A Behavior Analyst Talks About Diversity and Its Ethical Implications 09/12/23 | WEBINAR

Picture of A Behavior Analyst Talks About Diversity and Its Ethical Implications 09/12/23 | WEBINAR
by A. Charles Catania, Ph.D.

Earn 2 BACB Learning CEUs!

In the evolution of biological systems (phylogenic selection) or of classes of behavior (ontogenic selection) or of cultural practices (sociogenic selection), populations can change only if they are variable or, in other words, only if they are diverse. At each level, therefore, diversity is crucial; evolution can’t take place without it. At each level we’ll explore the roles of diversity and we’ll summarize by exploring their ethical implications.

This LIVE WEBINAR will air on September 12 from 1:30 pm to 3:10 pm ET.


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by A. Charles Catania, Ph.D.


In the triumvirate of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), diversity is central; another name for it is variability. We can find it in biological systems (consider the concept of hybrid vigor; presumably white supremacists and other racists never learned about it). In conservation biology, for example, in lakes in the midwest populations of fish can be identified that are similar in form (phenotype) but different in their genetic range of variation (genotype); given environmental stress, populations that include a broader range of genotypes fare better than those with a narrower range. This is an example of the advantage of diversity in selection at the phylogenic level (as in Darwinian selection). We will show that similar advantages accrue to more variable populations both at the level of the selection of operant behavior (shaping or ontogenic selection) and at the level of the transmission of cultural practices (as behavior is passed on from some individuals to others, in cultural or sociogenic selection). Variable behavior provides advantages in both ontogenic and sociogenic selection. We’ll discuss the ways in which educational and political and other social systems can enhance or suppress variations; for example, variation at all three levels is typically suppressed in totalitarian governments (Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union and Putin’s Russia provide examples). These considerations provide the foundations for an ethical defense of diversity at each level of selection.


Learning Objectives:

Participants will be able to:

1. distinguish among phylogenic, ontogenic and sociogenic selection.

2. distinguish effects of diversity (variation) at each level from those of its inverse, conformity (stereotypy).

3. relate the benefits and costs of both diversity and conformity to ethical considerations, especially in regard to the survival of populations.

4. recognize how processes at a given level (e.g., reinforcement versus punishment in ontogenic selection) may contribute either to diversity or to conformity, and how across levels they may either support or oppose each other.




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