CBS and Behavior Analysis

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In essence, Contextual Behavior Science is part of an effort to create a new form of what has traditionally been called behavior analysis. We could just use that label, but unfortunately it is so widely misunderstood that ears simply close. The word "behavioral" can be a huge barrier.

Furthermore, it is dangerous to use that label because behavioral psychology contains conflicting elements. It is possible and even easy to find well-known behavior analysts who believe and say things that are fundamentally at odds with functional contextual psychology or any of the other behavioral sciences. Furthermore, behavior analysis itself begins to take on a very different appearance when you add in a comprehensive functional contextual account of language and cognition. RFT research is showing that almost every behavioral principle we know can be transformed by relational operants. As the work deepens, it is becoming more and more obvious that the new behavior analysis that emerges in the wake of RFT is at times almost unrecognizable, not because that was the purpose but because that is how profound the implications are to that tradition of an adequate account of language and cognition.

Nevertheless, it seem important to note that much of the work in the tradition represented by this site has been done within behavior analysis. The first RFT and ACT talks ever given were given at the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABA), and the ABA program is filled with ACT and RFT work. We invite people who would never think of themselves as "behaviorists," and yet for whom the world of ACT and RFT resonates, to come to an ABA conference or a conference of similar societies world wide (but bring a knowledgable guide with you!). You will be very comfortable with the contextualistic work presented at such meetings. We admit, however, you will find other things there in some corners (e.g., reductionistic and mechanistic thinking; attacks on the importance of cognition or emotion; jingoistic talk).

That is one reason we do not simply present the ACT / RFT work as behavior analytic, and why we have created an association to further this work. The wheel is still in spin and it is not yet clear if behavior analysis writ large will fully embrace what it has produced. And there is no reason to have to be responsible for everything that goes on under that label, and to accept the barriers and misconceptions that come along with it. For example, why accept the almost universal belief that behavior analysts don't care about cognition, when RFT is one of the most viable and productive empirical approaches to cognition in modern psychology?

Nevertheless, teaching in behavioral concepts has gotten so weak that even very bright and open psychologists can go through their training without grasping the meaning of behavioral principles viewed contextualistically. You do need to know behavioral principles to understand ACT and RFT. In this section of the site we will help begin that process for those with limited contextual behavioral training. Check out the Basic Foundations Forum for ongoing discussion.

Especially if you are a public visitor to the site you will find a lot about behavior analysis at the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, which is the oldest, best established, and best known publicly focused foundation in behavioral psychology. You can access a lot of materials about behavior analysis at their website