Advertisement

Behavior Analysis in Practice

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 688–695 | Cite as

The Unique Challenge of Articulating the Behavior Analysts’ Ethical Obligations and the Case of Punishment

  • Abraham GraberEmail author
  • Jessica E. Graber
Discussion and Review Paper

Abstract

There is a long-standing debate about the place for technical versus colloquial language in applied behavior analysis; however, this debate has yet to be considered within the context of a professional code of ethics for applied behavior analysts. In this article we discuss the limitations of technical language in articulating the applied behavior analyst’s ethical commitments, illustrating this point by considering the use of the term punishment in the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2016). The ethical concerns regarding the use of punishment may be more accurately stated in terms of the need to avoid techniques that cause pain or discomfort rather than techniques that meet the technical definition of punishment. In summary, more consideration should be given to the use of subjective terminology in behavior analysts’ ethical discussions.

Keywords

Ethics Professional and ethical compliance code for behavior analysts Punishment Mentalism Subjectivism Operationalization 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are very grateful for the invaluable feedback we received from David Wacker, Donald Hantula, Florence DiGennaro Reed, David Cox, and Shawn Quigly. We are also grateful for the insightful and comprehensive comments provided by two anonymous reviewers.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Abraham Graber declares that he has no conflicts of interest. Jessica Graber declares that she has no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

References

  1. Ayer, A. J. (1946). Language, truth, and logic. New York: Dover.Google Scholar
  2. Bailey, J. S. (1991). Marketing behavior analysis requires different talk. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 24(3), 445–448.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnes, D. (1996). Naming as a technical term: Sacrificing behavior analysis at the altar of popularity? Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 65(1), 264–267.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Becirevic, A., Critchfield, T. S., & DiGennaro Reed, F. D. (2016). On the social acceptability of behavior-analytic terms: Crowdsourced comparisons of lay and technical language. The Behavior Analyst, 39, 305–317.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s40614-016-0067-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Behavior Analyst Certification Board (2016). Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts. Retrieved from http://bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/160321-compliance-code-english.pdf
  6. Block, N. (1981). Psychologism and behaviorism. The Philosophical Review, 90(1), 5–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boyer, D. L. (1984). A widely accepted but nonetheless astonishingly flimsy argument against analytical behaviorism. Philosophia, 14(1), 153–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Branch, M. N., & Vollmer, T. R. (2004). Two suggestions for the verbal behavior(s) of organisms. The Behavior Analyst, 27(1), 95–98.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Chisholm, R. (1957). Perceiving. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cooper, J., Heron, T., & Heward, W. (2007). Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  11. Critchfield, T. S. (2014). Skeptic’s corner—Punishment: Destructive force or valuable social “adhesive”? Behavior Analysis in Practice, 7, 36–44.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-014-0005-4.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Deitz, S. M., & Arrington, R. L. (1983). Factors confusing language use in the analysis of behavior. Behaviorism, 11(2), 117–132.Google Scholar
  13. DiGennaro Reed, F. D., & Lovett, B. J. (2007). Views on the efficacy and ethics of punishment: Results from a national survey. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 4(1), 61–67.  https://doi.org/10.1037/h0100832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Diller, J. W., Salters-Pedneault, K., & Gallagher, A. R. (2014). Effective dissemination requires effective talk: A comparison of behavior-analytic journals. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 7(2), 103–106.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-014-0020-5.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Donaldson, J. M., DeLeon, I. G., Fisher, A. B., & Kahng, S. (2014). Effects of and preference for conditions of token earn versus token loss. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 47(3), 537–548.  https://doi.org/10.1002/jaba.135.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  16. Enoch, D. (2011). Taking morality seriously: A defense of robust realism. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Field, D. P., & Hineline, P. N. (2008). Dispositioning and the obscured roles of time in psychological explanations. Behavior and Philosophy, 36, 5–69.Google Scholar
  18. Foxx, R. M. (1996). Translating the covenant: The behavior analyst as ambassador and translator. The Behavior Analyst, 19(2), 147–161.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Freedman, D. H. (2016). Improving public perception of behavior analysis. The Behavior Analyst, 39(1), 89–95.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s40614-015-0045-2.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Friman, P. C. (2006). Eschew obfuscation: A colloquial description of contingent reinforcement. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 7(2), 107.Google Scholar
  21. Geach, P. (1957). Mental acts. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Gerhardt, P., Holmes, D. L., Alessandri, M., & Goodman, M. (1991). Social policy on the use of aversive interventions: Empirical, ethical, and legal considerations. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 21(3), 265–277.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Hake, D. F. (1982). The basic-applied continuum and the possible evolution of human operant social and verbal research. The Behavior Analyst, 5(1), 21–28.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Hanley, G. P. (2010). Toward effective and preferred programming: A case for the objective measurement of social validity with recipients of behavior-change programs. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 3(1), 13–21.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03391754.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. Hanley, G. P., Piazza, C. C., Fisher, W. W., & Maglieri, K. A. (2005). On the effectiveness of and preference for punishment and extinction components of function-based interventions. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 38(1), 51–65.  https://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.2005.6-04.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. Harzem, P., & Miles, T. R. (1978). Conceptual issues in operant psychology. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  27. Haybron, D. M. (2008). The pursuit of unhappiness: The elusive psychology of well-being. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Hayes, L. J., & Tarbox, J. (2007). Ethics and values in behavioral perspective. In J. Jacobson, J. Mulick, & J. Rojahn (Eds.), Handbook of intellectual and developmental disabilities (pp. 691–717). Boston: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hineline, P. N. (1980). The language of behavior analysis: Its community, its functions. and its limitations. Behaviorism, 8(1), 67–86.Google Scholar
  30. Holth, P. (2001). The persistence of category mistakes in psychology. Behavior and Philosophy, 29, 203–219.Google Scholar
  31. Horner, R. H., Carr, E. G., Halle, J., McGee, G., Odom, S., & Wolery, M. (2005). The use of single-subject research to identify evidence-based practice in special education. Exceptional Children, 71(2), 165–179.Google Scholar
  32. Jacob, S., Decker, D. M., & Lugg, E. T. (2016). Ethics and law for school psychologists. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  33. Jamal, K., & Bowie, N. E. (1995). Theoretical considerations for a meaningful code of professional ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 14(9), 703–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jowett Hirst, E. S., Dozier, C. L., & Payne, S. W. (2016). Efficacy of and preference for reinforcement and response cost in token economies. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 49, 329–345.  https://doi.org/10.1002/jaba.294.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Kant, I. (1998). Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals (M. Gregor, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Lerman, D. C., & Vorndran, C. M. (2002). On the status of knowledge for using punishment: Implications for treating behavior disorders. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 35(4), 431–464.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Leslie, J. C. (1997). Ethical implications of behavior modification: Historical and current issues. The Psychological Record, 47(4), 637–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lydon, S., Healy, O., Moran, L., & Foody, C. (2015). A quantitative examination of punishment research. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 36, 470–484.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2014.10.036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mandell, D. S., Walrath, C. M., Manteuffel, B., Sgro, G., & Pinto-Martin, J. A. (2005). The prevalence and correlates of abuse among children with autism served in comprehensive community-based mental health settings. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29(12), 1359–1372.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2005.06.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Matson, J. L., & Kazdin, A. E. (1981). Punishment in behavior modification: Pragmatic, ethical. and legal issues. Clinical Psychology Review, 1(2), 197–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McMahan, J. (2002). The ethics of killing: Problems at the margins of life. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mill, J. S. (1998). Utilitarianism (R. Crisp, Ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. (Original work published 1861.)Google Scholar
  43. Owens, R. G. (1995). Radical behaviorism and life-death decisions. Clinical Psychology Forum, 80, 12–16.Google Scholar
  44. Parfit, D. (2011). On what matters (Vol. 1). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Plato. (2004). The republic (C. D. C. Reeve, Trans.). Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  46. Poling, A. (2010). Looking to the future: Will behavior analysis survive and prosper? The Behavior Analyst, 33(1), 7–17.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03392200.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  47. Putnam, H. (1980). Brains and behavior. In N. Block (Ed.), Readings in philosophy of psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 24–36). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Rachels, J., & Rachels, S. (2003). The elements of moral philosophy. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  49. Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Rosenthal, E., & Ahern, L. (2012). When treatment is torture: Protecting people with disabilities detained in institutions. Human Rights Brief, 19(2), 1–5.Google Scholar
  51. Ryle, G. (1949). The concept of mind. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  52. Scanlon, T. M. (2014). Being realistic about reasons. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Shafer-Landau, R. (2014). The fundamentals of ethics. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Skiba, R. J., & Deno, S. (1991). Terminology and behavior reduction: The case against punishment. Exceptional Children, 57(4), 298–313.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Skinner, B. F. (1984). The operational analysis of psychological terms. Psychological Review, 52(5), 270–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Stolz, S. B. (1977). Why no guidelines for behavior modification? Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 10(3), 541–547.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  57. US Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). Protection of human subjects. Retrieved from http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/regulations/45-cfr-46/#46.111
  58. Wigham, S., & Emerson, E. (2015). Trauma and life events in adults with intellectual disability. Current Developmental Disorders Reports, 2(2), 93–99.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s40474-015-0041-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wolf, M. (1978). Social validity: The case for subjective measurement or how applied behavior analysis is finding its heart. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 11(2), 203–214.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ClassicsUniversity of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  3. 3.Autism Treatment CenterSan AntonioUSA

Personalised recommendations