Has Behavior Analysis Lost Its Vision?

Author: Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA

Author: Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA

I recently visited a center with a lot of talented practitioners of behavior analysis. They use many of the same tools that I use in practice, even those funky blue celeration charts (Read More Here). While chatting over lunch I tried to bring up a little conversation on using behavior analysis in one’s own life (Like Here) (i.e., self-management) or aligning it with your passion (Example Here) and came off a bit surprised. Out of 25 or so professionals all trained in behavior analysis, the one who had the most to say was the person who learned about the field after they finished studying an entirely different area of study. I thought about it on-and-off for a few days…

At first, it makes me a little sad – “Is Skinner’s later narcissistic work where we’ll really end up as a field?”

I was also a little concerned – “Am I crazy?” “Was I just asking the question in a weird way?”

I also started to question the training systems and systemic variables that are placing pressure on our field to grow and expand at a pretty phenomenal rate (www.BACB.com).

As you can see my thoughts kind of just race around to a bunch of different variables – all of which I think are relevant, but I need some more time to really finish mapping them out. However, this isn’t the first time that I ran into something like this over the last 8 years, I actually fear it’s happening more often (although I don’t have a good pulse on that data stream).

Why aren’t behavior analysts dreaming about helping save the world in ways like, say Elon Musk? Our field has talked about this since it's conception. We've created extremely useful behavioral technologies to some of the most challenging social issues, but there's so much more that we can inform and contribute towards. I question our ability to do it alone and believe the answer lies in being humble with what we can and cannot achieve on our own. Below, Elon shows not just how a problem can be navigated, but how it can be done so at scale - often requiring exponential changes in the efficiency of technology. It's worth the watch:

As I continue to navigate a clearer understanding of this with my colleagues, I’d like to make this and another venture that I’m a part of the “home” for those who seek to take that larger vision that people like Izzy Goldiamond, Ogden Lindsley, B. F. Skinner and countless others envision and worked towards. Here are ways you can currently contribute:

  1. Share our website and resources with people you think will be interested in what we have to say
  2. Follow us on all of these platforms if you’re not already (linked below)
  3. Keep up with our progress through our newsletter below.
  4. Consider joining Bx+ (Learn More Here) - a community if people that share this vision, that meet weekly and work on projects free to the world related to behavior analysis.

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If we all work together, we can make the vision become a reality. But we’re going to have to work.