Robert C. Mellon, Ph.D., BCBA, obtained his doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1987, where he completed both the clinical psychology and experimental analysis of behavior programs. He was clinical psychology intern at New York University Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital, and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Developmental Psychobiology of the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he studied Pavlovian conditioning processes in the development of intersensory functions. Then on a National Research Service Award from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, Mellon studied animal timing processes at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University. He taught for the University of Maryland, travelling in Asia, the Middle East and Europe and seeking a culture in which behavior analysis was either unknown or underdeveloped, in which he might have an opportunity to establish a research and training program. In 1995 he found such a circumstance in the Hellenic Republic, where he has worked ever since and is currently professor at Panteion University in Athens. In this position, he has chaired the Department of Psychology and established a productive laboratory as well a seven-semester cycle of undergraduate courses in experimental and applied behavior analysis. Mellon’s current research interests include behavioral variability, resistance to change, adventitious reinforcement and aversive control, and the implications of these processes in understanding the provenance and treatment of psychopathology; he has also authored a comprehensive Hellenic-language textbook in behavioral philosophy and its basic and applied sciences. Mellon has served as president of the European Association for Behavior Analysis and is founding president of the Hellenic Community for Behavior Analysis.

Presenting at the Bucharest International ABA Conference 2018:

Covert aversive self-control: Why do we threaten and denigrate ourselves?

Laboratory of Experimental and Applied Behavior Analysis, Panteion University of Athens

Many so-called psychological disorders are characterized by a high frequency of generation and maintenance of privately-observable aversive events, to include the act of fantasizing or perceiving disturbing images in the absence of the thing seen; berating or demeaning one’s self; or creating improbable threats of danger. For example, in paranoid thinking, harmless strangers are perceived as enemies; in anorexia nervosa, one’s own emaciated body might be viewed in a mirror as embarrassingly overweight; in panic disorder, one’s own sympathetic arousal in a crowded theatre may be perceived as a sign of heart failure—all events that disturb and frighten their creators. In clinical psychology, such behavior patterns are frequently attributed to an underlying mental pathology, but from a functional perspective, what would maintain such apparently fruitless self-exposure to aversive events?

In this presentation, these and related phenomena in which a person frequently constructs disturbing and threatening private stimulus events will be interpreted as a form of covert aversive self-control, in which self-produced threats function as discriminative stimuli that evoke chains of activity incompatible with socially punished patterns of behavior that are also highly reinforcing. Experimental support for this interpretation of problematic patterns of thinking and perceiving will be presented, and its implications for case formulation and treatment planning in clinical behavior analysis will be discussed.

See the program of the 2018 edition!