Behaviorists for Social Responsibility
By Holly Seniuk, Sarach Richling, Traci Cihon, Jose Ardila, and Kathryn Roose
The Behaviorists for Social Responsibility (BFSR) SIG is composed of dedicated volunteers and a board of Planners (drawing on Skinner’s Walden Two). The Planners, who meet on a monthly basis, currently consist of Jose Ardila, Kendra Combs, Traci Cihon, Sarah Richling, Richard Rakos, Kathryn Roose, Jovonnie Esquierdo-Leal and Holly Seniuk. The Planner structure, active volunteers, the easy availability of digital communications, and the resulting mutual accountability continues to produce a high level of activity by the SIG. The following report summarizes only some of the SIG’s activities for 2021.
Many members of the BFSR Planners supported the completion of Behavioral Perspectives on Culture and Community, the first of a new series of books to be published through ABAI. The book contains 17 chapters from leading behavior scientists engaged in research and applications of culturo-behavior science and was published in January, 2022.
BFSR has continued to focus on the Matrix Project (see BFSR’s website at https://bfsr.abainternational.org/ for more information) which was first introduced in the 2014 Behavior and Social Issues editorial (Mattaini & Luke, 2014). The Matrix Project is focused on increasing the number of behavior analysts working on social issues (e.g., social justice, poverty, sustainability, public health) using behavioral systems analysis to identify interrelations and practical steps that may be taken across more than a dozen sectors/players (e.g., behavior-analytic education programs, journals, students) who might have an impact on this goal. A significant amount of activity has continued to occur in the last year, so we will highlight a few of the recent activities.
- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Education Group – The goal for this group is to develop materials to increase the inclusion of cultural/behavioral systems level content, particularly with emphasis on social issues, in university coursework. In 2020 the group created a survey that generated approximately 470 responses from behavior analysts. The purpose of the survey was to better understand how individuals are currently contacting behavior analytic content on social issues and what resources would be most beneficial. The group is currently working on analyzing the results of the survey for dissemination.
- Regional BFSR Groups – The goal for the regional groups is to create a network of BFSR SIGs in affiliated chapters of ABAI. To date, two affiliated state chapters of the BFSR SIG have been formed (TxABA in 2016 and KansABA in 2017). The ABAI BFSR Planners are continually working with state/regional/international affiliated chapters interested in developing BFSR SIGs that extend the reach of the Matrix Project to local action.
In 2020, the TxABA BFSR SIG Planners (Traci Cihon & Lee Mason) have focused on efforts to connect with other regional BFSR Groups (e.g., KansABA BFSR SIG) and to build interest in the TxABA BFSR SIG. In addition to preparing for the upcoming 2022 TxABA convention, the TxABA BFSR SIG will be hosting a webinar on March 31, 2022 featuring Dr. Susan Schneider who will share her recent work on behavior science, sustainability, and climate.
- Sustainability Group – The group is currently working on using the matrix analysis to identify feasible practices that state chapters could engage in to increase behavior analytic activity in the area of sustainability. The group has disseminated a survey in order to gain information on what activities affiliate chapters have previously engaged in, or are actively engaging in related to environmental sustainability. The goal is to assemble a cohort of affiliate chapter leaders to become sustainability liaison for their chapter. In 2022, the group is planning to host various community meetings where liaisons can share information and learn from each other’s experiences.
- Community Resilience Group – This working group was recently created in late 2020 and focuses on understanding how individuals as cultural collectivities respond and recover from systemic issues related to climate change such as hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, among others. The goal of this group is to develop measurement tools with a behavior systems orientation for assessing the practices involved in community resilience seen as adaptive outcomes. The group is currently collecting relevant literature from within and outside behavior analysis that discusses resilience as a concept. Following the completion of literature review, a measurement tool that identifies the multiple contingencies constituting a community’s recovery efforts will be offered.
- Public Health Group – This working group was established in 2020 and has been actively working toward increasing connections between behavior science and public health. Currently, members of the Public Health Working Group are developing a behavioral conceptualization of the Social Determinants of Health, and linking this conceptualization with the objectives of Healthy People 2030 with a specific focus on health communication. The results of this work will be summarized in a poster presentation at the upcoming ABAI Convention where we will offer tangible suggestions for future directions related to collaborating with public health professionals and ways behavioral scientists can ethically expand their scope of practice to public health.
BFSR will continue to work on the Matrix Project over the coming year, updating the activities and outcomes of active sectors and coordinating the activities of the less developed sectors. Those who want to get involved can contact BFSR at email@example.com
To ensure that the SIG continues to make progress toward the SIG’s mission, several infrastructure improvements were made in the last year. Since becoming an ABAI Associated SIG, BFSR has continued to develop infrastructure to provide members with valuable resources. The membership structure includes student members ($5), full members ($20), supporting members ($50), and sustaining members ($100). The SIG has also developed a process for getting volunteers involved with SIG activities (email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in volunteering). The SIG has been actively working on developing our website to house resources, disseminate information, and provide members with a way to connect with the SIG.
BFSR has steadily received the help of hundreds of volunteers throughout the years and, in recent times, the influx of individuals applying to volunteer their time for our projects has increased. The trend observed in volunteer participation in this SIG is a representation of the increased interest of behavior analysts to seriously discuss how to participate in the solution of social issues. Given the increased interest in working with us, primarily in the development of the Matrix project outlined above, the BFSR planners created a role to coordinate volunteer participation. Currently, aspiring volunteers can reach the group via our webpage, and based on their interests and skills we provide one or more working groups within the Matrix where they may participate. Defining the main activities of volunteers and allocation of volunteer time within the Matrix are the current focus of the volunteer coordinator and will serve as a basis for the construction of tools to support volunteer actions within BFSR.
BFSR remains active on various social media platforms; even more so now with so many people turning to social media as they are mostly in their homes due to COVID-19. BFSR continues to disseminate socially relevant articles, videos, and news stories to bring the impact of more abstract concepts to a relatable level. Important social events were also highlighted in ways that generated discussion among behavior scientists and connected like-minded practitioners and researchers.
Behavior and Social Issues Journal
The BFSR Planners are heavily involved in supporting Behavior and Social Issues. In addition to active planning for, presenting at, and participating in the first culturo-behavior science (CBS) conference sponsored by ABAI, “Culturo-Behavior Science for a Better World” held virtually in October 2020, papers from the conference were published as a special section in the journal in 2021. Volume 30 of BSI also included two special sections: International Perspective on Cultural and Social Issues and the the first set of papers comprising Part I of Revitalizing Behavioral Community Psychology, with a second set comprising Part II to appear in Volume 31. Both special sections resulted from the work from several BFSR Planners and volunteers. In addition, the focus on behavioral community psychology will continue with the appointment of Jomella Watson-Thompson to the BSI Editorial Staff as Associate Editor whose focus will be on establishing the approach as a regular presence in the journal.
The BFSR Planners continue their support and active engagement with BSI, which is currently recruiting papers for its three ongoing special sections in Revitalizing Behavioral Community Psychology; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and Activism, Advocacy, and Accompaniment. BSI also welcomes submissions for two special sections to be featured in 2022, one on the Science of Behavior and Cultural Systems Analysis on the Human Response to Climate Change, Global Warming, and Related Challenges, and the second on Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. More details about the journal, including the calls for papers regarding these special sections can be found on the journal website: www.springer.com/journal/42822/
Mark Mattaini Student Engagement Award
In 2021 the BFSR Planners created an annual award to recognize the significant contributions that Dr. Mark Mattaini has made to BFSR, and culturo-behavior science. Dr. Mattaini was passionate about motivating students of behavior science to be actively engaged in work pertaining to social issues. More information on the award and how to apply can be found on the BFSR website: https://bfsr.abainternational.org/student-award/.
ABAI Annual Convention
BFSR held our annual business meeting at the ABAI Annual Convention. BFSR was also represented at the convention through presentations and posters. In addition, BFSR held three networking opportunities (“side zooms”) where individuals interested in getting involved or learning more could network with the BFSR Planners to learn more about the SIG and opportunities for involvement. BFSR will be showcasing our activities through posters and a symposium at the 2022 Annual Convention.