Can Behavior Analysts Behave Ethically?

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This presentation was filmed at the 2021 Ethics in Professional Practice Conference at Endicott College

About the presentation: 

Ethics is said to represent the moral code that guides one’s choices and behaviors; a moral code that often extends beyond one person to include what is right or wrong for groups, organizations, or society at large. Most humans share a common belief that we all should behave ethically, both personally and professionally. Inherent in the idea of ethics or morality is the perception of free choice. Given a conflicting situation one should choose to behave ethically. Yet in a deterministic science such as behavior analysis, behavior is viewed as a product of the intersection of genetic inheritance, learning history, current conditions, and available alternative contingencies. Can a behavior analyst (or anyone) choose to behave ethically? When behavior tacted as unethical occurs, is it right to blame or punish the individual? As B.F. Skinner famously noted, “the rat is always right.” Given the stance that behavior is lawful, how should we as a field view and respond to unethical professional behavior? These issues will be analyzed from a non-linear perspective which will lead to suggestions towards a more systemic, contingency-analytic approach to ethical behavior.

Learning Objectives:

  • Define nonlinear contingencies and alternative sets.
  • Describe potential nonlinear contingencies for behavior deemed unethical.
  • Identify alternatives to coercive systems of influence or control 

About the presenter:

Dr. Janet Twyman is an education innovator, thought leader, and founder of blast: A Learning Sciences Company. Her numerous articles, book chapters, and presentations address behavior analysis, instructional design, technology, and educational systems, and includes co-editing three books on educational innovation, personalized learning, and equity. Always passionate about education, Janet has been a pre-school and public school teacher, administrator, researcher, and university professor. She currently holds a faculty appointment as Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and formerly served as Director of Innovation and Technology for the U.S. Dept of Education funded Center on Innovations in Learning and as Vice President of Instructional Development, Research, & Implementation at Headsprout. She has presented to and worked with education systems, organizations, and institutions over 50 states and countries, including speaking about technologies for diverse learners and settings at the United Nations. Dr. Twyman consults for numerous organizations and serves on several boards and committees including the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies’ Board of Directors, offering support in research, education innovation, and system refinement. In 2007-08 she served as the President of the Association for Behavior Analysis and in 2014 was named an ABAI Fellow. For her distinguished contributions to educational research and practice she received the 2015 Wing Award for Evidence-based Education and the 2017 American Psychological Association Division 25 Fred S. Keller Behavioral Education Award.