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A Basic Science
Behavior analysis differs from most psychological attempts to understand behavior. Psychological theories study entities such as “the mind” or “the personality” or “cognitive structure”” or “self-concept” or “drives.” These are usually viewed as the basic subject matter of psychology; they are causal and behavior is merely a derivative of them. Unfortunately, these assumed entities do not exist in the natural world of the other sciences, they do not reside in the same physical natural science realm as electrons, atoms, magnetism, cells, and so forth. Where they actually exist is unclear, perhaps in some “mental” or “hypothetical” universe.As a result, it is difficult to define and measure them unambiguously and even harder to understand how they relate to other natural phenomena.
Behavior analysis does not posit such “mental” causes for behavior. Behavior itself is seen as the subject matter of interest. Variations in behavior, changes in the frequency or form of what we do or what we say, are understood in terms of relations with real-world events. Understanding, describing, and predicting behavior does not require an appeal to nonobjective or unscientific concepts. It is analyzed in terms of interactions between behavior itself and the environment.
Selectivism, not “purposism,” is the guiding concept. Behavior does not occur “in order to” produce some result, even though we inaccurately say “the child cries to get attention.” Purposive statements suggest that present behavior (e.g., crying) is caused by something which has not yet occurred (attention). It is more accurate to say that the environment provides consequences for behavior, which make that behavior more likely to occur in the future under similar circumstances. At a later time we then observe the strengthened behavior to occur. Thus, the child cries (now) because in the past crying has resulted in attention, and the present is influenced by the past, not the future. Operants and reflexes are the two major classes of behavior. Operants (traditionally called “voluntary behaviors”) include most visible everyday things we do or say. Events which follow operants (consequences) significantly influence the likelihood of the behavior occurring again under similar circumstances (e.g., ask politely, get seconds on pie). Reflexes, called respondents, are mostly automatic responses to some stimulus which precedes them (e.g., loud noise, heart rate changes), and are frequently “physiological.” They are not influenced very much by consequences.
Some people incorrectly believe that behavior analysis considers all behavior to be respondent in nature, and therefore “automatic” and not influenced by what happens. Even some texts suggest this. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding. In fact, however, behavior analysis suggests that most behavior of interest in everyday life, in family or personal relationships, in school or on the job, is operant in nature, not respondent. It therefore changes as the environment changes and provides different consequences.
Contingencies and functional relationships describe the connections between behavior and its causes in the environment. “When he told jokes people laughed” asserts that the laughter of others was contingent on his telling jokes. If we found that this consequence strengthened the probability that he would tell jokes, we would have discovered a functional relationship; his telling jokes was a function of people laughing. From this observed functional relationship and many, many others we might develop the abstract concept of reinforcement, an abstract functional relationship.
Explanations which are not functional relationships do not really “explain.” Some people might explain an individual’s helpless behavior as due to a “dependent personality.” This might refer to chronic, frequent dependent behavior, including test responses such as “I let other people make decisions.” Although this label or description is often useful to know, it “explains” little. We cannot say that a person acts helpless or dependent because he or she has a dependent personality (has acted dependently a lot in the past) and claim we have illuminated the causes of the behavior.
Genetics, brain chemistry, physiology, and related factors play a role in understanding behavior. Behavior analysis assumes that certain functional relationships between behavior and the environment are true for individuals or species because of genetic endowment. We inherit a structure such that things “work” in a certain way, for both digestion and behavior. Functional relationships and general laws of behavior exist because of this genetic structure. Behavioral laws do not deny genetics, they exist because of genetics. Those individuals and species who inherited structures which allowed them to respond in certain ways to their environment survived, those who inherited structures which lead to different learning and behavior did not. “Nature” selected for survival those who inherited certain behavioral laws (structures), much as the environment selects specific behaviors of the individual to strengthen. The “nature-nurture” or “genetic-environment” controversy is meaningless. Because of our “nature” the environment nurtures (selects) our behavior in a certain way, and our “nature” reflects what we have inherited.
Behavior analysis sees things like physiology and brain chemistry as playing essential roles in understanding behavior. Contingencies which occurred in the past influence behavior today. Behavior analysis does not assume that some sort of time machine exists, that what happened eight years ago travels through time to influence how you will respond to a situation today. Behavior analysis speculates that these past events changed some structure, biological, neurological, chemical, or electrical, and these changes persist today and influence behavior today. However, we currently know little about what precisely goes on at these levels that mediate behavior. Fortunately, we can develop functional relationships that relate behavior to the environment independently of these events, and have a science of behavior, much as chemistry existed independently of quantum theory for a long time. Today, scientists know a lot about interpreting chemistry in terms of quantum theory; we are not at that stage in behavioral science, although there is a start. But today we do not know enough to explain behavior by reference to chemical or electrical events.
Determinism, robots and control are issues many raise about behavior analysis. Many seem to feel that determinism makes everything seem mechanical and pre-ordained, that it makes people appear like robots. Yet in spite of the fact that we know all the basics in classical physics, engineers cannot predict which plane will fail. Even with complete determinism in theory, complexity prevents full prediction or control in practice. Chaos theory posits a determined but unpredictable world. “Control” is merely a metaphor for functional relationships. As used technically in behavior analysis, if temperature affects how we dress, we say it “controls” dressing behavior. Thousands of other things may also exert concurrent control.
Many think that analysis destroys the romance of the world. Yet with every problem analyzed and “solved” in the physical, chemical and biological sciences, ten new ones are discovered. The more we understand the more we find there is to understand. Ignorance is neither romantic nor exciting.
Finally, reality is not up for a popular vote. Researchers who study behavior did not “create” behavioral laws. No one believes that if it were not for Newton there would be no gravity. Yet many act as if behavioral scientists are responsible for the way the world is.
An Applied Science
Applied behavior analysis attempts to improve individual and social conditions. In education, direct instruction, precision teaching, personalized instruction, and other behavior analysis approaches have great success, whether in regular education, special education, or adult and higher education. In spite of much that has been written, superior educational programs that consistently deliver quality results across all ranges of students already exist. Research has shown this time after time. However, these programs have not been widely adopted yet.
In industry, the form of behavior analysis called performance management produces results far superior to traditional strategies. Many Fortune 500 companies now train managers in these approaches. Most significant current work in international public health is based on behavior analysis. Many behavioral programs related to environmental concerns, such as littering, energy and water conservation, and recycling, have been developed. In clinical areas related to personal problems, parenting, child-rearing, corrections, drug and alcohol treatment and in health-related areas, such as weight control and smoking cessation, successful programs grounded in behavior analysis are documented.
Many new areas are under development. A start has been made treating economics as a behavioral problem. Analyses have been completed and new ones are underway related to creativity. Traditional areas, such as thinking and cognition, will be completely reformulated on the basis of research and concepts already developed. The historic topics labeled motivation and emotion are understood from a new perspective. A start is being made to attempt to understand areas like ethnic conflict and group aggression. For nearly every topic and every area you can name, there is probably some behavioral researcher trying to analyze it and figure out a way to improve it.
I hope you are all enjoying the March session of ELP! I think we have seen great progress with many of our kiddos. I see our little ones starting to push some boundaries and test a bit. Our teen group challenged us for the first few weeks, but I think things fell into place on Monday and the documentary is going to be amazing!
You guys are doing a great job with data collection. I know it is hard, but it really is the way to show the insurance companies and funders that what we are doing works. We will become Medicaid providers as of the May session, which may change a few things. For the most part we already take all the data in information they will need. It is exciting- it should help with funding for a lot of our kids.
Thank you for being on top of the sign in-sign out. As we get more organized and progress we will add and subtract protocol. We will start monitoring who picks kids up in the May session and each kid will have a list of who is allowed to pick them up. We will also be doing a communication log starting in May. I am not sure what that will look like yet, but we will go over it prior to the May session starting.
We have 2 kids being paid for by the county and one of them is court ordered. All steps forward to the counties recognizing that kids are getting so much from this and that it is worth funding!
We are going to start a weekly mentor training. It will be every from 12:45-1:30. We will role play and work on various scenarios as well as go over questions you guys have. Monday night mentors-you are welcome at the Saturday training. If we need to add a training on Mondays we will look into that. Let me know. That training will start this Saturday!
May session sign ups… it is that time again to sign up for the next session. If you are not continuing, please, please please try to find someone to take your place. The Teen group will be May 3rd, 10th, 17th, 27th, June7th and 14th. The Preteen group will be May 8th, 15th, 22nd, June 5th, 12th, 19th. We will be off the weekend of Memorial Day (May 29th and 31st). Let me know by April 10th if you are returning or who is replacing you. We will have a New Mentor Training on May 1st.
We are going to add ELP Volunteer Hours. Right now the Teen group comes and works from 3-5. It has been a challenge but we have worked most of the kinks out. A lot of the kids have expressed interest in volunteering, but they can’t come whenever they want and we can’t offer supervision throughout the week. So, we will continue the Teen Volunteer Hours on Mondays from 3-5. Typically this group cleans stalls and then plays a game. We will be adding a second work task as they can handle it. The Pre-Teen Volunteer Hours will either be on Saturdays following ELP or on Sundays. Are any of you interested in supervising the kids? The pre-teens would be dusting the arena, washing buckets, etc. There would be little horse involvement to keep the need for supervision ratio down. If you are interested talk to me.
We will also be having an ELP Summer CAMP!!! Summer Camp will be the week of June 14 to 18. It will be between 5 and 6 hours a day with a mix of equine activities, games, hiking and possible field trip. We are looking volunteers who can help out with the kiddos. If interested, talk to me.
Finally- We need to do a Mentor Melting Pot Night. Coordinating 20 mentors and 6 facilitators calendars is insanity, add on top the Colorado weather… So April 12th at 8:00. Email me if you are going to attend so we can make a reservation.
I can’t thank you all enough for what you are doing for these kids and what you have done for me. Starting this program is an amazing experience and has helped me to settle into my new home.
Maura Stack-Oden, MA, BCABA
Zuma’s Rescue Ranch
Watch This Video, Let’s give kids a chance! No Legal Drug Pushers AKA Big Pharma!
Zuma’s gives kids a way to develop coping skills, this is really all they need, not drugs!
In today’s world it begins with ADD, ADHD diagnosis for grade school children, then medication to control their un-stimulated, energetic behavior, (a symptom of our poor education system).
By Middle School these drug addicted kids move on to more sever diagnosis of Bi-polar disorder and more legal drugs prescribed. Then we are on to high school and the diagnosis become more sever and the answer, more drugs….. The pharmaceutical companies are creating legal junkies of our children, they then graduate from high school( if they are lucky) then land in the streets with no more insurance for the system induced drug habit they have.
These now 18-year-old legal drug addicts have no means to support the addiction to the psychotropic (mood altering)drugs they have become dependent on, so they begin seeking any mood altering substance they can get their hands on. This behavior either kills these young people or lands them in prison where they can once again get the psychotropic drugs they became addicted to as young children. Who wins here? The pharmaceutical companies win, they create drug addicts of young children and depend on the insurance companies and medicare to fund them to the tune of billions in profits each year.
Quite a business plan, prey on the young children in America, create a symptoms/diagnostic manual with a PR firm, advertise the symptoms and the drug solutions to the parents….. Viola a profitable business model to be proud of. NOT
Let’s tell the drug companies no, let’s give our children a chance to develop coping skills, let’s let children be children and not medicate away any unpleasant behaviors. Families can develop coping skills not drug habits.
Zuma’s Experiential Learning Center can work with you, and your children to learn to cope with adolescent behaviors through an active participatory process for both kids and parents. No quick fix with a pill that only numbs your children, making learning nearly impossible compounding the situation.
Try a new way….. Call Zuma’s today 303-346-7493
Zuma’s has developed an incredibly strong community, full of support for our mission. Our community is full of dedicated volunteers that all contribute in their own special ways. This group is committed to the harmonious continuation our mission. This makes all the difference.
Zuma’s community includes the volunteer that is tired after a long day at work yet still drives out to Zuma’s to help that make the difference in our mission. Or the volunteer that shows up early Sunday morning without fail – rain or shine, sun or snow – to help scoop poop. Zuma’s community is the volunteer that dedicates time each week to mentor one of the kids at Zuma’s. It is the volunteer that makes Zuma’s Luck for us, or the one that collects beads for the Zuma’s Luck, or that dedicated P.R. volunteer that squeezes in time to put Zuma’s mission out into the world. These are the people that keep the mission on track.
Our community, these people that make everything possible.
When Zuma’s can count on the continued support from the community, we can continue to grow through our programs to save more horses and help more families.
What ever way your are giving, doing, saying good things for Zuma’s, we say THANK YOU!