.org

Drs. Mark Mattaini and Molli Luke provide a provocative editorial for the newest issue of Behavior and Social Issues, titled “‘Saving the World’ with a Matrix.”  Their goal is to answer the question of why behavior analysts aren’t doing more to save the world — a question posed by Skinner decades earlier.  

According to Mattaini and Luke, there is a real demand for behavior analysts interested in behavioral systems analysis but such individuals are few and far between (but see two JOBM special issues on systems here and here).  Such a state of affairs is a bit ironic as anyone familiar with Skinner’s writings might view the amelioration of social issues as something of a mission statement for behavior analysis.

As a first step towards a solution, Dr. Luke has conducted a series of interviews with prominent behavior analysts currently working in the before-mentioned areas to examine obstacles and potential solutions to the issue.  In her long list of findings, one theme predominates — the need for interdisciplinary study, in coursework, practical experience, and research.

Mattaini and Luke aim to build a matrix of sorts that will guide best practices applicable to 26 different sectors of society.  The matrix itself can then serve as a spring board for future research to empirically determine optimal methods of embedding the science and practice of behavior analysis into larger society.

To read more about Mattaini and Luke’s project, visit the hyperlink at the top of the page.  

We would also love to hear your opinions on this issue in the comments below!  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox.

About the Author

President, bSci21 Media, LLC Editor, bSci21.org

2 Comments on "Whatever happened to “saving the world” with ABA?"

  1. It is hard to save the world with ABA (applied behavior analysis) if people do not know what it is.

    Based on my personal experience, it seems as though behavior analysis is little known and/or misunderstood by the average person. As behavior analysts, it is our job (not to mention, our ethical obligation) to disseminate behavior analysis. This does not mean that we talk to other behavior analysts about behavior analysis — it means we help the “average person” learn about behavior analysis (even if that just means mentioning ABA in a brief sentence in an elevator).

  2. As a student of behavior analysis, I have grown accustomed to the statement, “we could save the world if only people would listen to us”… The solution being the dissemination of our research and theories. As a reader of behavior analytic journals, I have also grown accustomed to research on how best to modify elementary operant behavior in atypical populations, while reading review articles (ex., Dymond et al., 2006) suggesting that we have yet to develop and empirically validate technologies that effectively influence complex human behavior. This not even accounting for potential changes to behavior on a societal scale. Before we disseminate our findings to change the world, there may be a necessity to generate such findings that suggest we can change the world.

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