Sunday, March 4, 2007

This is the post that first introduces Reward and Consent ((R+C) readers to Behavioral Ethics.

Image used without objection from an editor of the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

I’m reading the first issue of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (Wolf, 1968) with Skinner and his followers. It contains some of the earlier applications of behavioral principles to people. I suspect that the subjects' consent was often not obtained when human applications began.

Those in this issue who probably did not consent to a course of treatment included an autistic girl whom they shook for rocking her own body, psychiatric patients “required” to sample reinforcers to make sure they cashed in their tokens. For example, Risley (1968, p. 31) said, “The experimenter shouted ‘Stop that!’ seized (the girl) by the upper arms, and shook her whenever she began rocking. He would wait until her eyes were closed or fixed on her hand before abruptly shouting and shaking her. This event invariably produced a 'startle reflex' and flushing in (the girl).” In his earlier animal experiments, Skinner didn’t ask the rats if they wanted to go hungry, be put in a box, and made to pull levers to get little pieces of grain.


Risley, T. R. (1968). The effects and side effects of punishing the autistic behaviors of a deviant child [Electronic version]. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 21-34. Retrieved April 19, 2007 from U.S. National Institutes of Health PubMed Central database Web site:

Wolf, M. M. (Ed.). (1968) [Electronic Version]. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1. Retrieved April 19, 2007 from U.S. National Institutes of Health PubMed Central database Web site:

Copyright and disclaimers

Reward and Consent , © is January 15, 2007 to the current date. All rights reserved (and stuff like that). E-mail me for permission to reproduce in part or in full. Please link to and cite passages quoted or paraphrased from here.

Reward and Con
sent is not responsible for links on the site. For example, I use keywords "Operant Conditioning" in the YouTube search field for the videos displayed below the archives on the left. Google selects the videos and the results change from time to time. Please email me if anything is not educational and germane to the subject and I will reevaluate the search.

I am an advocate for people with disabilities certified to teach special education with a Master of Arts in Teaching. I am not a Licensed Psychologist or a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. When in doubt, seek the advice of an MD, a PhD, or a BCBA. My ability to analyze the ethics of ABA stems from the fact that I am disabled and ABA interventions are often done to people like me, which I voluntarily accept, but only when I alone am the person granting consent, and not a parent, sibling, guardian, or institution.