The conference “Fifty Shades of Behavior Analysis” was nothing short of its name. The presenters at this conference reminded all of us in the field of Behavior Analysis that being a science of behavior allows us to apply our principles to many domains beyond working with individuals who have disabilities.
Applied Behavior Analysis is the application of the science of behavior to the solution of problems of social significance (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). Carr (November, 2013) reminded us that social significance is more than working with those individuals with disabilities. The principles of behavior analysis have been applied to areas involving child welfare, workplace and safety, behavioral gerontology, and one that many are familiar with, education. Many of these mentioned areas have limited experimental research but the research that does exist that demonstrates how they can benefit from using behavior principles. To examine this statement a little more, Carr conducted a study that applied standard behavior techniques to families who had a history in which child protective services were involved. By teaching these parents how to redirect their child’s behavior and provide schedules of reinforcement, the families became reunified and children remained at home. By providing reinforcement for operant behavior those behaviors are maintained and strengthened overtime (Pierce & Cheney, 2013). Teaching families what behaviors to reinforce and what behaviors to put on extinction may help address the social problem that exists within some families.
Behavior analytic principles have even been used to train exotic zoo animals. Sutherland (November, 2013) explored the work of exotic animal trainers and was able make connections to the world of behavior analysis. Many of the zoo animals Sutherland came into contact were trained using operant conditioning that involves an increase or decrease in operant response as a function of the consequences that follow an operant (Pierce & Cheney, 2013). Without operant conditioning some of these exotic animals would probably not have been able leave their enclosure. Some were even trained to make silly faces. In order for these behaviors to occur the trainers had to provide reinforcement after the occurrence of the desired behavior. Even though it wasn’t mentioned in the presentation it would have been interesting to find out if the schedule of reinforcement changed while training these animals. As professionals we know that using variable schedules of reinforcement maintain behaviors and result in a steady state of responding, or if they implemented a progressive ratio schedule where the response requirement increases before providing reinforcement (Pierce & Cheney, 2013).
In addition to using...