History of the Division of Behaviour Analysis

Interest in behaviour analysis in Ireland is about as old as the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI), which was founded in 1970. An American behaviour analyst, Jock Millenson was involved in establishing the first British behaviour analysis group, now called the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour Group (EABG), in the 1960’s. In the summer of 1970, Jock Millenson and Julian Leslie attended a conference of a group, mostly consisting of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, called the Behavioural Engineering Association, in Kilkenny, and en route met with Leo Baker at Trinity College Dublin who had been in post there as a lecturer for a number of years. As a result of that meeting Julian Leslie contacted Leo Baker when he took up a post at the New University of Ulster, Coleraine, in 1974, and began to discuss ways of supporting behaviour analysis in the Irish context. After an initial trawl for support, there was an initial planning meeting in 1977 at the Annual Conference of PSI in Dun Laoghaire.

The Behaviour Analysis in Ireland (BAI) group was formed in 1977 and run by Leo Baker for many years. It provided the sort of venue and support group for behavioural analytic researchers in Ireland which the EABG did in the UK. Not only did it run three meetings a year but as well as supporting experimentalists it encouraged applied behaviour analysts, mostly but not exclusively in the clinical areas, to present papers and this added a further dimension. It ensured that the small band of Irish behaviour analysts, both pure and applied, stayed in touch and were aware of each other’s work. With its modest but sustained success, behaviour analysis had found its place within the scientific psychological community in Ireland.

After Leo Baker’s stewardship, a number of others from around the island of Ireland ran the BAI group in turn. Time moved on, and by the early years of this century it became clear that this group, which had no formal membership register, was not in a very strong position to support the developing professional field of Applied Behaviour Analysis. As the Psychological Society of Ireland is interested in developing specialist divisions, it was decided to go through the process of turning BAI into the Division of Behaviour Analysis within PSI. This process was spearheaded, and successfully concluded, by Geraldine Leader, at NUI Galway, who had latterly been looking after BAI and became the first Chair of the Division of Behaviour Analysis.In its first four years of operation, the Division of Behaviour Analysis held four excellent annual conferences, two in Dublin and two in Galway, with excellent keynote international speakers, and very high levels of support. This high level was generated by the many current Masters students from across the island of Ireland who are studying Applied Behaviour Analysis and acquiring professional qualifications, including becoming Board Certified Behavior Analysts. Growth in these Masters courses was stimulated by the demand from the community to support intensive early intervention programmes using the principles of behaviour analysis, mostly but not exclusively for children with autism.

Going forward, the Division of Behaviour Analysis will continue to support research in behaviour analysis, for which both parts of Ireland are a centre of excellence, and the burgeoning profession of applied behaviour analysis. It is currently running a series of workshops for professionals and others to discuss how to take forward the dissemination of behaviour analysis to all those interested and enhance training for all in the field.

Currently the Division has members at NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate College Limerick, Dublin Business School and University of Ulster and in many professional locations across Ireland. Full membership is restricted to those members of PSI who have qualifications and experience in behaviour analysis, but associate membership is also possible. See the membership section for more details.