Project: the Fountain and the Bridge

PROJECT: the Fountain and the Bridge – a Personal Project in the road of Behavior Analysis

ABSTRACT: Human behavior has been systematically investigated by Behavior Analysis, which has its fountain and source in the U.S., with the prominent work of B. F. Skinner. Since Professor F. S. Keller came to Brazil in the 60s, Behavior Analysis has been disseminating in the country; currently, Brazil has the second largest community of behavior analysts – behind the U.S. only (Todorov & Hanna, 2010). I am Brazilian and I am fascinated by science – especially by Behavior Analysis. I am driven by intense and challenging personal projects, and I would like to know more about the reach of Behavior Analysis in the current context. Family, friends and other beloved ones could not fit in my pockets; mid-2015 I left Brazil to live for 4 years in Houston (TX). The ABAI (Association for Behavior Analysis International) is the primary international organization for people interested in Behavior Analysis. This association has been recognizing, since 2004, the work and the contributions of outstanding behavior analysts of different countries – many of which, it’s worth noting,  live in the U.S. It does not seem risky to say that reading and coming into contact with some of the work or fields of study of these professionals would provide one with an updated scenery of the production of knowledge in the field.  We have, thus, a method: to go through the contribution of all Fellows of ABAI until 2019; until 2015, 90 people are listed. An adventure: to discover different practices regarding Behavior Analysis as a science, especially in the U.S. A personal challenge: to keep me active and updated, and to control somehow my behavior of studying continuously. An interest in the dissemination of knowledge that is possibly relevant to society: to make the most of my current situation to record the state of Behavior Analysis in the U.S. – and to perhaps build a bridge with Behavior Analysis in Brazil. The Project the Fountain and the Bridge is a personal record of the landscape that I see in this passing road.
Key words: behavior analysis in the U.S.; self-control for studying; personal project; homesick.

OBJECTIVES: To get to know current behavior-analytic practices; To study continuously; To record my experiences in the U.S.; To establish relationships between Brazilian behavior-analytic practices and practices from the U.S. and the world.

METHOD: The list of professionals whose contributions were recognized by ABAI (available on the website of the Association, in Fellows of ABAI) will guide the study of the work of some behavior analysts; until 2015, 90 people had their work recognized. Initially, from the choice of a professional of the list – by the chronological criteria of recognition by ABAI – at least one publication of this professional will be read. Then, if possible, some kind of contact with the professional or his/her field of study will be performed. Resources such as e-mail, telephone contact, visits to universities, centers, institutions or laboratories, as well as records through photos and footage may be used; the first resource will be prioritized for financial and feasibility reasons. Concomitantly, experience that is considered relevant will be recorded in the blog. Finally, the entire list of professionals ought to be covered in the 2016-2019 period.

RESULTS: To be published in the blog.


Fellows of ABAI: available at ABAI’s website:

Todorov & Hanna (2010). Análise do Comportamento no Brasil. Psicologia: Teoria e Pesquisa, Vol. 26 n. especial, pp. 143-153.

** A Fonte e a Ponte is a personal and nonprofit initiative and has no binding with the ABAI or any professional organization or academic program.


Fig. 1 – Houston (TX), Downtown, 2016. (Photo: Fernanda Oda)

More blog’s content partially in English (Contacts with Fellows of ABAI):

Um: Dr. Brian A. Iwata, Parte 2


– Why are you a Behavior Analyst?

“I became a behavior analyst initially because my first advisor in graduate school was Jon Bailey. He received his PhD from the University of Kansas and studied with Montrose Wolf, Donald Baer, Todd Risley, and James Sherman. His view of psychology, which emphasized an operant learning approach, seemed utterly refreshing, sensible from a theoretical perspective, and empirically sound, and he got me interested in the field. I continue to be a behavior analyst because I believe that the theory, methods, and procedures of our field hold the promise of solving most of our social problems.”

– Let’s say that you have the super power of improving only one aspect of Applied Behavior Analysis. What aspect would you choose?

“Research and practice have made great progress in producing a powerful technology of behavior change that appears to be highly generalizable, and continued developments in these areas will lead to further improvements. The status of behavior analysis within the larger culture, however, remains small, and increasing the visibility and influence of behavior analysis will require concerted effort from major organizations. However, the major organization that represents our field, the Association for Behavior Analysis, often seems to play an adversarial role when dealing with other organizations, such as the Behavior Analyst Certification Board and the Association for Professional Behavior Analysts. If I could improve one aspect of applied behavior analysis, it would be to get these organizations to work in a more cooperative manner—to do what is best for the field.”

Dois: Dr. Sigrid S. Glenn, Parte 2


– Why are you a Behavior Analyst?

“Why I am a behavior analyst – I am a behavior analyst for many reasons. First, behaviorist philosophy provides for me a coherent and aesthetically pleasing world view. Second, the science of behavior offers explanations of human and non-human behavior that a) fit into a broader scientific framework that includes the biological and cultural sciences; b) do not appeal to events that are unobservable in principle; c) lead directly to solutions of real-world problems. Third, the behavior analytic solutions that have already helped tens of thousands of people and dozens of organizations are really only the beginning of what can be done to make the world a better place — for people, for other creatures, and for the planet itself.”

– Let’s say that the world is going to end in 2050 for reasons unknown today. If you could choose just one cultural practice to be studied by Behavior Analysis with the aim of developing Behavioral Engineering for our survival, what cultural practice would you put all your effort in?

“Well, if we knew the world was going to end in 2050 for unknown reasons, I probably wouldn’t recommend studying anything. Rather, I would recommend that behavior analysts use the time left to help all people reinforce kind and loving behavior in one another in order to make the final days of the world as good as possible for as many people as possible.

If, on the other hand, there was a chance the world could be saved, I doubt any one engineering feat would be sufficient– behavioral or otherwise. These are the things I would target: aggression (by individuals, corporations, and socio-cultural entities like countries, tribes, etc.); overconsumption, degradation of physical environment, poverty. Obviously these problems are interrelated, so the interrelations would have to be dealt with too.”

Três: Dr. M. Jackson Marr, Parte 2


– Why are you a Behavior Analyst?

“I came to behavior analysis via a very circuitous route. My background is in the natural sciences, mathematics, and some engineering. Even my undergraduate training in psychology had this orientation. When I went to graduate school I saw my first operant conditioning lab and was immediately stuck by how this work (including all the technical skills needed) reflected a natural science approach to behavior. My interests there was in schedules of reinforcement and behavioral pharmacology and these remained my primary research foci for much of my early career. I did not really have much interest in the conceptual/philosophical aspects of the field until sometime in the 80’s when I was introduced to primarily Wittgensteinian approaches which spurred my interest in what it might mean to talk about a science of behavior. Questions of this kind continue to concern me.”

– Let’s say that you have the super power of bringing together Behavior Analysis and another science or field of knowledge. What science or field would you choose?

“Your second question is easy: Behavior is a biological feature of organisms (what else?!) and our field represents just one of many aspects of biological science from evolutionary processes to molecular interactions–none of these are primary or could be understood without knowing how they relate to the others.”

 Seis: Dr. William N. Baum, Parte 2


– Why are you a Behavior Analyst?

“I became a behavior analyst for two reasons. First, I was interested in animal behavior even as a child. When I enrolled as an undergraduate at Harvard College, my interest in animal behavior drew me to choose biology as my major. In the spring of my freshman year, I noticed a course on human behavior (Nat. Sci. 114) and decided to take it. The professor (B. F. Skinner) wasn’t a great teacher, but the course was interesting to me and showed me that behavior was also taught in the psychology department. Second, the next semester I took a psychology course on “Learning and Motivation” taught by R. J. Herrnstein. He persuaded me to switch my major to psychology on the grounds that biology required more courses than psychology. Eventually I went to graduate school there too.”

– Let’s say that you have the power of clearing up only one common misconception related to Behavior Analysis’ philosophy. What misconception would you choose?

“Your second question is difficult to answer because so many misconceptions about behavior analysis are common. They are matters like: (a) BA is social science, not natural science; (b) BA is part of psychology, rather than an alternative to psychology; (c) BA only deals with autism, it has no application to behavior in general; (d) BA advocates aversive control, rather than positive reinforcement; and the list goes on.
I would choose to clear up the misconception that BA is social science and part of psychology. I think that is our biggest obstacle to acceptance by the rest of the scientific community.
I live now in San Francisco, California. It is a beautiful city, full of life, and has great weather, so I love living here. I have an adjunct appointment at University of California, Davis, in the department of environmental science and policy, where I collaborate with biologists and anthropologists and study social dilemmas.”

Nove: Dr. Henry S. Pennypacker, Parte 2


– Why are you a Behavior Analyst?

“The answer is simply because that is what we call people nowadays who are interested in a natural scientific approach to the study of behavior. It is not the greatest term, but it works and doesn’t seem to upset as many people as some others.”

– In 1986 you pointed out 3 areas of critical opportunities to behavior analysis for implementation of effective education and training: urban violence, illiteracy, and declining industrial productivity. Now, 30 years have passed. What are your current thoughts about expansion and application of behavior analysis today?

“There are too many areas in which behavior analysis can make a contribution for me to list them all. Things have changed in the last 30 years. In 1986, our creation of MammaCare was unique in one respect:behavior analysis was part of a team effort. We could not have accomplished what we did without the contributions of engineering and medicine, but there were few if any such team efforts around then. Today, behavior analysis has proven its worth and is much less controversial. Therefore, it is easier for behavior analysts to collaborate with people in other disciplines. For example, many in the neurosciences now look to us for guidance in research question formulation, experimental design, and response definition.
I believe that as we seek collaboration with other disciplines, our main contributions are two: Subject matter (response) definition and measurement. People outsider our discipline rarely know how to specify behavior in precise, observable terms. The also are not used to direct measures such as frequency, latency and duration and often rely on percentage measures which lack sensitivity. We can bring these tools to team efforts to attack the more complicated problems that arise from other fields such as neuroscience. I encourage active collaboration with those in other disciplines with us bringing our two powerful tools to the problem.”

Doze: Dr. Aubrey C. Daniels, Parte 2


– Why are you a Behavior Analyst?

“I am a behaviorist because as a practicing Clinical Psychologist, I found the psychological explanations of behavior inefficient and ineffective in dealing with people with serious behavioral issues. Behavioral approaches on the other hand are practical, efficient and effective everywhere they have been tried. I was never satisfied with cognitive explanations. Trying to read someone’s mind is particularly problematic as it is filled with error when based on limited observations in an artificial context. The short explanation of why i am a behaviorist is that I works wherever there is behavior – both clinical and non-clinical settings.”

– What are the most important organizational behavior management skills every behavior analyst should develop and why?

“It seems to me that two of the most important behavioral skills are the ability to “pinpoint” behavior rather than interpreting it. By pinpoint I mean specifying the problems in terms of behavior – no interpretation needed

The second skill is that of “Shaping.” Shaping requires that the problem be pinpointed in such a way that the smallest behavior can be observed and positively reinforced. This is a skill and just because someone knows the technique is not necessarily fluent in its execution, any more than a person can read a book on riding a bicycle and then ride it without error. Reinforced practice is required to acqujire the skill but is essential for not only behaviorists but also parents, teachers and any other person in a position to influence the behaviors of another.

While all these answers are short I have written extensively about them in my books. I hope this is satisfactory. If you need more please feel free to contact me.”

Quatorze: Dr. A. Charles Catania, Parte 2


– Why are you a Behavior Analyst?

“I am a behavior analyst in part because I have an interest in science that goes back to my early student days, when I read both nonfiction works from a nearby branch of the NYC public library and lots of science fiction, and in part because of a series of lucky accidents, including taking Fred Keller’s introductory psychology course. An important part of all this is that I found behavior a fascinating subject for its own sake, and not because it seemed a tool for other purposes, such as solving specific human problems.
I think it also mattered that verbal behavior was included as a major part of this science even in my very earliest contact with it.”

– What are the most important skills every experimental behavior analyst should develop and why?

“Work at mathematics so that you are comfortable with it, stay close to the data, and read not only the behavior analysis literature but also the literature from related sciences (especially biology). And be prepared always to work very hard at it. I hope you’ll find these comments helpful.”