Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Reply to Christschool

Back in November in 2006, I wrote a somewhat controversial article detailing a portion of the history of behavior analysis and aversives. Some people liked it and some people didn't like it one bit. However, no one has challenged its factual basis. Until now.....

Christschool is the maker of excellent and well known autism advocacy YouTube videos. He is also a fellow Autism Hub member. Very recently he wrote an article criticizing my post for inaccuracy. Specifically, he writes:

"Contrary to Interverbal's analysis that Professor Skinner was "strongly against punishment" and the "behavior analytic community abandoned Skinner's argument", B.F. Skinner was not only an advocate of extreme aversives, but he was literally the architect of the aversives that led to the death of Mr. Milletich.To be Continued...."

To this end he cites the following, culled from this article. "Professor Skinner said: ''I don't like punishment at all. But some people are temporarily out of the reach of positive reinforcement, and a small amount of punishment may help bring them within reach of therapy.'' He also defended Mr. Israel, saying, ''The critics who call what he's doing torture don't know what they're talking about."

I have significant problems with all of this. Beginning with Christschool's title. His title reads:

"Critics of Mr. Israel don't know what they are talking about." - B.F. Skinner"

This quote appears nowhere in the New York Times article. It seems to be based on the following Skinner quote; ''The critics who call what he's doing torture don't know what they're talking about". Christschool's quote is inaccurate and misleading. By adding a few words and taking a few more out, he has radically changed the meaning of Skinner's comment.

Moreover, Skinner is right. It is not torture. The word "torture" means something specific. What certain parties did in terms of using physical aversives in the past, or still do now, might be disagreeable and I would certainly argue against it on ethical lines, but it is not torture. This sort of argument is like accusing parents who choose to use EDTA of poisoning their children. We might disagree with it, we might argue that it is unsafe, but it is not poisoning. This would be a very poor argument and some readers, even if they dislike aversives, are likely to recognize it for what it is, a fallacious appeal to emotion.

Moving on, Skinner consistently wrote concerning his stance against punishment. I argued this in my previous post and very carefully referenced my assertions. I feel no obligation to do so again. Christschool may argue that by backing aversives in unusual circumstances, for a brief period of time, and to a small degree, Skinner should no longer be considered to be considered "strongly against" aversives. Fine, but.... in such a case, I too can no longer be considered strongly anti-aversive. This is news to me, and probably news to a number of other folks both behaviorist and non-behaviorist alike. If the case arises (and indeed it has) of a choice between life-and-death and aversives, I would choose the aversives. In my ethical analysis, death is certainly the greater evil compared to limited and context specific delivery of physical pain.

Christschool, also evidently took issue with my statement that the wider behavior analytic community rejected Skinner's arguments. This is bizarre; I can only guess that Christschool misunderstood what my words meant. Skinner certainly did argue early in his career that punishment is weak. The behavior analytic community did not take this to heart.

I rather carefully detailed the journal articles starting in the 1950s when punishment based research for humans began to appear with some regularity. The existence of punishment focused research, the green light by peer reviewers, and the lack of dissent in letters to the editor, is a clear indicator of a general lack of agreement with Skinner in this regard. In fact, in an extremely telling moment, one of the first letters to the editor where dissent is provided concerning aversives; the letter writer actually congratulates the researcher for abandoning the Skinnerian dogma that punishment is ineffective.

Finally, Christschool writes, "B.F. Skinner was not only an advocate of extreme aversives, but he was literally the architect of the aversives that led to the death of Mr. Milletich."

This would be most unusual. There is no journal record to suggest that Skinner researched these techniques, they are not made reference to in any of his major works for a certainty, and in none of his minor works either from what I can tell. Nor did he employ them with his daughters as they themselves have made very clear. I can only hope that he will provide some sort of evidence for this, in part-two of his series. Although I confess, I am openly skeptical of his claim.

Advocacy, no matter how worthy the cause, needs to be factually accurate. No real service is done in its absence.

60 Comments:

Anonymous CS said...

Torture, according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, is "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."[2] In addition to state-sponsored torture, individuals or groups may inflict torture on others; however, the motive for torture can also be for the sadistic gratification of the torturer.

I assume you are aware of what led to Vincent's death. Based on the United Nations Conventionn Against Torture definition, do you still believe that putting Vincent restrained in a chair, with a helmet and mask over his head, shooting ammonia spray in his face to such an extent that deprived him of oxygen as "not torture". How do you define torture?

5:56 AM  
Blogger Club 166 said...

CS beat me to the punch.

I went to Merriam Webster dictionary and found:

1 a: anguish of body or mind : agony b: something that causes agony or pain
2: the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure
3: distortion or overrefinement of a meaning or an argument : straining


Are you trying to argue that you have to have intent to cause harm on the part of the one inflicting the pain to have torture? Because I would argue that to the people being abused by Israel (who have not given their consent to be abused, BTW), it makes not a whit of difference what the motivation of the one pushing the button was.

Joe

6:17 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

Lets put the definition to the test in the case of physical aversives.

1) "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession"

No confessions or information obtaining here.

"punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed"

In behavior analysis we would call the delivery of physical aversives positive punishment. By the behavior analytic meaning is once and again different from the non-behavior analytic once.

The common definition of punishment is retribution or justice inflicted for the sake of a moral or legal code. The behavior analytic definition of punishment would be "Any stimuluis event, or condition, whose immediate response contingenmt presentation, results in an decreased frequency of that response". Stubbing your toe by accident, could be positive punishment in the behavior analytic sense.

Again this doesn't fit.

"or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind"

The JRC also uses aversives with typically developing people who are engaging in extremely destructive self-destructive behaviors. The discrimination portion doesn't fit here.

"Based on the United Nations Conventionn Against Torture definition, do you still believe that putting Vincent restrained in a chair, with a helmet and mask over his head, shooting ammonia spray in his face to such an extent that deprived him of oxygen as "not torture". How do you define torture?

No, I would not define it as torture. I would argue that it is ethically incorrect, but that is not the same thing. What defintion do I use? The same one as the UN.

6:44 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Joe,

"Are you trying to argue that you have to have intent to cause harm on the part of the one inflicting the pain to have torture?"

Yes, but also for one of the reasons listed in the UN defintion. Also, it has to be to an intense degree.

Lets take spanking for example. Which would be torture under a thoughtless rote reading of the UN defintion. Many parents still will use some spanking with their children. I disagree with this practice too. However, it would be absurd to call such "torture".

"it makes not a whit of difference what the motivation of the one pushing the button was."

Clearly I don't agree at all. I would argue that the motivation makes all the difference in the world. A visit to the dentist is not torture, neither is recovery from certain sugeries, or setting a broken bone.

6:54 AM  
Anonymous CS said...

I'm speechless.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Club 166 said...

So, by your logic, when the Japanese performed live vivisections (with no anesthesia) on prisoners who had been infected with various agents during WWII, this would not constitute torture of those individuals, because the perpetrators intended to do scientific experiments.

Joe

7:48 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Joe,

"So, by your logic"

By my logic, but also by the UN definition.

What happened to those prisoners of war, was however, a gross violation of human rights and was inexcusable. Not all human rights violations are torture.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

"I'm speechless".

I can only guess what you mean by this. If you find my comments hopelessly unethical you are able to move on to other blogs you see as more ethical. On the other hand you are also welcome to stay and take issue in full with what I wrote. Up to you.

Science can be insular. Behavior analysts on average seem (to me) worse than some and better than others. However, because I disagree with this trend, I have selected to counter it, in part, by having a blog.

I both rely on and count on good criticism. I have written quite a bit on why good criticism is important especially when the issue at hand concerns what we personally believe to be true. And also on the effect on criticism on the ones being criticised.

I am also free with providing criticism. You can be very sure CS, that if I think you have made an error fact or of defintion, that I am going to call you on it.

And I expect nothing less from you. That is the service we provide each other, as autism bloggers and fellow members of the hub.

Thank you.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous CS said...

"The JRC also uses aversives with typically developing people who are engaging in extremely destructive self-destructive behaviors. "

I won't ask you for proof of this because I know you don't have it.

"In behavior analysis we would call the delivery of physical aversives positive punishment. By the behavior analytic meaning is once and again different from the non-behavior analytic once. "

You may call a pear a tomato but it doesn't change the fact that it's still a pear. It also won't change the fact that BF Skinner supported what Matthew Israel was doing that lead to the death of Vincent. Skinner may have been calling a pear (the torturous death of Vincent) a tomato (Positive punishment), but to all of us who live in the real world know that Vincent was probably freightened, strapped into a chair, mask and helmet placed on his head and asphyxiated to death. Behaviorists can call that positive punishment but I call it torture which happened to lead to a young man's death.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous CS said...

Interverbal:

Send me an email at christschool at mac dot com and I'll let you know who my source is on the connection between Skinner and Israel and what Israel was doing. I think you will be shocked.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Club 166 said...

OK, Interverbal, I'm not sure why the UN definition of torture should trump Merriam Webster, but would you concede that the Japanese Unit 731 medical experiments constituted cruel and inhumane treatment?

Joe

12:28 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Joe,

"OK, Interverbal, I'm not sure why the UN definition of torture should trump Merriam Webster"

Because it contains specific components, that are relevant.

MWs defintion part 1 ande 3 are not relevant in this context.

I would assert that part 2 is similar to the UN definition (although briefer). And I have already fielded the UN defintion.

"but would you concede that the Japanese Unit 731 medical experiments constituted cruel and inhumane treatment?"

No, because it is not a concession. I have already made it clear that I find such inhumane treatment to be "inexcusable". And this was my original position.

I hope that makes my position very clear. Please ask more questions if it does not.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Tara said...

I should say first that I am not native English speaker so I might be missing some finer points here, but...

Wouldn't this particular situation fit the "intimidating or coercing" section of UN torture definition?

3:05 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

"I won't ask you for proof of this because I know you don't have it."

Bad assumption. It was explicitly stated in a presentation by the JRC with Dr. Isreal in attendence, at an international conference. I was in the audience too.

"It also won't change the fact that BF Skinner supported what Matthew Israel was doing that lead to the death of Vincent."

And if Skinner did not support Israel, do you really think that would have stopped any of the aversive focused behavior analysts. Doesn't like like it to me. Skinner was a scientist and a theorist not a cult leader. People could go their own direction (and did so).

"Skinner may have been calling a pear (the torturous death of Vincent) a tomato (Positive punishment), but to all of us who live in the real world know that Vincent was probably freightened, strapped into a chair, mask and helmet placed on his head and asphyxiated to death. Behaviorists can call that positive punishment but I call it torture which happened to lead to a young man's death."

I always enjoy a chance to converse with someone who lives in the real world.

I don't agree with the use of physical aversives (except in the rarest of cases). I don't agree with what happened to Vincent (even if another aversive had been used and he was still with us today).

However, the definition of torture, via the UN is specific. I have already showed why the use of physical aversives does not constitute torture.

Remember, I am not arguing in favor of physical aversives, I am arguing in favor of correct terminology.

Nor does the behavior analytic definition of punishment equal the general publics definition of punishment. To argue that they are the same is pure sophistry, specifically the fallacy of equivocation.

Thank you CS.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Tara,

"Wouldn't this particular situation fit the "intimidating or coercing" section of UN torture definition?"

No, the principle under which the aversives were given, operate under neither intimidation or coercion. A seperate principle is at work.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Club 166 said...

Hi, Interverbal,

I'm trying to wrap my head around how you actually feel about certain things. Because you wish to use the UN definition of torture, you don't classify what happens at the JRC as torture. And I think that because many outside of the UN have a broader definition in mind when they think of torture that that may be part of the problem here.

But I still don't understand how you feel about the death of Vincent, other than that it was "ethically incorrect".

If a patient goes into a dentist's office for one tooth extraction, but the dentist extracts a second (also bad) tooth without getting explicit permission, that is ethically incorrect. Are you saying that the death of Vincent is on a par with this?

If not torture, would you agree that Vincent's death constituted abuse, or cruel and unusual treatment?

Joe

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Tara said...

OK, please bear with me because I really don't see how the separate principle is at work here, other than having different motivation...

If I understand correctly, in behavior analysis you would use aversives as immediate reaction to a behaviour you want to surpress and you would hope to see the decrease in that behaviour over time. Main reason for stopping the behaviour will presumably be trying to avoid the aversive, which sounds pretty damn close to intimidation to me...

4:06 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

"Bad assumption. It was explicitly stated in a presentation by the JRC with Dr. Isreal in attendence, at an international conference. I was in the audience too. "

Was it presented by one of their "faux" psychologists? You know the ones that lied and perjured themselves in Mass. State courts and recently received fines from the state licensing boards? Must have been because all of the clinicians on staff were fined. Or did these presenters creatively describe behavior (you stink, your fat) as violent in order to fit into the court's prescribed rules for GED engagement? If you need the link for that video I can provide it. JRC shocks and has used extreme aversives for behavior that children in mainstream classes simply don't get into much trouble for. Perhaps a note home to mom and dad or after school suspension.

Do you believe what the JRC presents to the public?

Don't buy what JRC is selling. Why is Israel and JRC at any convention you attend anyway? Why are behaviorists not barring these people from their conferences? By allowing the JRC to attend and even give presentations gives them legitimacy.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Joe,

"And I think that because many outside of the UN have a broader definition in mind when they think of torture that that may be part of the problem here."

That may be the case.

"But I still don't understand how you feel about the death of Vincent, other than that it was "ethically incorrect"."

I believe it was a horrific event. An unecessary death that could have been avoided if alternatives besides aversives had been used.

"If a patient goes into a dentist's office for one tooth extraction, but the dentist extracts a second (also bad) tooth without getting explicit permission, that is ethically incorrect. Are you saying that the death of Vincent is on a par with this?"

No, these actions are both unethical, but death is a far greater evil, than extracting a bad tooth (without permission).

"If not torture, would you agree that Vincent's death constituted abuse, or cruel and unusual treatment?"

Vincent's death occured in my opinion due to negligence. The choice of inhalents like ammonia, is a very poor one.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Tara,

"Main reason for stopping the behaviour will presumably be trying to avoid the aversive, which sounds pretty damn close to intimidation to me..."

Now we are getting into a different operants.

Positive punishment does not work off of avoidance. It can stand alone.

But avoidance based operants do exist as well. They are a form of negative reinforcement. Here is the trick though, there needs to be a "warning stimulus" that signals a given contingency is in effect.

Examples:

Mother: Go sit down.
3 year old: (ignores)
Mother: I am counting to five..1..2
3 year old: (sits down)

Uni Student: Wow! Cooking is fun.
Smoke alarm: (Beep)(Beep)(Beep)
Uni Student: Uh oh! Better get the food out.

etc...

5:35 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

"Was it presented by one of their "faux" psychologists?"

I have no doubt.

"Or did these presenters creatively describe behavior (you stink, your fat) as violent in order to fit into the court's prescribed rules for GED engagement?"

No.

"JRC shocks and has used extreme aversives for behavior that children in mainstream classes simply don't get into much trouble for. Perhaps a note home to mom and dad or after school suspension."

Agreed, and I don't agree with their use of it. Although of course if we are going for accuracy we should probably note that more than 1 US, State still allows corporal punishment at school. It happens even here and now.

Even in my current State of residence the only thing standing between a student and a spanking at school is that all the State school districts forbid it via their district policies. But strictly speaking, it is still legal.

"Do you believe what the JRC presents to the public?"

I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, unless I think there is a good reason to doubt it.


"Don't buy what JRC is selling."

I have already stated my stance agaisnt aversives. In terms of anything else, I select the option that has the best ethics and/or science. I choose very carefully, what I buy and why.

"Why is Israel and JRC at any convention you attend anyway?"

Because even if we strongly disagree with them, we are willing to hear what they have to say.

"Why are behaviorists not barring these people from their conferences?"

Refer to the above.

"By allowing the JRC to attend and even give presentations gives them legitimacy."

Yes, it does, but it also allows those who are the fence sitters, to hear the information from the horses mouth and make up their own minds.

If I were the conference organizer, I would happily make that trade-off.

6:02 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

"Yes, it does, but it also allows those who are the fence sitters, to hear the information from the horses mouth and make up their own minds."

Are there many "fence sitters" at these conferences?

"Or did these presenters creatively describe behavior (you stink, your fat) as violent in order to fit into the court's prescribed rules for GED engagement?"

No."

How were you able to determine they didn't make up the data/cases? Its now proven that these clinicians are willing to lie about their qualifications in a court of law, what would prevent them from doing the same at a conference where being untruthful has no consequences?

The films on the JRC site used to demonstrate typical cases for GED are filmed in 8mm, a format that has been out of use for more than 2 decades. The center's website is a cornucopia of misrepresentation, too numerous to cite. I'm unclear why they are at these conferences. Someone must be interested in their techniques. Are you aware of anywhere else that uses Israel's methods? If these methods have been rejected by much of the "behaviorist community" I assume it is because it isn't scientific correct? If you agree with this, which I think was your original argument (rejected by the community), then I still do not understand why year after year JRC is allowed to attend these conferences. Someone must want to listen/learn otherwise its entertainment, and that entertainment is at the expense of human lives, often times children's lives.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Club 166 said...

Well, I'm glad that you are willing to characterize Vincent's death as "horrific", but troubled by the fact that you then say it was caused by "negligence".

Negligence is when a door is left unlocked and someone wanders away. Not when a system is actively designed wrongly, and as a result of that design a person dies a horrific death.

Am I right in assuming that you shy away from such terms as abuse and cruel because you consider what happens at the JRC as medical procedures?

Joe

9:25 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

"Are there many "fence sitters" at these conferences?"

There at least some.

"How were you able to determine they didn't make up the data/cases?"

I was not able to determine that. However, I will not operate from that frame of reference. I am a skeptic, not a cynic.

"Are you aware of anywhere else that uses Israel's methods?"

Well, there is a history of punishment based research in behavior analysis. These techniques were not original per se. Although, I know of no one else who uses the JRC techniqes exactly like they do.

"If these methods have been rejected by much of the "behaviorist community" I assume it is because it isn't scientific correct?"

No, the research is clear that punishment can work. The dissent is on ethical grounds.

"If you agree with this, which I think was your original argument (rejected by the community"

No, you are still misunderstanding this. It was Skinner's claim that punishment does NOT work, that was rejected by the behavior analytic community.

Although, it is true that as we entered the 90s, the use and research of punishment began to fade out in behavior analysis. It is still not gone.

I don't expect to see it go entirely, until all the old guard behavior analysts are retired. This is very much a Kuhnian shift.

"Someone must want to listen/learn otherwise its entertainment, and that entertainment is at the expense of human lives, often times children's lives."

I think the conference organizers want to give thjem a chance to argue their point. So, do I for that matter. I don't belive in a dogmatic approach to science or ethics.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Joe,

"Well, I'm glad that you are willing to characterize Vincent's death as "horrific", but troubled by the fact that you then say it was caused by "negligence"."

I stand by these statements Joe.

"Negligence is when a door is left unlocked and someone wanders away. Not when a system is actively designed wrongly, and as a result of that design a person dies a horrific death."

And here we disagree again.

"Am I right in assuming that you shy away from such terms as abuse and cruel because you consider what happens at the JRC as medical procedures?"

No, psychology isn't medicine. Also, psychology certainly can involve abuse and cruelty.

But do you want to know what I really want Joe? I want criticisms of aversives that are precise and correct. I want real criticisms, not emotive laden terminology, that a fair number of academics are going to reject or see as a fallacy.

This is very similar to the whole "ABA turns kids into robots". It is an absurd comment that is instantly recognizable as untrue to anyone who has even a basic knowledge of ABA.

You can't fight an ethical absurdity, with an absurd argument. That's absurd (My apologies to Penn & Teller).

10:59 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Just a quick jump back to the UN definition of torture.
I suppose for behaviorists who create euphemisms like "positive punishment" (an oxymoron to my mind), like to imagine aversives are good for "these cases" (would you refer to them as people, or is that too emotional, and not scientific enough?)
so that gets them off the hook... It's not torture. We do it to help them.
Who gets to decide how harsh to be to whom?
That sounds like "punishing him for an act... based on discrimination".
Perhaps you say there's no discrimination involved, if it is true JRC shocks typically developing people. I still call it discrimination if one human decides another is acting in a way they don't approve of and that gives them the right to inflict pain.
I'm sure my argument is not up to your standards, but i want to post it anyway, because I am angry that anyone could support such cruelty.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Alyric said...

Hi Jonathon - so nice to see you blogging again and on such a great topic too:)

I haven't read the comments yet. Just wanted to say that in some stuff I've been reading lately, I've come across several euphemisms for punishment in the behaviorist literature, so it seems that the concept is thriving. What exactly is "stimulus avoidance assessment" and how do you do it?

An awful lot of this stuff turns up in the intervention literature on self-injury, which is a very big ethical problem for me for the following reasons:

a) Still reading, but so far (mainly reading Iwata's stuff)behaviorists have been unusually optimistic about the results of their interventions for self-injury, which leads to a fairly hefty reliance on:

b)punishment - came across the term "decelerative" in relation to this as well as stimulus avoidance assessment. Looks like garden variety punishment to me. Help me out here:). Also they lean heavily on "automatic reinforcement" for maintenance of this, which tends to suggest that:

c) They haven't a clue what causes it and since it's never the therapy that's at fault we'll just have to give punishment a go. Ans that's a problem because:

d) The laundry list (very short list) of reasons for behaviour does not include internal states and does include 'attention', which is so often given as the 'reason' and is enormously problematic as a reason for autistic folk to do anything - I think:). To me, it's a very socially wired kind of reason. So you can see that:

e) If the therapy doesn't want to look at, account for or acknowledge that the real reasons for self-injury are unknowable from a behaviorist perspective, thereby drastically lowering the prospects of success, therefore having to drag in punishment because the therapy is not working, then we gotta say_ "Houston, we have a problem". Wouldn't you think?


Also, having gotten somewhat hooked on the history of this stuff, didn't Jack Michael invent establishing operations, to try to account for motivations because of the problems involved in treating self-injury? I may have that bit not quite right, but I think it's in the ball park.

Nice to see you back.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Club 166 said...

Well, Suzanne beat me to the punch on talking about euphemisms. Suffice it to say that the Nazi's used a lot of euphemisms, too.

If you want a "precise and correct" criticism, how about this:

Show me where there is a proper consent process.

Although you say psychology isn't medicine, you used medical examples (people having pain after surgery, etc.) to show that administering electric shocks isn't torture.

But the big difference between someone going for surgery and someone undergoing repeated electric shocks, day after day (apart from the demonstrated lack of long term efficacy, which I'm sure you'll dispute) is that people going for surgery undergo an informed consent process and give their own consent.

Even in pediatric patients (where their parents consent is obtained), there is an ethical requirement to also gain the consent of the child. The proposed procedure is described to them in terms they can understand, and consent is obtained from them, in addition to their parents. No such consent is obtained from those being "treated" at the JRC.

Finally, a question. Society generally accepts that occasional spanking (defined as one or two open hand slaps to the rear end) is acceptable and not abusive. Society also generally feels that when someone subjects another person to multiple spankings throughout the day that they are being abusive (as evidenced by investigations from CPS and prosecutions for child abuse).

Do you agree that multiple spankings throughout the day constitute abuse, or would you assign some euphemism to the situation?

Joe

10:10 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Suzanne,

"I suppose for behaviorists who create euphemisms like "positive punishment" (an oxymoron to my mind)"

The "positive" in positive punishment, simply means that a stimulus has been added. It is not indicative of anything good or bad. This term also predates the JRC.

"like to imagine aversives are good for "these cases" (would you refer to them as people, or is that too emotional, and not scientific enough?)"

I don't believe that referring to people as people is a problem. However, if I choose to use the ter, "case" or its plural, I do not take away the humanity of a person. Instead, I refer to only the specific facts as they pertain to a given context.

I have a simpler reason too. I see no need to remind myself that people who are different from me are still people. I see no need to remind CS or Joe, or lately Alyric or yourself of this either.

"so that gets them off the hook... It's not torture. We do it to help them."

I wouldn't say so. I imagine that the Inquisitors of days gone by, told others just the same. However, that wasn't my argument.

"Who gets to decide how harsh to
be to whom?"

Ultimately, the one delivering the presuemd aversive. However, the JRC must have court approval, the school systems must have a ethics board to approve minor aversives, andf in research there are the IRB boards.

"That sounds like "punishing him for an act... based on discrimination".
Perhaps you say there's no discrimination involved, if it is true JRC shocks typically developing people."
That would be my argument.
"I still call it discrimination if one human decides another is acting in a way they don't approve of and that gives them the right to inflict pain."

Whereas I would say that this definition is so broad, it lacks any real utility.

"I'm sure my argument is not up to your standards, but i want to post it anyway, because I am angry that anyone could support such cruelty."

You are welcome to make an argument here. You are even welcome to be angry here. So ultimately, it is not my standards that matter, but only your own. But... this is an autism science blog. If I or others disagree, we are going to let you know. If you find this troubling, then I would suggest another more supportive blog.

And with that said.... I you think that because I cited CS for errors of fact or because I disagree over the defintion of torture that I support physical aversives or even minor aversives like time-out, then you have failed to read the original article, the current article, or the comments here, with accuracy.

Thank you.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Alyric,

Long time no see :)

"I haven't read the comments yet. Just wanted to say that in some stuff I've been reading lately, I've come across several euphemisms for punishment in the behaviorist literature, so it seems that the concept is thriving."

It seems to be fading, but it ain't dead yet. A really interesting meta-study however, would be to go back through JABA and record a yearly incidence for the presence of procedures that actually used some form of aversive based control.
Also, there was a really interesting observation by a fellow behavior analyst on this blog a while back (can't remember where or who). He stated that many of the behavior analysts of today, came from an earlier generation. They were physically punished at school and at home. Perhaps, the models set the precedent, as suggested by the research of Bandura and Lovaas. If this is accurate and not merely a psychogenic fallacy, then perhaps it will take the up and coming behavior analysts who grew up in the absence of such to effect the change. However, since the incubation period for academics in quite long (I am entering year number 9 of higher education next year), I doubt this will be a rapid change.
"What exactly is "stimulus avoidance assessment" and how do you do it?"

I am sorry, I am not terribly familar with this concept. From memory, I have only seen it once before. It is the opposite of a stimulus preference assesment assesment which I am familar and which is part of my own research. The idea is, when presented with an array or options of stimulus or conditions, which does the student avoid and to what degree.

"Also they lean heavily on "automatic reinforcement" for maintenance of this"

I will go ahead and disagree on this one. Not all reinforcement has to be delivered by another person, nor all punishment either for that matter. Running, jumping, swinging, tapping your foot, these are enjoyable in and of themselves. They are still reinforcement though.

"The laundry list (very short list) of reasons for behaviour does not include internal states"

Why is Bobby hitting his head...... because he is frustrated..... and how do we know he is frustratred..... because he is hitting his head..... and why is he hitting his head.......

"and does include 'attention', which is so often given as the 'reason' and is enormously problematic as a reason for autistic folk to do anything - I think:)"

Well now we are into functional analysis, where I do have some knowledge. Via Iwata's research the biggest cause of self-injury is escape. Attention, does seem to be a factor for some students with autism. Where I tend to see it in older Elementary aged chidlren, who came from structured programs that were not behavior analytic, but where the teachers were very caring. The student engages in self-injury, is immediately comforted and ceases the self-injury. Then is back at it again a minute or two after that.

"If the therapy doesn't want to look at, account for or acknowledge that the real reasons for self-injury are unknowable from a behaviorist perspective, thereby drastically lowering the prospects of success, therefore having to drag in punishment because the therapy is not working, then we gotta say_ "Houston, we have a problem". Wouldn't you think?"

If that is actually the problem, then yes. I also don't think behavior analysst will be the ones to get to the bottom of it, if that is the case.... not cognitive psychologists either for that matter. Sounds like a job for neuroscience to me. While I think this is possible, I don't think it is supported by the current science.

"Also, having gotten somewhat hooked on the history of this stuff, didn't Jack Michael invent establishing operations, to try to account for motivations because of the problems involved in treating self-injury?"

No, it was a broader problem set than that. Although, for a little bit of trivium, Dr. Michael is somewhat responcible for this blog title. I received a lecture from him a few years back concerning my imprecise pronunciation of inTER-verbal vs. inTRA-verbal, in a short presentation I gave to fellow undergrads. When I was searching for a blog name a few years back, I this episode popped into mind.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Joe,

"Well, Suzanne beat me to the punch on talking about euphemisms. Suffice it to say that the Nazi's used a lot of euphemisms, too."

I call Godwin on this one.

"Show me where there is a proper consent process."

Legally, then consent by proxy. In a Deontological view? It isn't there....

"Although you say psychology isn't medicine, you used medical examples (people having pain after surgery, etc.) to show that administering electric shocks isn't torture."

No, I used it show the defintion in question doesn't work.

"But the big difference between someone going for surgery and someone undergoing repeated electric shocks, day after day (apart from the demonstrated lack of long term efficacy, which I'm sure you'll dispute) is that people going for surgery undergo an informed consent process and give their own consent."

You are right, I will dispute the long term effect bit, which actually shows mixed results.

But I am more concerned with the consent portion of your last comment. In the case of a minor consent is MUST be given by proxy. But even if it is not given by the child, if consent is given by proxy it can still happen. Dentists trips with kids with autism anyone?

However, in life and death cases, the doctors can appeal to the courst to overide even the failure proxies to give informed consent.

This has happened in the cases of Jehova's witnesses refusing a needed blood transfusion for their child and in cases of parents of a cancer patient who reject scientific treatment in favor of some quackery de jour.

"Even in pediatric patients (where their parents consent is obtained), there is an ethical requirement to also gain the consent of the child."

No, it is encouraged it is not legally required. Nor is this foolproof. Rekers was a Lovaas collaborator who worked with effeminate boys in an attempt to prevent them from becoming gay. He was another one who used spanking.

He wrote a very interesting article in the late 70s that should be required reading for anyone who thinks that direct consent of a minor trumps proxy consent about how to work with these children to win their trust and obtain their consent.

Re: spanking. The criteria of societal acceptibility you set was met by Lovaas (1987) in his autism research. Is his research then ethical is my question?

"Do you agree that multiple spankings throughout the day constitute abuse, or would you assign some euphemism to the situation?"

I agree to answer your question, but before I do, I would ask that you to tell me the definition of the the fallacy of "Begging the question".

Thank you.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

Jonathan,

Matthew Israel would be proud of your defense of his techniques but I haven't seen any evidence you have supplied other than posturing. What is the evidence that long term use of aversives is effective? The fact is, there is very little evidence that behaviorism works at all in the long term on neurological disorders because its not really a science, it cannot change someone's brain structure. Sure, you can show short term changes in behavior but that is all an act for the clinician (a survival instinct), and perhaps you can show long term using instruments that have no proper controls. Its like political science, its really just educated opinion.

However, putting ethics and morality aside from what you advocate, I'm willing to learn.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Club 166 said...

...I agree to answer your question, but before I do, I would ask that you to tell me the definition of the the fallacy of "Begging the question".

Sure.

This Wikipedia definition should do, which basically defines the "Begging the Question" fallacy as an argument where you are assuming the truth of premises you are using to prove a conclusion, and the premises aren't necessarily true.

In terms of spanking, I am still trying to understand exactly what your position is on a variety of things. In order to further my understanding, I asked about spanking. I am not assuming the truth one way or another whether spanking is abusive or not. What I want to understand is whether you think spanking someone over a certain amount a day constitutes abuse.

What I put out there was that society generally accepts that a single spanking by a parent is not abusive (I should have specified U.S. society, as there is at least one country that prohibits spanking altogether). I don't think (from looking at legal codes and written ethical opinions) that this would be in question.

I next said that at some point, multiple spankings in the same day are held to be abusive by society (as evidenced by investigations by CPS authorities and prosecutions of parents).

As you seem to shy away from labeling any stimulus as abusive, I was wondering where you stood on this issue.

Is there any punishment that by its nature constitutes abuse? Or are people simply "negligent" in that they picked the wrong stimulus?

In terms of consent, I am well familiar with obtaining the consent of proxies in life threatening cases. And I said that there was an ethical requirement to obtain consent from a minor, not a legal one. I realize that this requirement is not legally required, but from an ethical standpoint, the greater chance of significant pain occurring, as well as the greater uncertainty of benefit accruing to the minor, then the greater requirement that the minor actually also give consent.

As "positive punishment" has very sketchy long term outcomes, and can be very painful, then I feel that there is a very strong ethical requirement to obtain consent from the person that will be affected before proceeding. And like all consents, it has to be able to be withdrawn at any time. Just because some judge signs off on something, doesn't make it ethical.

Joe

4:21 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

"Matthew Israel would be proud of your defense of his techniques"

Would he? My argument is about precision and accuracy, not about defending Israel or the JRC. However, if Dr. Israel approves that is fine by me. If he doesn't that is fine too.

"but I haven't seen any evidence you have supplied other than posturing"

My core argument, on the the broader topic of aversives in my original article. Anyone can view it and make up their own mind as to how well cited it is. http://interverbal.blogspot.com /2006/02/less-punishing-world-contradictions-in.html
"What is the evidence that long term use of aversives is effective?"

Fair question, lets start here:
and perhaps you can show long term using instruments that have no proper controls.


"The fact is, there is very little evidence that behaviorism works at all in the long term on neurological disorders because its not really a science"

Hermetic Fallacy: To claim that because something originated in an opposing paradigm, that it is inherently wrong or unscientific.

"Sure, you can show short term changes in behavior but that is all an act for the clinician"

You are welcome to produce evidence to show this.

"and perhaps you can show long term using instruments that have no proper controls."

See the above cited article.

"Its like political science, its really just educated opinion."

And you are welcome to show what processes real science uses and how behavior analysis fails to use these processes.

Also, I have relative who is a rather well known political science researcher. I think she would be fascinated to know her work was opinion.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Joe,

Since you now have a definition of the fallacy. I suspect you should be able to determien why this is a fallacy:

"Do you agree that multiple spankings throughout the day constitute abuse, or would you assign some euphemism to the situation?"

Not only are you begging the question you are emplying an enthymeme by implying that I used euphemisms in the past. The previous argument was very weak.

"What I want to understand is whether you think spanking someone over a certain amount a day constitutes abuse."

I think if physical punishment leaves marks or bruises, no matter how many spankings were given, it is abusive. But even if only a single swat was given that left no marks, I would still think it is unethical.

"As you seem to shy away from labeling any stimulus as abusive, I was wondering where you stood on this issue."

You may refer to my above statement.

"Is there any punishment that by its nature constitutes abuse?"

Dozens and dozens. Lets start with hitting with an object. Most physical punishments delivered for the sake of justice or retribution."

"Or are people simply "negligent" in that they picked the wrong stimulus?"

If a professional was attempting to treat someone and picked a stimulus that led to injury or death. that would be negligence.

"And I said that there was an ethical requirement to obtain consent from a minor, not a legal one."

And I understand the difference. But no ethics board is going to enforce that.

"the greater chance of significant pain occurring, as well as the greater uncertainty of benefit accruing to the minor, then the greater requirement that the minor actually also give consent."

I agree that informed consent should be attained if possible for a minor. I agree that in risky or painful situations the need here is greater. Where I don't agree is on the requirement issue.

"As "positive punishment" has very sketchy long term outcomes, and can be very painful, then I feel that there is a very strong ethical requirement to obtain consent from the person that will be affected before proceeding."

I understand your argument.

"Just because some judge signs off on something, doesn't make it ethical."

Here we agree.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Club 166 said...

Hi Interverbal,

...I think if physical punishment leaves marks or bruises, no matter how many spankings were given, it is abusive. ...

Ah, something we agree on. And thank you for giving me some idea where you're coming from.


...But even if only a single swat was given that left no marks, I would still think it is unethical. ...

So if you feel that a parent administering a single swat for behavioral management is unethical, do you also feel that a professional administering a single shock at the JRC is also unethical?
(n.b. this a question, not an argument. :) )

...If a professional was attempting to treat someone and picked a stimulus that led to injury or death. that would be negligence. ...

You may feel that professionals causing death are guilty of negligence and not abuse, but society and authorities may not necessarily agree wtih you. Doctor's who conducted unethical and abusive research in WW2 against prisoners were charged with war crimes.

More recently, there has been a trend towards holding doctors responsible in a criminal fashion. Whether you think that is right or wrong, it's a fact.

One last question.

Do you feel that leaving psychological scars is as serious as leaving physical ones?

Joe

7:09 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

In what sense are positive punishments not coercive? In my understanding, applying an aversive stimulus in order to influence future behaviour is the very essence of coercion, which is in turn the fundamental aspect of torture. The word is even right there in the middle of the UN Convention-- something you have failed to address both times it has been quoted.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Joe,

"Ah, something we agree on. And thank you for giving me some idea where you're coming from."

Correct, the disagreement here is not whether physical aversives are ethical (they are not), but over terminology. Devil is in the details though....

"So if you feel that a parent administering a single swat for behavioral management is unethical, do you also feel that a professional administering a single shock at the JRC is also unethical?"

Exactly correct. I have been arguing that the use of physical aversives is unethical since my first article on this issue.

But I don't think that a single swat from a parent is on par with the systematic use of an aversive in a treatment center. The systematic use of an aversive is vastly more ethically questionable, than an angry parent giving a swat.

"You may feel that professionals causing death are guilty of negligence and not abuse, but society and authorities may not necessarily agree wtih you."

I don't feel it, I think it. A medical or psychological professional causing death by accident is negligence. And I rather suspect (I can't prove it though), most authorities would agree.

"Doctor's who conducted unethical and abusive research in WW2 against prisoners were charged with war crimes."

Yes, and some of were hanged for it. But they were trying to cause injury and/or death, in the first place.

I think you will find that I know this. I think you will find if you search this blog carefully that there is a fair bit of writing by myself concerning ethics. Here are two examples:

http://interverbal.blogspot.com/2007/03/best-of-intentions.html

http://interverbal.blogspot.com/2006/12/review-of-informed-consent-1.html

"More recently, there has been a trend towards holding doctors responsible in a criminal fashion."

From that article:

"Medical and legal experts are quick to point out that the number of physicians who have been charged with crimes is relatively small, and the chances of an overzealous prosecutor pressing charges remain remote. [...]"

"Do you feel that leaving psychological scars is as serious as leaving physical ones?"

It can be.

8:17 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Adrian,

"In what sense are positive punishments not coercive? "

Positive punishemnents may not coercive as they may not even be inflected by another person. But if you mean a physical aversive given by another person, that is a fair question.

"In my understanding, applying an aversive stimulus in order to influence future behaviour is the very essence of coercion, which is in turn the fundamental aspect of torture"

My problem with this sort of definition is that it is too broad. Making a gym student run a lap for talking, is torture via this definition. That doesn't work. I don't want a 13 year having to huff it around the gym one time equivocated with water boarding. That would be absurd.

"The word is even right there in the middle of the UN Convention-- something you have failed to address both times it has been quoted."

Well.... let's have a look at what happened:

Tara: Wouldn't this particular situation fit the "intimidating or coercing" section of UN torture definition?

Interverbal: No, the principle under which the aversives were given, operate under neither intimidation or coercion. A seperate principle is at work.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

I agree, comparing gym class with waterboarding would be absurd. To narrow down my definition a bit, the sort of things I had in mind were sensory deprivation and ammonia spraying. Both are illegal and constitute torture in the context of interrogation (inside the UK at least), and both were done to the young man who subsequently died at the JRC in 1985. To my mind, there are such similarities between the two scenarios that I'm struggling to find any reason why one should be defined as torture and the other as neglect.

The headphones and ammonia were applied intentionally, are illegal in almost every other situation, and resulted in death for good measure. This presumably satisfies the first two parts of the UN Convention concerning severity and intentionality, which you claim to subscribe to above. All that remains for an act to be considered torture is to fulfil any one of the remaining criteria. In my opinion, these specific physical aversive stimuli presented to Mr Milletich in the hope of altering future behaviour were coercive by design and application, and therefore qualify as torture.

As for the point concerning the motivations of the person administering the aversives, again I fail to see why this can or should be distinguishable from other instances of torture. The immediate purpose of whoever sprayed ammonia down Vincent's throat was to cause extreme discomfort. The potential to save lives is not accepted as validation of waterboarding under international law, and I don't understand why institutions such as the JRC should be exempt from the same standards.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

"Behavior analysts no longer use aversive techniques for autistic children."

This was from your Feb. 2006 blog post you referenced me to. We know this isn't accurate, you might want to rephrase it. Not only is it inaccurate, but we know that behaviorists routinely invite dungeon masters like Israel to their conferences every year so "fence sitters" can make up their own minds, presumably in case they wish to apply his techniques.

However, I haven't found anything that supports the long term use of aversives.

3:44 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Adrian,

"and ammonia spraying. Both are illegal and constitute torture in the context of interrogation"

No interrogation in this case though. That is one difference.

"The headphones and ammonia were applied intentionally, are illegal in almost every other situation, and resulted in death for good measure. This presumably satisfies the first two parts of the UN Convention concerning severity and intentionality,"

How so?

"which you claim to subscribe to above."

I do, and I rather hope you do as well.

"As for the point concerning the motivations of the person administering the aversives, again I fail to see why this can or should be distinguishable from other instances of torture."

Surgery, even with modern medicine may result in significant pain. Surgery is not torture. Intent, is not the only factor, but it is a significant factor.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

"We know this isn't accurate, you might want to rephrase it."

No, it is accurate. The existance of one center that still uses such techniques, does not indicate the activities of the rest of the field. If I were to say that, "We no longer hit kids at school, that is an accurate statement, but it wouldnot be true for a handful of States in the US."


I offered a precise and accurate statement, it will remain just the same.

"Not only is it inaccurate, but we know that behaviorists routinely invite dungeon masters like Israel to their conferences every year"

Do they? I rather has the impression that they allowed the JRC a forum to speak, as opposed to inviting them.

"so "fence sitters" can make up their own minds, presumably in case they wish to apply his techniques."

Don't presume.... More likely the fence sitters, are not looking to utilize aversives, but to see if the JRC can ethically defende their techniques.

"However, I haven't found anything that supports the long term use of aversives."

I issued a statement on this issue. It did not copy to this blog for soem reason.

The omitted citation is:

McEachin, J. J., Smith, T., & Lovaas, O. I. (1993). American Journal on Mental Retardation,
97 (4), 359-372.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

McEachin, J. J., Smith, T., & Lovaas, O. I. (1993). American Journal on Mental Retardation,
97 (4), 359-372

No, this is not a study showing the long term success of aversives as the original subjects were never randomized. In addition, the studies that have replicated Lovaas have all been by "researchers" with very large conflicts of interests in that they sell ABA services.

"We know this isn't accurate, you might want to rephrase it."

"No, it is accurate. The existance of one center that still uses such techniques, does not indicate the activities of the rest of the field. " Nor was this what I implied when I said it needed to be rephrased. It would have been more accurate to say "Most", or "Nearly All" don't use physical aversives. But, the very nature of ABA is aversive and the field hasn't done any studies that I know of that look at PTSD in those that went through ABA. I know of at least 2 people in my small circle that went through ABA as children and suffer nightmares from it today.

You didn't write some or most behaviorists, you wrote behaviorists, implying all behaviorists as I read it. And no, the dozen behaviorists at JRC are not the only ones as I have found others, but I'll save that for a follow up on my blog.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

HI CS,

"No, this is not a study showing the long term success of aversives as the original subjects were never randomized."

It is called quasi-experimental design. It is on a lower peg, than true experimental design.

What can we can concldue from this follow up, is that children who were exposed to Lovaas' program which incldued aversives, did not lose the skills they gained. In fact they would have had to continue to gain skills at a high rate.

What we can not say is that they gained those skills due to ABA with the same certainty we would use if the design had been truly experimental.

"In addition, the studies that have replicated Lovaas have all been by "researchers" with very large conflicts of interests in that they sell ABA services."

Argumentum ad hominem. I don't let the vaccine = autism theorists get away with this one either.

"It would have been more accurate to say "Most", or "Nearly All" don't use physical aversives."

I accept your criticism. The change will be made immediately.

"But, the very nature of ABA is aversive'

Any structured education can be aversive. But is there something that makes behavior analysis inherently more aversive than say... an ecletic special education program? No, this is a mythology a complete fiction.

"and the field hasn't done any studies that I know of that look at PTSD in those that went through ABA.'

Nor should they. There is no real suggestion of an ABA-PTSD connection. The suggestion that there could be, was made and continues to be echoed mostly by those in the psychodynamic paradigm.

There are lots of genuinely good criticisms of behavior analysis and ABA in autism specifically. A possible PTSD connection isn't one of them. This is the type of comment that behavior analysts laugh off and correctly so.

"I know of at least 2 people in my small circle that went through ABA as children and suffer nightmares from it today."

I know a fair number of people who went through ABA. Some liked there time in it and some didn't. I don't know anyone who has nightmares about it. That said, there has been ABA that has been delivered in a poor and/or harsh manner.

I don't agree with such a presentation. However, this is not a good representation of ABA nor do I feel accountable to answer for it any more than I agree with bad ecletic special education, or feel accountable for it.

I look forward top your follow up. In the meantime I hope you correct your title to reflect what Skinner actually said.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

In the meantime I hope you correct your title to reflect what Skinner actually said.

Jon, I've changed the title. Let me know if this does not accurately reflect your views. I'll need to add some of your comments from here to the post though. If you don't believe this accurately reflects your views about torture and what happened to Vincent, then you will need to clarify further.

"Interverbal defends Matthew Israel, says not torture in referring to behavorist methods that killed Vincent Milletich."

______________________________

"In addition, the studies that have replicated Lovaas have all been by "researchers" with very large conflicts of interests in that they sell ABA services."

Argumentum ad hominem. I don't let the vaccine = autism theorists get away with this one either.

Just because someone else in any point in time makes a similar argument doesn't mean that the current argument isn't valid. That's not logical. Fact is, my argument is true and those people that published that study have a lot of capital and personal reputations tied up in perpetuating the 47% myth. I assume you have worked as a researcher before, like I have (economics). Lots of ego and reputation is at stake and many times bad researchers aren't interested in inquiry, but they are interested in reputation, grants and accolades. This is true of all research and the fact the 1987 study has never been replicated by independent non stakeholders is an important point and shouldn't be dismissed.

_____________________________________

"But, the very nature of ABA is aversive'

Any structured education can be aversive. But is there something that makes behavior analysis inherently more aversive than say... an ecletic special education program? No, this is a mythology a complete fiction.

Please provide proof that this is fiction. A point of inquiry for you could be to actually talk/communicate with autistic adults who have been through both. I have.

________________________________________

"and the field hasn't done any studies that I know of that look at PTSD in those that went through ABA.'

"Nor should they. There is no real suggestion of an ABA-PTSD connection. The suggestion that there could be, was made and continues to be echoed mostly by those in the psychodynamic paradigm."

Oh really? Where is your proof? This sounds more like an emotional argument which you were chastising others for. I know of 2 adult autistics who suffer from PTSD as a result of being slapped when they gave the wrong response or no response. One of them ended up self medicating themselves for 20 years along with another 10 years of therapy as a result of being in an ABA program as a child. Are you saying that they are just making it up? If your not even willing to explore this area, then what can I assume about the thoroughness of your opinions?

_______________________________________

"I don't agree with such a presentation. However, this is not a good representation of ABA nor do I feel accountable to answer for it any more than I agree with bad ecletic special education, or feel accountable for it."

I don't have an opinion on the above because these are your feelings which you are entitled to.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

Corrected headline:

"Interverbal defends Matthew Israel, says Israel's action was NOT torture in referring to the behaviorist's methods that killed Vincent Milletich."

6:18 PM  
Blogger jypsy said...

"Interverbal defends Matthew Israel, says Israel's action was NOT torture in referring to the behaviorist's methods that killed Vincent Milletich."

Why is it in quotation marks (as a title on your blog post)?

6:39 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

"Interverbal defends Matthew Israel, says Israel's action was NOT torture in referring to the behaviorist's methods that killed Vincent Milletich."

Why is it in quotation marks (as a title on your blog post)?

Because I was quoting my own blog post. Is this incorrect usage?

6:55 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

Jypsy, I took the quotation marks out. I reread what you asked and realized that I left the quotation marks in from the previous title.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

HI CS,

"Interverbal defends Matthew Israel, says not torture in referring to behavorist methods that killed Vincent Milletich."

No, because I have no interest in defending Isreal or the JRC. I just don't want the wrong terms used.

"Just because someone else in any point in time makes a similar argument doesn't mean that the current argument isn't valid. That's not logical. Fact is, my argument is true and those people that published that study have a lot of capital and personal reputations tied up in perpetuating the 47% myth."

I don't point out that the vaccine = autism folks make the same error, to suggest you are wrong. I do so, to suggest that I am consistant with my criticism in this regard. However, to suggest that a rsearch record is wrong, because of who did it, IS an ad hominem and IS a fallacy. I don't accept this type of logic.

"Please provide proof that this is fiction."

No, burden of proof falls on you here. Not on me.

"A point of inquiry for you could be to actually talk/communicate with autistic adults who have been through both. I have."

It would be a..... very poor assumption to assume that I have not spoken to a fair amount of adults who went through ABA as kids or adults.

"Oh really? Where is your proof? This sounds more like an emotional argument which you were chastising others for."

Again, burden of proof. And I assure you CS, that I am calm, cool, and serious about my comments.

"One of them ended up self medicating themselves for 20 years along with another 10 years of therapy as a result of being in an ABA program as a child. Are you saying that they are just making it up?"

I don't know. I have none of the facts about the case. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, unless I have a good reason not to. However, when I see second hand evidence, that I have no access to, that happens to echo a "belief" that comes to us from a pseudo or even anti-scientific field like psychoanalysis, then I admit it fires up my skepticism.

In any case, I have had rather extensive involvement in this field, and I have only ever heard of one other case where the details were also, never actually given.

"If your not even willing to explore this area, then what can I assume about the thoroughness of your opinions?"

You can assume that I don't believe (as a philosophical position) that science should be wasted trying to beat down any particular prejudice that the field engenders. That is a waste in my view. I would strongly argue against it, just like I would argue against, the proposed legislation that would emove vaccine safety legislation from the US, CDC and give it to a thrid party.

It solves nothing, the new agency would be just as likely to be called pharma shills and the like if they don't come to the "right" answers as the old CDC. This isn't the way to confront misconception.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

Jon,

Perhaps for you these questions are philosophical and sterile. But for me, these issues are at the heart of what it is to be a person and to be treated humanely. Autistic people are just as entitled as anyone else to human rights, freedom from oppression and to call torture for what it is, no matter what behaviorism calls it.

As Elie Weisel wrote: "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

For me, your views are dangerous.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi CS,

"Perhaps for you these questions are philosophical and sterile"

Well, they are philosophical, but I don't think that any issue that involves concerns with accuracy, particularly as it relates to advocacy is sterile.

"For me, your views are dangerous."

Whereas, I would argue that any advocacy that contains errors of fact, serve no one, autistics included.

10:44 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

The absence of interrogation is indeed one difference, however I'd argue that it is rendered superficial by the overwhelming similarities between the delivery of these types of aversives and contemporary Western torture. Both take place in institutions on the fringes of society, in which the prevailing legal and ethical codes are suspended. Both use the same physical methods of coercion, and both use the same asymmetrical power relationships in which one person uses force to impose their will upon another.

I don't find surgical pain a good comparison. The vast majority of surgical procedures are consensual collaborations between doctor and patient, whereas the very nature of the extreme physical aversives we are discussing means they must usually be applied by coercion (as is torture). Likewise, much of the history and practice of surgery is concerned with pain relief, rather than the effective application of pain dealt with in this area of behavioural science (and in torture).

In reply to your question about how these types of aversives are severe enough to constitute torture, I can only repeat myself: because human rights laws say so, and because they regularly kill people. Considering that you seem to hold the opinion that ammonia spray doesn't even qualify as physical abuse, I'd suggest that our ethical standards are so far apart that it isn't worth trying to explain further.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi again Adrian,

"The absence of interrogation is indeed one difference, however I'd argue that it is rendered superficial by the overwhelming similarities between the delivery of these types of aversives and contemporary Western torture."

So, because they look the same intent makes no difference in determining if it is torture or not?

"Both use the same physical methods of coercion"

But.... didn't I just argue that it is not coercion? Any response to that?

"and both use the same asymmetrical power relationships in which one person uses force to impose their will upon another."

Fine, but what about the cases the JRC reports where consent is gained from the person as well as from the courts? is that okay then?

"I don't find surgical pain a good comparison. The vast majority of surgical procedures are consensual collaborations between doctor and patient"

I find it to be helpful, because it shows the flaws in the analysis you used. Also, no surgical patient under 18, can consent in the legal sense of the word.

"In reply to your question about how these types of aversives are severe enough to constitute torture, I can only repeat myself: because human rights laws say so"

I am sorry that is just patently false depending on where you are at. Even in my current State, it is legal if one goes through the proper ethical review channel to implement a physical aversive based program for kids with disabilities.

I hate the idea of it and I think physical aversives are uenthical, but my opinion doesn't change its legal standing.

"Considering that you seem to hold the opinion that ammonia spray doesn't even qualify as physical abuse, I'd suggest that our ethical standards are so far apart that it isn't worth trying to explain further."

I have already been on record again, and again, and again, saying that I think aversives are uenthical. I am however, to apply a legal term "abuse" when I already know, no such labeling will hold up in court.

Furthermore although I think that aversives are unethical and have no real place in modern education or psychology. I oppose terminology I think is incorrect and which I suspect weakens our arguments against aversives.

Dramatic criticisms, make easy target practice.

But... If you think Adrian, that because I will only apply an ethical term and not a legal one, to one physical aversive, that my ethics are beyond hope. Then I can only reccomend another blog, one which has a more slippery view of legal terms I would guess.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Club 166 said...

...Also, no surgical patient under 18, can consent in the legal sense of the word. ...

I guess you've never heard of emancipated minors.

Joe

8:02 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Joe,

Granted

9:38 AM  
Anonymous adrian said...

So, because they look the same intent makes no difference in determining if it is torture or not?
That is indeed the gist of my argument, although I'd want to further delineate it by referring to my previous comments on how torture and extreme physical aversives are similar in far more than “look”, and that the immediate intent of both (as the names would suggest) is to cause extreme discomfort. To me, at the point of delivery this makes them ethically equivalent.

But.... didn't I just argue that it is not coercion? Any response to that?

You pointed out that positive punishment as a whole does not necessarily involve coercion, which I would obviously accept. Since narrowing things down to the physical aversives that were presented to Vincent Milletich , then no, you have not explained how these were not coercive. Unless there is a technical definition of coercion that I'm missing, I would consider them coercive in application due to the use of restraints, and in design as the ultimate purpose of the ammonia spray was presumably to influence some aspect of his future behaviour.

Fine, but what about the cases the JRC reports where consent is gained from the person as well as from the courts? is that okay then?

From what I've read about the JRC, I'm fairly sceptical that I would find it “okay”. But being unaware of these specific cases, I wouldn't want to comment further than to say that in general I'd consider informed consent to carry greater ethical weight than the motives of the person applying extreme aversives.

>>"I don't find surgical pain a good comparison. The vast majority of surgical procedures are consensual collaborations between doctor and patient"<<

I find it to be helpful, because it shows the flaws in the analysis you used. Also, no surgical patient under 18, can consent in the legal sense of the word.


This is true, but then the vast majority of surgical procedures carried out on children do not require them to be bodily forced into the operating theatre. I very much doubt the same can be said of children or adults faced with the same kind of aversives that killed Vincent Milletich.

I have already been on record again, and again, and again, saying that I think aversives are uenthical

I know this, and as far as I'm aware, have not implied anything else. This issue is solely about the definition of these methods, not about whether they are ever appropriate. Nor have I made any value judgements on your ethics, other than that we have different standards—certainly not that yours are “beyond hope”. Please do not put words in my mouth (I'm sure there is a logical fallacy concerning this :p).

Even in my current State, it is legal if one goes through the proper ethical review channel to implement a physical aversive based program for kids with disabilities.

I never thought nor said differently. Once again, it is the difference in legal terms between what a Massachusetts policeman and psychologist can do to people under their control that I am objecting to. If it's shackled like a duck and sensorily deprived like a duck, then its duck rights have been violated. This continued confusion of human rights and legal definitions (indeed this thread has touched on almost every branch of applied ethics) only shows how deep-rooted and pervasive a problem this is in our society, when the same methods of torture are defined by professional, political and social expediency.

What troubled me about the original essay was its incompleteness and insensitivity, not its inaccuracy. Aside from a rather glib “it didn’t shake out in terms of social validity “, any discussion of the consequences of these theories in their direct physical application to autistic people is missing. Here you go further and actively reject “emotive” and “dramatic” criticism.

The final moments of Vincent Milletich's life were about as emotional and dramatic as it gets. This is why terminology matters. No civil rights movement has ever made progress by co-opting the language of its surrounding oppression. 'Unethical' and 'negligence' soften the reality of the violent and visceral encounters in rooms such as the one in which Mr Milletich was killed, and they are one reason why these abuses are allowed to continue. Paying detailed and continuous attention to the consequences of extreme physical aversives at every stage of their discussion is not emotional fallacy, but an ethical necessity.

But... If you think Adrian, that because I will only apply an ethical term and not a legal one, to one physical aversive, that my ethics are beyond hope. Then I can only reccomend another blog, one which has a more slippery view of legal terms I would guess.

If this is your way of showing me the door, then fair enough. I don't find this an easy or pleasant subject to write about, and I think we've both made our main points more than once. I'd like to repeat that I have never intended to depict your ethics as “beyond hope”. In this area, however, they do seem incompatible with the position on human and autistic rights that I hold (and I would desperately hope the same goes for the overwhelming majority of Autism Hub readers).

What I want is not a more slippery view of legal terms, but for the legal terms themselves to become less slippery when it comes to the abuse and torture of human beings, autistic or not, in places like the Judge Rotenberg Center.

5:54 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Adrian,

Thank you very much for your last post. You have clarified several of the more outstanding issues. My comments will follow.

"That is indeed the gist of my argument, although I'd want to further delineate it by referring to my previous comments on how torture and extreme physical aversives are similar in far more than “look”, and that the immediate intent of both (as the names would suggest) is to cause extreme discomfort. To me, at the point of delivery this makes them ethically equivalent."


Whereas, I would argue that this is equivocation and because the intent is different, we should not consider it torture. Nor do I think comparisons of the immediate intent, to be an acceptable analysis. It is superficial.


"Since narrowing things down to the physical aversives that were presented to Vincent Milletich, then no, you have not explained how these were not coercive."

I have never yet seen in this argument a functional defintion of coercion. Here is the defintion I would offer: Forcing compliance, by threats of infliction of severe pain.

The question will be, will my defintion describe some or all coercion.

"From what I've read about the JRC, I'm fairly sceptical that I would find it “okay”. But being unaware of these specific cases, I wouldn't want to comment further than to say that in general I'd consider informed consent to carry greater ethical weight than the motives of the person applying extreme aversives."

Whereas, I would not consider such informed consent to make the situation ethically acceptable.

"This is true, but then the vast majority of surgical procedures carried out on children do not require them to be bodily forced into the operating theatre."

Granted, but their are a few. Children with autism and dental work springs to mind.

"I know this, and as far as I'm aware, have not implied anything else. This issue is solely about the definition of these methods, not about whether they are ever appropriate. Nor have I made any value judgements on your ethics, other than that we have different standards—certainly not that yours are “beyond hope”. Please do not put words in my mouth (I'm sure there is a logical fallacy concerning this :p)."

And I do not put words in your mouth, I simply clarified my position for the reader. You have shown that you can follow an argument with fidelity. Not all commenters and email senders have concerning this issue. Consider my past statement simply an attempt to make my own views very clear, nothing more.

As to my ethics being beyond hope (my words), I did not know exactly were you stood in this regard. I alwayas like to remind people, in serious ethical debate, that if they think my ethics are terrible, they should probably find another environment. I did not know if this was your position so I said "If you think" and not "Because you think". There were no words being inserted into your mouth.

"I never thought nor said differently. Once again, it is the difference in legal terms between what a Massachusetts policeman and psychologist can do to people under their control that I am objecting to."

Not just Massachusetts evidently. But any number of US States allow aversives to be used in Public School, if certain ethical review criteria are met. In theory at least. In the legal sense (maybe not in practice) this is a broad reaching problem.

"This continued confusion of human rights and legal definitions (indeed this thread has touched on almost every branch of applied ethics) only shows how deep-rooted and pervasive a problem this is in our society, when the same methods of torture are defined by professional, political and social expediency."

Well you are correct about this thread broadly touching applied ethics. Also, I would say that punishment, not just torture is a problem in many societies. However, I would not say that punishment, being laden with human rights vs. legal defintion questions, is more of a problem then other oustanding ethical issues of the day. Also, I would say that honest inquiry into sorting out the differences in terminology is an acceptable pursuit which may help clarify the issue in the long run.


"What troubled me about the original essay was its incompleteness and insensitivity, not its inaccuracy."

It was designed as a broad review of literature of punshment and as comparison to Skinner's arguments against punishment. It was not designed to hit (no pun intended) all punishment examples or to cite specific centers. Also, the language used was within professional standards. It was not designed designed to treat on the experience of those who recieved punishment. That was beyond the article's scope.

"Aside from a rather glib “it didn’t shake out in terms of social validity"

A little bit of glibness or even sarcasm is acceptable in academia. I stand by my original comment.

"any discussion of the consequences of these theories in their direct physical application to autistic people is missing."

Well, that is probably best explained by the fact that it wasn't supposed to be there. It wasn't designed to touch that issue. That would exceed the goals I had for the article. I am not arguing against the utility of such an argument, I am simply stating that my article wasn't the place to do it.

This has been the one criticism I have recieved consistantly from others about my first article. Many of the critics think I should have added some additional component to my analysis.

However, they don't agree as to what. A behavior analytic friend thinks I should have had a comment that the entire culture in which aversives grew up contained punishment. Others want a different component.

You wanted something different too. I recomend to you, what I recomended to them. Write your own analysis or ask me to write an additional analysis. Do not critcize my piece for failing to exceed its purpose however. That would be a very poor criticism indeed.

"Here you go further and actively reject “emotive” and “dramatic” criticism."

Really? I have no problem with such an analysis. The problem is in using fallacies and in utilitizng criticism so poor that it in itself merits serious criticism and damages the case against aversives. If these things are not present then my criticism does not apply.

"Paying detailed and continuous attention to the consequences of extreme physical aversives at every stage of their discussion is not emotional fallacy, but an ethical necessity."

Depends on how it is used. One can take a legitimate ethical discussion and transform it into sophistry. There is no argument that is potenially free of illogic. Nor should we ever fail to scour for it, in the absence of which, really poor thinking may creep.

"If this is your way of showing me the door, then fair enough. I don't find this an easy or pleasant subject to write about, and I think we've both made our main points more than once. I'd like to repeat that I have never intended to depict your ethics as “beyond hope”. In this area, however, they do seem incompatible with the position on human and autistic rights that I hold (and I would desperately hope the same goes for the overwhelming majority of Autism Hub readers)."

No, this is not the door. You are welcome to remain as long as you see best, no matter how much we disagree. However, again, I usually remind people in an ethical debate about the the existence of other options. I don't like anyone to feel tied in, if they don't really want to be here.

"What I want is not a more slippery view of legal terms, but for the legal terms themselves to become less slippery."

Very fair. I support this goal.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with skin shock therapy isn't that it's aversive, because anyone in their right mind would know that a defibulator shocking a person having a heart attack isn't aversive, as is a shock device shocking a person into NOT causing themselves bodily injury. Where we have to be careful is in HOW long do we use the skin shock? Clearly, skin shock therapy for autistics self abusing is helpful, for the short term. Where we see problems is when PROFESSIONALS rely on skin shock therapy to replace things like getting medical check ups to rule out possible underlying medical issues causing pain that could trigger sib. That said, this is all complex, complex stuff. It is SOOOOO easy for folks sitting behind a computer to pontificate on how things should go, however if those SAME persons were sitting with an autistic person who was slamming their head repeatedly into a wall or theif fists into their head, they would implode, not have a CLUE how to handle the situation. So tread lightly my friends. YOU do NOT understand the situation of severe autism and pervasive self injury. You have NOT lived it. So don't judge what you don't know. Don't be so intolerant. If you think skin shock is so bad then why aren't y ou advocating for better comprehensive services for autistis who self abuse. Why attack them and their families? This shows that you don't really care about the autistic person held captive to their self abuse, but rather your self absorbed philosophical agenda. Now that is SICK. shalom

2:17 AM  

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