Sunday, July 06, 2008

Criticism and Behavior Analysis

Well here we are again, in what is quickly turning into a very broad disagreement. Christschool's latest response "But this is Sparta!" is now out. My reply will be in point-counterpoint format.

"My Rebuttal: I never stated that there hasn't been group studies in which non Lovaas behaviorists have done. What I stated, which is contained in the quote you used was that the 47% myth has "never been replicated independent of Lovaas' small group of behaviorists"."

Oh I see; but I notice that a little bit of verbal dexterity is required to make this work. There has been a replication that produced 48% by a Lovaas student and there have been other non-Lovaas students who produced statistically significant research in this regard. However, there has certainly never been a non-Lovaas student who produced the famous 47%. Well then, I cheerfully cede the point.


"Thus, using Interverbal's own self selected reference we can see that there has been no replication of Lovaas' 1987 47% myth according to Sallow, Graupner (2005)."


To support this, Christschool sites the following from Sallow and Graupner (2005):

"There have now been several reports of partial replication without using aversives"

Of course, this is not what Sallows and Graupner argued at all. By defintion we can only produce a partial or systematic replication, because a portion of the indepedent variable (aversives) are absent. Sallows & Graupner are clear and up front about this.

However, a systematic replication is still a replication. This type of replication either extends the population parameters of the original study (external validity) or allows us to analyze changes in the independent variable. Sallows & Graupner do both. It is a different sort of replication, but it is a replication regardless.

"Based on my background as a commercial bankerHYPERLINK "http://www.careeroverview.com/commercial-banking-careers.html", I would make an educated guess that 800 employees would translate into about a revenue number of nearly $30 - $ 50 million per year ( I have no proof of this number, but like Interverbal states when he says behaviorists are qualified to discount possible PTSD complications from ABA because behaviorists work with lots of autistics and are qualified to make this determination, I too wish to employ my expert background in commercial banking to assert that revenue number)."


I do not take issue with Christschool's argument, but I wish he would not misrepresent mine either. I do not argue that behavior analysts are qualified to discount PTSD, unless of course they have credentials and experience in the area. Some behavior analysts do have expertise in PTSD. One of my undergraduate mentors was an expert and researcher in PTSD. However, I argue that we see no evidence of it. If we see no evidence of it and no science exists to the contrary why would we study it?


I analyzed this in my last post using a rhetorical device; namely, displacing certain words words into Christschool's argument to create a new argument that accurately reflects another view of autism that both Christschool and I oppose. The point I made was that Christschool's logic was poor in this regard.


"For instance, and I don't mean to pick on Interverbal here, but when I stated that vaccines have caused autism in children (based on information supplied to me by 2 children who had been diagnosed with autism as a result of undergoing vaccines as children) and that there aren't any studies that have been done to look into possible complications from vaccines such as autism, his response wasn't what I would expect from a curious and science based person."


I think this was a poor argument when it had the words ABA and PTSD and I think it is still a poor argument now.

"Afterall, DAN! has scienceness studies too and all produced by DANNITES!"


No, it does not have applied science. This is a false comparison. The biom advocates have some basic lab science, but not applied science. Although, there have been some limited studies of both the GF/CF diet and Mb12 shots. Both studies indicated no effect.

"Similarly, researchers outside Lovaas' circle can't produce the 47% figure either, only those "certified" Lovaas replication sites can produce the 47%, oops, I mean the 48% indistinguishable criteria."

A callous argument to the point of error. A change from 47 to 48% will be within the band of error. Moreover, despite the verbal dexterity used to frame this argument, there is existing research with statistically significant results which was not produced by Lovaas' students.


"I purposely did not refer to Sallows in my previous post, "Skinner Confuses Science with Terminology", because he is just too easy to discredit on circumstantial grounds alone"


Only if we employ a fallacy.


"Is this what passes for ethics in Behaviorism? Is this what passes for science in Behaviorism? Lies, damn lies and emotive marketing. No different than DAN! and just as scienceness."


Individuals make their own choices. The WEAP site does not reflect the way I or others discuss ABA. Nor does this tell us anything about behavior analysts' ability to accept criticism.


"Interverbal, I stand by my statement. No replication has ever occurred outside one of Lovaas' inner circle of behaviorists and I disagree with you. This is Sparta!"


I acknowledge that with the specific wording you are right. Frankly, I think the point is worthless? My concern is that a replication exists at all, not who did it. Although, I notice once again that others also achieved statistical significance who were not in Lovaas' group.


As to Sparta, I think I have demonstrated that behavior analysts can and do accept criticism when it is shown to have merit. You have not cogently argued this point. Instead you give an example of one center advertising in a way we would both disagree with.


Christschool, if you had argued that "sometimes behavior analysts incorrectly quote ABA science or autism science", then we would not be having this debate. We would be in total agreement. Instead you argued broadly that behavior analysis, is unscientific, a point you have massively failed to support. The best evidence you have for your original argument, that behavior analysis is unscientific (in other words that this is Sparta) are the dancing Spartan heads on your blog.

39 Comments:

Anonymous CS said...

"For instance, and I don't mean to pick on Interverbal here, but when I stated that vaccines have caused autism in children (based on information supplied to me by 2 children who had been diagnosed with autism as a result of undergoing vaccines as children) and that there aren't any studies that have been done to look into possible complications from vaccines such as autism, his response wasn't what I would expect from a curious and science based person."

One problem as I see it is that scientists have looked into the autism vaccine link and found no correlation. Your argument is that studies about PTSD and ABA shouldn't be done at all.

Can you direct me to an ABA service provider on the internet that you believe behaves responsibly in terms you agree with?

4:31 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

"One problem as I see it is that scientists have looked into the autism vaccine link and found no correlation. Your argument is that studies about PTSD and ABA shouldn't be done at all."

I agree. Although, of course many of our friends in the biomed camp would be quick to point out that the CDC/ vaccine maker collaborators are the ones responcible for the studies. They see a conflict of interest and claim these studies should be discarded. They want 3rd party studies. Sound familiar?

"Your argument is that studies about PTSD and ABA shouldn't be done at all."

No, I argue that there is no evidence that would justify such a study. I am, not arguing against such a study being run. If someone were to come bowling up to me announcing a study on ABA and PTSD, then I would have no issue.

"Can you direct me to an ABA service provider on the internet that you believe behaves responsibly in terms you agree with?"

No, I am wholly ignorant of such service providerships in terms of their online material. I have no idea which ones are good or bad. My focus has been on the academic/ research side.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I suspect you mean well, you would probably be able to serve your cause better were you to embrace spell check. In addition, you should bone up a bit on subject-verb agreement and the appropriate use of commas. In short: your work makes you read like an idiot.
I'm sorry about this, but I was trying to read your posts (trying) and found the lack of care/thoughtfulness on a subject that I am very passionate about (I have an autistic child)to be distracting and disturbing. How you say something can frequently overshadow what you say.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Anonymous,

"Although I suspect you mean well"

Thank you for the generous sentiment. I accept your criticism. I ask you to please excuse any recent writing errors, they are a dual function of my (over)haste to produce a response and my lack of a spell-checking program on my new computer. However, do not mistake this for a lack of thoughtfulness. I too, care deeply about the subject.

Changes have made to all recent articles concerning syntax and spelling errors. As to the comma placement, if it seems unusual it is typically due to the emphasis I am placing on certain ideas. I am very deliberate in how I select to use commas.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Stephen said...

I'm writing to invite you to join http://www.weareautism.org a new networking site for the community. Hope you can bring your energy to the group.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Alyric said...

Dear Anonymous

I've always suspected that our Interverbal's first language is not English, well not at a young age at any rate. I'm usually impressed that it's so much better than the vast majority of native speakers except when he's tired or rushed. So picking on the grammar and using a word like 'idiot' doesn't seem all that appropriate particularly when the following is so much worse:

"How you say something can frequently overshadow what you say"

People who pay too much attention to the packaging and not the contents have demonstrable deficits in their critical thinking skills - only in my opinion, of course

6:28 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Alyric,

No, sadly I am without excuse. I am a native English speaker, even from a young age.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

What I found suspect of ABA effectiveness is that as trial quality improves, the effect decreases. Admittedly, there isn't a huge number of trials of various quality levels (especially Level-I) but this is suspect nevertheless. It looks a lot like what happens with homeopathy trials.

Another point is that I'm not aware of research on side-effects. For example, has anyone looked at the impact of behavioral treatment on self-concept? There's a paper on the impact of strength training impact on the self-concept of kids with CP.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

"What I found suspect of ABA effectiveness is that as trial quality improves, the effect decreases. Admittedly, there isn't a huge number of trials of various quality levels (especially Level-I) but this is suspect nevertheless. It looks a lot like what happens with homeopathy trials."

Agreed, and this is a major problem.

"Another point is that I'm not aware of research on side-effects. For example, has anyone looked at the impact of behavioral treatment on self-concept? There's a paper on the impact of strength training impact on the self-concept of kids with CP."

No, the only research even close to this that I am aware of, was cited in my first punishment article from way back. It assessed staff satisfaction levels. The more staff were allowed to use aversives the happier they were.

This is an area wide open for study.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

"The more staff were allowed to use aversives the happier they were. "

What type of aversives? Should staff be screened beforehand for this?

8:40 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

"http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2017584?dopt=Citation"

Besides asking, there would be no ethical way to screen for this.

6:18 AM  
Anonymous CS said...

"Besides asking, there would be no ethical way to screen for this."

How can you make such a sweeping statement? Seems to me that an ethical test could be created for something like this.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

"How can you make such a sweeping statement? Seems to me that an ethical test could be created for something like this."

I know of no such test, nor do I think it likely that any such tests could ever be devised.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

Since there is no test, then the ethical thing would be not to allow aversives. If you can't determine who an abuser is, you shouldn't give him a weapon.

4:45 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

"Since there is no test, then the ethical thing would be not to allow aversives. If you can't determine who an abuser is, you shouldn't give him a weapon."

If you had just said "the ethical thing would be not to allow aversives", we would have been in agreement. The second sentence is an argument from adverse consequences. It falls apart amazingly quickly if you try to make the same logic work in other situations.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous passionlessDrone said...

Hi Intervebal -

"they are a dual function of my (over)haste to produce a response and my lack of a spell-checking program on my new computer"

FYI - The google toolbar has a cool spell check feature for form submittals that works on all HTML forms I've tried so far. It hasn't saved me from looking like an idiot when my content was wrong, but at least my content was wrong but correctly spelled.

- pD

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you spend more time dismissing my communication style rather than addressing my point.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, correcting Interverbal's spelling and grammar and calling him an idiot neither furthers your cause not strengthens your point; it just makes you seem picky and mean.
-Kianna

5:47 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

Kianna,

That comment was from me, I had my son in my lap and couldn't add CS to my post. Another point, don't use the word idiot for anyone. It's offensive and has terrible historical implications.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

Sorry,

idiot was used out of context. It's hard to write with a wiggly 5 year old on your lap. Sorry Kianna.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

I think your communication style is clear and cogent. I have no issue with it.

I do however, take issue with the logic you took to arrive at your conclusion, even though I agree with the conclusion.

Also, I think Kianna referred to another "anomymous" higher up in the comments.

10:32 AM  
Blogger KeithABA said...

To the usual ABA nay-sayers: Are you aware of the 2 most commonly used methods to treat children's behavior problems with or without developmental dissabilities)

1. Time out
2. Spanking

Both punishment procedures.

ABA has had a huge and direct relationship with teaching and encouraging the use of reinforcment based procedures, and avoiding punishment procedures.

But you completely neglect this point, and pretty much do what Michelle Dawson and Autsim Diva have done in the past. Be a little original instead of stealing the same argument.

JRC = ABA
Punishment = ABA
All ABA programs are aversive in nature.

How about Glen Latham's Power of Positive Parenting? Or his book Christlike Parenting. What about "Coercion and its Fallout," by Murray Sidman. Have you read any of these?

I'm sick of the quotes from Chomsky's critique of the book, "Verbal Behavior." Where's chomsky's critique of the Journal Of Verbal Behavior, and all the wonderful research that has been published.

Yes, punishment exists in society, in schools, in homes, in churches, in the legal system, in the military, and in SOME ABA programs, but not all.

Interverbal, I don't know why you bother. Every time you make a valid point, it's countered by either taking your word out of context, or completely mis-representing what you have stated.

To this day, I continue to ask the ABA Nay-Sayers, what treatments do have randomized group design research?

All I've ever been given is 1 trial experiment in the U.K. which had promising results that focused around increasing vocabulary.

2:01 PM  
Blogger KeithABA said...

Interverbal:

Instead of simply focusing on constantly trying to debunk the swiftboat veteran like charges all the time, perhaps you could blog about some things conceptual to the field of ABA, yet relevant to autism treatment and research. For instance:

Is stealing food maintained by socially mediated or automatic reinforcement? How could one setup a Functional Analysis to seperate the two? Is it worth it to do such analysis?

Can research be done to incorporate how emtional states may function as E.O.'s or M.O.'s for reinforcement obtained by other behaviors?

Can research be done to incorporate more private events even if they make a somewhat poor dependent variable?

Why do other's fail to recognize the significance of within subject research design?

What modifications of a group design would need to be done in order to test 1 treatment across subjects. How does different functions of a topographically similar behavior effect the outcomes of a group research design?

Is Skinner Satan in an alternate form? (oops sorry, that one just slipped in and I'm sure you'd get a lot of replies!)

Does relational frame theory really have practical implications in a theraputic setting?

Well, I think you get my point. It would certainly be a nice break, kinda like when you used to do the teaching methods posts. Sadly, hardly anyone responds to those.

6:23 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Keith,

You are right, it would make a nice break. The problem is I really don't have much time. I have entered the highly frantic last stage of my education.

I have gone from critiquing research or helping with it. To designing and running it. A bit different in terms of time, I am finding.

However, I have considered a new series starting in the late summer. I am going to present a series of fictional (but realistic) case studies.

Commenters will be welcome to post detailed solutions or plans, but nothing else. No critiques. No philosophical detours.

It might even be educational or helpful. We will have to see.

2:43 PM  
Blogger KeithABA said...

The hypothetical case studies sound very interesting.

I like the idea that the plans are not to be critiqued by others, hopefully it will keep the explosions to minimum. It also emphasizes, "What do you do?" instead of "What you shouldn't do."

I'd be very curious to see if any of the usual ABA critics will take the time to offer strategies. It would certainly be different than the usual contributions.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

"1. Time out
2. Spanking

Both punishment procedures.

ABA has had a huge and direct relationship with teaching and encouraging the use of reinforcment based procedures, and avoiding punishment procedures. "

Keith, what you fail to understand along with many behaviorists is that parents love their children and have established very strong bonds so when I spank my child or put him in time out, he understands that I still love him (I make it a point to reassure him of this). What ABA lacks is that bond, sitting at a table for hours doing DTT does not establish that parental bond so please, stop the non-sense comparisons.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

"Keith, what you fail to understand along with many behaviorists is that parents love their children'

I think most behavior analysts could probably grasp this. It is a pretty basic concept.

"and have established very strong bonds so when I spank my child or put him in time out, he understands that I still love him (I make it a point to reassure him of this). What ABA lacks is that bond, sitting at a table for hours doing DTT does not establish that parental bond so please, stop the non-sense comparisons."

Mostly correct I think. Few more things that should be said here, but maybe today isn't the time and place.

But now what about Moore & Bailey
(1973) who used social punishment possibly including spanking delivered by the mother who was prompted by a behavior analyst. No problems here then?

2:30 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

"I think most behavior analysts could probably grasp this. It is a pretty basic concept."

Grasping it is completely different than understanding it which you really can't do until you become a parent yourself. Becoming a parent is a life changing event. I thought I knew before what it would mean, but I really had no idea.

One cannot possibly fully understand the love a parent has for their child until that person has one of their own.

As far as Moore Bailey, unless you spoon feed it to me, I don't care to look it up.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

The Moore experiment was pretty straight forward. The mother was prompted to reinforce or punish her 3 year old daughter’s behavior and was prompted via a small earphone on generally what to do. It looks like most of punishment was social (verbal corrections) but spanking was evidently an option.

Also, not trying to distract you CS, but your argument in terms of the parental experience seems curious to me (no hidden nastiness intended). I wonder what you would make of this article? http://interverbal.blogspot.com/2007/03/best-of-intentions.html

8:47 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

"The Moore experiment was pretty straight forward. The mother was prompted to reinforce or punish her 3 year old daughter’s behavior and was prompted via a small earphone on generally what to do. It looks like most of punishment was social (verbal corrections) but spanking was evidently an option."

I've thought about it, but I shall think no more of it. Sounds like a silly experiment to me.

"Also, not trying to distract you CS, but your argument in terms of the parental experience seems curious to me (no hidden nastiness intended). I wonder what you would make of this article? http://interverbal.blogspot.com/2007/03/best-of-intentions.html"

I don't think much of the article, but mainly because love cannot be quantified or explained.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

What I want to know via the Moore article is whether in your view it was ethical or not.

"I don't think much of the article, but mainly because love cannot be quantified or explained."

No arguments from me there. Of course my article had nothing to do with quantifying or explaining love in the first place.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

perhaps you can give me a link. I went on Pubmed and could not find it.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1310863&blobtype=pdf

7:58 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

Jonathan,

I've read the Moore Bailey article. I'm a bit perplexed as to the importance of this. I guess you mean for me to look at this as a parent that didn't know how to communicate with their child and thus make the conclusion that parents are not always experts on their own children. I would agree if this is your point.

There will be instances in any population that a small minority of parents aren't capable of parenting. If it seemed that I was making the argument that this is never the case, then let me disabuse you of this interpretation.

But, I will say that the vast and overwhelming majority of parents are the experts on their own children and this should be the modus that behaviorists should operate under.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

Actually I wanted to know if you see any ethical problems with the study?

2:15 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

Not particularly. My guess is that the authors were wanting to do a small study to sort of challenge the conventional wisdom on how to treat autistics in the early 70's.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

"However, I argue that we see no evidence of it [PTSD]. If we see no evidence of it and no science exists to the contrary why would we study it?"

Um, maybe it's because no one's studied it that there's no evidence for it?
There are anecdotal reports of PTSD due to ABA in autistic kids ( http://users.1st.net/cibra/ ). In my opinion, that should be enough to warrant some study into the matter. Why is it that many scientists are willing to do studies to examine various crackpot theories of the cause/cure of autism, but no study has been done on the hypothesized link between ABA and PTSD?
(Also note that milder related issues such as depression, low self esteem and anxiety should also be examined.)

8:22 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Ettina,

“Um, maybe it's because no one's studied it that there's no evidence for it?”

You are not going to pin me on claiming I used circular logic Ettina. Look again at what I wrote. It wasn’t just research that I referred to.

“There are anecdotal reports of PTSD due to ABA in autistic kids ( http://users.1st.net/cibra/ ). In my opinion, that should be enough to warrant some study into the matter.”

I am familiar with the CIBRA site. I consider it to be unsupported at best. No names appear. No newspaper clippings are given. Moreover, the authors claim to have special insight into autism due to their knowledge of depth psychology. This branch of psychology is heavily based on Jungian and psychodynamic psychology. The authors say that children with autism are especially vulnerable to PTSD. I can tell you why they say that, even though they don’t…. The psychodynamic folks believe autism to be caused by trauma or by a lack of bonding. Therefore they are more likely to also get PTSD.

Moreover, the CIBRA site links as a “resource” a sight that has blatant misinformation about behaviorism and the Skinner family. There is simply no excuse for this in 2008 when accurate information is a click away. This is flat out prevarication…… lying.

I don’t trust the CIBRA site or consider it to be a valid source of information. And I find it way too convenient that no case studies or even newspaper clippings detail PTSD in ABA and yet here is an anonymous site that can’t be verified that has some real….. proof. Kind of like how the really good evidence for bigfoot or ESP can’t be verified.

As to the idea of research of PTSD in ABA, I don’t support it, but I won’t stand in its way either. If others want to push for it, they will do so without my voice to help them. I don’t support it, because nothing in my experience suggests it should be a concern. Also, I think the reason this is a concern at all in our advocacy movement is because some of us, borrowed a psychodynamic criticism of ABA, without really understanding why it was given in the first place.

But I think it has now become part of our advocacy movement’s lore… our coolaid… so to speak. I really don’t think even if research came out in the negative it would deter the tenacity that this belief is held. That is because our movement is diverse, not all of us attend to what the science says or even care about it at all.

On the other hand I am willing to put everything I believe on the line. It is open for scrutiny. But I don’t believe in research for the heck of it…… and I see no valid reason at all for it here. I don’t mind criticism of my field and there are some good ones (I have made some myself) but I call shenanigans on this particular one.

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Autism may have several triggers for a child who already has a propendency toward it. The one that I specifically address here is a lack of bonding between mother and child. The fact is that many mothers, in this day and age, either have to or choose to re-enter the work force soon after the birth of their child. This can make it difficult for them to get close to their baby. Mothers may have a tendancy in this situation to feel much pressure in regards to bonding. After all, if they get too close, it will only be more difficult for them and their baby to seperate. This may be an unconcious or concious thought process. Sadly, if this is a trigger, although there are certainly others, the lack of bonding trigger does not seem to be addressed or acknowledged. Because the number of autism cases have gone up so greatly, shouldn't we be looking at all possible triggers, even though this one would be an extremely unpopular theory. It is the children we should be concerned about, not whether a theory may offend the parent. It can bring change which can only be a good thing.

5:03 AM  

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