MABA 2021

Detroit, MI

NEW for 2021!

Ethics Workshop

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Matthew T. Brodhead

Michigan State University

A Behavioral Systems Approach to Ethics Training and Supervision

Professional and ethical behaviors are critical for high quality care and consumer protection. By using behavioral systems, behavior analysts may increase the probability of employees engaging in professional and ethical behaviors. This presentation will survey the basic components of behavioral systems analysis (BSA). Then, it will provide examples of how behavior analysts may use BSA to develop and implement their own behavioral systems to improve ethical behavior of employees and to ultimately increase the quality of care they provide. In the end, this workshop aims to provide a pragmatic, solutions-oriented, and socially valid approach to ethics that focuses on teaching employees “what to do” in certain situations, instead of using a punitive “how not to behave” approach.



Speaker List

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Amanda Karsten
Grand Valley State University

Welcome Address as MABA President

Bridget Taylor

Alpine Learning Center 

Keynote Address

Training and Treating Wholeheartedly:

Identifying a Role for Compassion Practices in the Profession of Behavior Analysis

Within certain areas of healthcare, it has been documented that treating patients with compassion and empathy can have important benefits, such as increasing patient satisfaction, enhancing adherence to treatment, and improving clinical outcomes (Kirby et al., 2017).  The field of behavior analysis has only recently begun to identify compassion practices which might have applications in our work. Taylor, LeBlanc and Nosik (2019) for example, proposed that clinical outcomes of clients may be enhanced by improving relationships with their caregivers. This presentation reviews survey data documenting parent perception of compassionate care by behavior analysts, as well as behavior analysts’ impressions of training in this area (Leblanc, Taylor, & Marchese, 2019).  Behavioral responses that may comprise compassionate care will be presented along with considerations for how compassionate care of our clients and ourselves can enhance our work as behavior analysts, and potentially improve clinical outcomes.



Karen Toussaint 
University of North Texas

An Evaluation of Matrix Training Permutations: Variables for the Practitioner to Consider

Given the scope of intervention (e.g. verbal behavior, life skills, etc.) that is typically required for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, practitioners should seek to prioritize teaching procedures that are both effective and efficient. Matrix training (which consists of the systematic selection, arrangement, and introduction of stimuli) is an instructional arrangement that has been identified in previous literature as one effective and efficient means of producing emergent verbal behavior through recombinative generalization. Nevertheless, there are a number of variables a practitioner should consider prior to implementing matrix training. The presentation provides an overview of the literature and a series of evaluations related to matrix training technology. In an applied evaluation, we evaluated the use of matrix training technology to teach noun-action combinations using play-based materials with three children with autism. In a translational evaluation, we compared the effects of two commonly employed matrix training arrangements, overlap (OV) and nonoverlap (NOV) on recombinative generalization.  We also examined the efficiency of effective matrix training procedures. Overall, results suggest that an OV matrix design facilitates recombinative generalization more effectively than an NOV design. Implications and suggestions for practice and future research are discussed.

Jeff Stein
Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at Virginia Tech Carilion

Behavioral Economic Demand and Substitution in the Study of Health Behavior:

Recent Advancements and the Road Ahead

Approximately half of all deaths are the result of lifestyle choices leading to chronic disease. In part, this may be framed as a problem in which individuals overvalue harmful commodities (e.g., high-energy-dense foods), undervalue healthier commodities (e.g., low-energy-dense foods), or both. Behavioral economics provides a framework to estimate value and functional relationships between commodities through assessment of demand (i.e., the degree to which consumption of a commodity is sensitive to its price) and substitution (how this price sensitivity may shift consumption to other commodities). These measures may be used to describe individual differences in valuation and to explore effects of candidate interventions designed to decrease unhealthy behaviors and/or increase healthy behaviors. In this presentation, I will provide an overview of methods to assess demand and substitution and will outline their utility in the study of health behavior. Review of recent data will include studies exploring: (1) construct and predictive validity of these measures; (2) effects of potential regulatory policies and other interventions on tobacco product demand and substitution; (3) effects of behavioral interventions on demand for high- and low-energy dense foods, alcohol, and cocaine, and (4) novel applications of these measures, including assessment of how individuals value breast cancer treatment and physical activity. Gaps in knowledge and areas for future research will be discussed.



Steven W. Payne
California State University, Fresno

Applying Behavior Analysis to the Animal Shelter

Animal shelters in the United States take in approximately 6.3 million animals per year (ASPCA, 2021).  Unfortunately, only 4 million of those animals are adopted annually, and approximately half of those animals who remain unadopted are euthanized.  Euthanasia can occur for many reasons, including old age, illness, and injury.  However, many animals are euthanized to make room in overcrowded shelters.  While these rates have improved over the years, many animals will continue to be euthanized unnecessarily unless the overcrowding problems can be addressed.  One of the main ways to target these issues is to increase the rate of adoptions.    There are many factors that influence whether an animal will be adopted or not, with the animal’s behavior consistently being shown as one of the most important factors.  This creates an opportunity for behavior analysts to help solve a major issue in this field.  In this talk, we will review research from the field of applied animal behavior in the shelter, including several studies from our lab.  Additionally, we will discuss ways in which behavior analysts can get involved with shelter animal work, as well as ethical and practical considerations involved in that work.


Claudia Drossel

Eastern Michigan University

Introduction to Behavior Therapies and Dual Diagnoses

While behavior analysts commonly do not receive training in modern behavior therapies, such as behavioral activation, acceptance and commitment therapy, functional analytic psychotherapy, or dialectical behavior therapy, these therapies can be understood from a behavior analytic perspective. This primer will orient the audience to fundamentals of behavior therapies and has three broad aims: (1) to introduce current thinking about mental health; (2) to clarify the link between behavior therapies and behavior analytic philosophy and science; and (3) to promote the application of behavioral principles and processes to case conceptualizations and treatment techniques for clinical presentations, including dual diagnoses.

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Sarah Lechago

University of Houston -

Clear Lake

A Short Story About Cultural Competence in Practice

As behavior analysts, we have a great deal of responsibility as autism treatment developers and providers to the people that we serve. Chief among our responsibilities is the ethical and compassionate treatment of the families that we serve, and a dedication to scientifically robust treatment interventions. One other important feature to practice that has recently settled in the forefront of our field’s consciousness is a dedication to cultural competence. In this presentation, I will present on my own experiences that have influenced my research on bilingualism in autism treatment, my own lessons learned, and lessons taught to my graduate students in introducing ABA to an underserved community at the border between Mexico and Texas, and my research on training clinical competence in graduate students in behavior analysis.

Matthew Locey

University of Nevada, Reno

Discounting: Behavior or Behavioral Process?

Behavior analysts have been talking about discounting for over 50 years. But have we all been talking about the same thing? Most behavior analysts talk about people discounting – e.g., ‘gamblers discount money more than non-gamblers’. This would suggest that discounting is a behavior – something we do. But other behavior analysts talk about delay, effort, probability, or social distance as the agents of discounting: e.g., ‘delay discounts money more for gamblers than non-gamblers’. This would suggest that discounting is a behavioral process rather than a behavior. Is this simply a matter of personal preference or is one account superior to the other? If we want to include human and non-human animal phenomena, the behavioral process account is likely more parsimonious. However, a series of studies suggest verbal behavior plays a critical role in typical discounting studies with humans. So, perhaps we have been applying the “discounting” term to two distinct phenomena: verbal behaviors and (non-verbal) behavioral processes. Although this ambiguity may seem trivial, it has likely led to a host of misinterpreted data. This includes casting doubt on all of our conclusions with respect to the discounting of non-monetary commodities with humans.   


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Jonathan W. Pinkston 
Western New England University 

Working Hard for Nothing:  Effects of Response Effort on Resistance to Extinction

Extinction remains one of the most important procedures for investigating the persistence of responding and for revealing basic mechanisms responsible for related phenomena such as renewal and resurgence.  Understanding basic processes in extinction, moreover, has contributed to improved understanding and treatment of problem behavior in clinical settings.  Most research on extinction, however, has focused on antecedents and consequences.  Far less is known about how responses themselves participate in extinction.  Recently, our lab has sought to (re)invigorate interest in response dimensions as important independent variables.  We will review several studies from our lab that have sought to understand the relationship between response effort and resistance to extinction.  A widespread view on the relationship between effort and resistance to extinction holds that more effortful behavior should extinguish more rapidly than less effortful behavior.  In our work, we addressed a pervasive error in the existing literature that has confounded changes in response effort with changes in response definition.  When the confound is removed, we find response effort has little effect on the course of extinction.  Additionally, we find that extinction may increase variability, but that there is also impressive stability in the response class during extinction.  We provide support for the view that extinction does not erase prior learning – what reinforcement creates, extinction does not destroy.

John Austin

Reaching Results

Leadership: Creating the Right Environment for Success

Leadership is broad term that is often confused with management. Unfortunately, there is not a common definition of either term, and that makes practicing them more difficult. Dr. Austin will discuss the difference between leadership and management, he will ask participants to reflect on the behaviors of the best and worst leaders, and he will describe a model of behavioral leadership that accounts for important aspects of leading, managing, self-management, and relationship management. He will leave the participants with some criteria for reflecting about their own leadership and management, as well as where they might improve. 



Sacha Pence
Western Michigan University

Teaching Life Skills to Preschool Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Teaching young children social and communication skills can increase prosocial behavior and reduce the likelihood of problem behavior. Preschool children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have deficits in these important social and communication skills. The presentation will discuss teaching children with ASD foundational life skills, including responding to name, requesting attention and assistance, and tolerating delays and denials. A tiered approach was used to evaluate the type of instruction, differential reinforcement, prompting, and error-correction procedures necessary for acquisition. Teaching began with a large-group instruction (Tier 1), then moved to a small-group instruction (Tier 2), and finally to individualized instruction (Tier 3). Five participants acquired skills using general instructional strategies and three participants required individualized instructions with the training required varying across participants and skills. Generalization probes were conducted in the children’s classrooms and overall showed poor generalization of skills with peers and adults. The presentation will discuss considerations for teaching life skills to preschoolers with ASD and provide recommendations for practitioners and further researchers.


Jonathan R. Miller
University of Colorado, Denver

The Weight of Our Choices: Understanding Obesity through Behavioral Economics

Obesity is a serious health condition that continues to be a growing problem in the United States and around the world. It is largely the product of numerous behavioral patterns that converge to result in consistently greater amounts of energy being consumed than expended. Behavioral economics has provided a useful framework for understanding conditions that promote obesogenic behavior. In particular, delay discounting and behavioral demand assessments, which quantify how commodities (e.g., money, food) are valued by an individual, have been widely used to study choice behavior that may underlie this problem. In this presentation, I will review existing literature examining obesity via behavioral economics, discuss my work extending these methods to investigate the influence of biological and cultural factors on choice, and highlight areas of future research.



Stephen Walker
University of Northern Illinois

Closing Address as President-Elect

Student Presenters


Alec Bernstein

Marcus Institute

2020 Forrest J. Files Award Winner

Response Blocking to Identify Skill & Motivation

Deficits for Inappropriate Self-Feeding

Fernanda S. Oda

University of Kansas

2020 Forrest J. Files Award Winner

An Experimental Analysis of Gender-biased

Verbal Behavior &Self-editing Using an Online Analog