The Impact of Terminology on Behaviorism: How the Term “Punishment” Affects the Selection of Procedures in Applied Behavioral Analysis

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This experimental research study aimed to assess the bias of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) practitioners against the utilization of behavior modification programs labeled as "punishment." The study included a total of 94 participants made up primarily of BCBAs. Through a between-group experimental design, the practitioners were presented with behavior modification program options, and their selections were analyzed. The study's findings revealed a clear tendency among the practitioners to avoid selecting programs labeled as "punishment" versus an alternative term, “deceleration”. This avoidance indicated a significant bias against the term. Furthermore, it was observed that when participants avoided the term "punishment," they tended to select programs at odds with the target behavior they aimed to address. These results suggest a systemic failure within the field of ABA to adequately assess its terminology's impact on its practitioners' therapeutic practices. The implications of these findings call for a reevaluation of terminology in ABA and a deeper understanding of how biases against terminology may influence treatment selection and outcomes.
Punishment, Applied Behavior Analysis, Terminology, Behaviorism, Etymology