Association for Behavior Analysis International Brings Leading Behavior Experts to Chicago Convention

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The groundbreaking science of behavior analysis is best known for its success in treating autism. However, its implications reach far deeper into nearly every aspect of society, including marriage and family, education, politics, environmentalism, and more. The world's top behavior experts -- including Nobel Laureates, researchers, authors and more -- will gather in Chicago May 23-27 to present the latest scientific advancements in the field that answers the questions: "Why do we behave as we do and how can that behavior be changed?"

Behavior impacts every aspect of our daily lives, from the family dinner table to the classroom, the boardroom to the election booth. For more than 70 years, the science of behavior analysis has sought to explain behavior and to develop scientifically based strategies for addressing real world problems. Recently, this groundbreaking science has earned greater recognition with mainstream audiences, especially for its success in treating autism. However, the impact of applied behavior analysis (ABA) extends far deeper into our society, as will be highlighted when the world's top behavior experts assemble in Chicago from May 23 through May 27 for the Association for Behavior Analysis International Convention.

The five-day event will feature a presidential scholar's address by internationally renowned economist and Nobel Laureate Dr. Gary Becker, who will discuss how behavioral economics can be used to explain marriage and divorce rates in the United States. Becker, who has also been awarded the National Medal of Science and Presidential Medal of Freedom, was one of the founders of the principle that education is an investment in human capital.

The event will be kicked off with the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis Awards, which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the science. One of this year's award recipients is author Amy Sutherland, whose New York Times article and subsequent best-selling book What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage, has brought worldwide attention to the topic of behavioral interventions.

More than 1,500 presentations will be given during the convention, with a vast array of timely and compelling news and research topics. Just a few of these include:

Behavioral Economics - The marriage of economics and psychology, behavioral economics is one of the hottest areas of contemporary science, as reflected in the popular press (Freakonomics) and scholarly recognition (Nobel Prize). Leading behavioral economist Dr. Gregory Madden will present the latest discoveries in this dynamic field.

Preschoolers and Will Power: How self-control and delayed gratification abilities in children impact the course of their lives - Dr. Walter Mischel of Columbia University is one of the most highly regarded psychologists of his time. He invented the paradigm of self-control in kids in the 1960s and 1970s and has reported longitudinal data showing that kids who behave impulsively are more likely to have problems in school, run-ins with the law, etc., while their counterparts who demonstrate greater self-control are more likely to be successful later in life, with college degrees and satisfying careers.

Voters' Quandary 2008 - As the presidential election approaches, this esteemed panel of experts will provide a better understanding of how voters make their choices, including how voters can defend themselves against misleading emotional manipulations by candidates, political strategists and radio talk show hosts.

Autism and Adolescence - Adolescents with autism can present a special set of behavioral challenges. This important discussion will cover successful strategies for dealing with children with autism as they enter puberty, including such issues as aggression, masturbation, inappropriate touching, toilet training, social skills and problem solving.

"Greening" Behavior - In response to increasing social awareness of environmental preservation, a number of research studies will be presented using behavioral approaches to promote environmental consciousness, including energy conservation, paper use reduction and recycling.

Me vs. Us: Achieving Social Cooperation for the Greater Good - Dr. Howard Rachlin will discuss his groundbreaking work in human social behavior to explore whether behavioral methods can be extended from the individual to the group. Under what conditions do people cooperate rather than compete? Can the best interests of the group (altruism) win out over individual self-interest? Dr. Rachlin will explore how behavior patterns can be reinforced and evolve over the lifetime of individuals by a process similar to biological evolution. There are far-reaching implications from this work in terms of social justice and public policy.

Beating the Odds: Combating Pathological Gambling - Researchers will reveal the findings of recent studies on pathological gambling behaviors in different populations, including college students, smokers and seniors in nursing homes. The discussion also includes new assessment tools which not only identify whether or not an individual has a gambling addiction, but what the underlying reason for the addiction is.

Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution - What influences a person when he or she chooses how to behave? Sometimes we choose what to do based on a rational weighing up of pros and cons, but we are also influenced by what we have learned, what we believe is right, what others expect of us and so on. And most of us feel that there is also an influence of what is sometimes called "human nature." One way to get a grip on all this complexity is use Darwinian theory to consider how the unique brain and behavior of humans might have evolved. Dr. Peter Richerson will tell the story of how genes and culture co-evolved in the human lineage.

Do No Harm: Behavioral Approaches to Decreasing Medical Errors - Errors in the delivery of healthcare services are estimated to account for 90,000 deaths per year in the United States. Many of these deaths are traceable to failures in team coordination and communication among healthcare workers. A new simulation-based assessment and training system is being developed for the healthcare field, following many of the strategies used in other high-risk industries, such as aviation.

The convention, which will be held at the Hilton Chicago, is expected to attract approximately 4,000 attendees from about 40 countries, including scientists, applied researchers, undergraduate and graduate students, teachers, parents and consultants. Now in its 34rd year, the convention is held on Memorial Day weekend each year in a different U.S. city.

Credentialed members of the news media may attend free of charge with advanced approval. Please contact Bridget Palitz or Leah Yam at (619) 291-1234 by Tuesday, May 20 to reserve your press pass or to schedule interviews.

About ABA International
The Association for Behavior Analysis International is a nonprofit professional membership organization with the mission of developing, enhancing and supporting the growth and vitality of behavior analysis through research, education and practice. Founded in 1974, the association has approximately 5,000 members worldwide, and its affiliated chapters have a total membership of 12,000 worldwide. More information is available at


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Bridget Palitz

Leah Yam

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