Common ABA Errors, continued
Back in the far distant past, when I was an M.A. student, one of the most important (in my opinion) but virtually ignored psychological theorists (including by me) was G.A. Kelly (The Psychology of Personal Constructs), and it would be interesting to know whether Hayes and Barnes-Holmes, the orginators of Relational Frame Theory, have even heard of him. According to Bannister, writing in The Social Science Encyclopedia, 1985, “Kelly insisted that all people are scientists/psychologists in that they theorize about their own nature and the nature of the world: their behavior is a continuous experiment based on expectations they derive from their theories [i.e., their tentative understandings], and they modify their theories in the light of the relationship between their expectations and unfolding events – which reminds me of Piaget and his ideas about assimilation and accomodation, the two complementary processes of adaptation through which awareness of the outside world is internalised.
Peoples’ theories take the form of personal construct systems. ‘Personal’ indicates that since we cannot directly apprehend reality, we must interpret it, and no two persons have identical ways of interpreting their world. … ‘Construct’ refers to the bipolar discrimination we used to make sense of the world (nice-nasty, east-west, plus-minus, expensive-cheap, colored-plain and myriads more).” In Spiritual Technology terms, our thinking is dualistic (see December 8, 2013 for a discussion of dualism, among other things) and we tend to value one extreme of each polarity and devalue the other. Be that as it may (meaning I intend to put that particular discussion on hold for now), each construct specifies how two things are similar to each other (lying on the same pole) and different from a third thing.
Kelly believed that anticipation and prediction are the main drivers of our mind, and that person’s unique psychological processes are channeled by the way s/he anticipates events. “We start on this at birth (a child discovers, ‘if I cry, mother will come’) and continue refining our theories as we grow up.” (Shades of ABA! That is what we are doing as instructors when we teach the child that he/she can gain greater control over his/her environment by learning the specific teaching targets that we present, e.g., by learning to say or sign “ball” when presented with a picture of a ball the student elicits some reward. Antecedent followed by some behavior leads to some predictable consequence. What power! J
Personal Construct Theory may then be applied to promoting more advanced thinking than is often required in an ABA program by asking the student to find relationships between items that are similar in some way and different in another. For example, having taught “ball” and “orange,” the student may then be asked how a ball and an orange are alike and how they are different. That should be fun for us to explore.