By Jennifer Austin, 2021 Public Awareness Grant
As in many countries, there are a number of misperceptions about behaviour analysis in the United Kingdom. These ideas range from relatively benign misunderstandings (e.g., ABA is an autism treatment) to potentially dangerous accusations (e.g., behaviour analysis is abusive). Although most behaviour analysts have come to expect some misunderstandings about what they do and likely correct those errors as they arise in everyday discourse, pervasive public misconceptions about ABA can potentially limit uptake of behaviour analytic services, or worse yet, encourage engagement with less effective alternatives. Therefore, strategies aimed at disseminating accurate information, which are designed for easy public consumption, are important components of enhancing the public image of behaviour analysis and supporting consumers to make more informed decisions.
Two primary goals of the UK Society for Behaviour Analysis are to educate the public about behaviour analysis and enact strategies to promote consumer protection. These efforts include a consumer-facing website, as well as holding a register of UK behaviour analytic practitioners that allows consumers to check the credentials of those individuals. The UK-SBA Board (chaired by Dr. Jennifer Austin) will use the SABA Public Awareness Grant to further consumer education efforts by producing a short “This is ABA” video. The video will feature UK behaviour analysts working across a range of applications (e.g., OBM, prisons, early intervention, intellectual disabilities, foster care) to promote a more accurate account of the scope of ABA and the ways that it can produce positive, ethical, data-based outcomes for individuals, families, communities, and organisations. The video also will feature individuals who have benefited from behaviour analysis, who will share how some aspect of their lives has been affected by the science. The video will conclude by signposting consumers to the UK-SBA Register of Behaviour Analysts. The video will be posted on the UK-SBA website and social media outlets, and consumers will be invited to take an “ABA: Fact and Fiction” quiz before and after the video to help gauge impact. UK-SBA hopes that these efforts may serve as a model for other countries facing similar issues regarding public perceptions of behaviour analysis.