Date of Graduation

Summer 2023


Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis



Committee Chair

Jordan Belisle


Behavior analysts are becoming increasingly aware of and involved in the study of issues related to sex, gender, disability, prejudice, and discrimination. This thesis integrates and discusses two collaborative manuscripts that revolve around the shared subject matter of multi-level research on systemic issues. In the first chapter, sexism and gender bias are conceptualized and informed by the framework of the nested sociobehavioral model of racism developed by Belisle et al. (2022), including implicit bias, selective gender norms, and systemic oppression, while integrating feminist and queer theories in the analysis. A model-dependent scoping review of research in major behavior analytic journals from 2000 to 2022 was conducted to locate research related to racism and sexism. Results were categorized using the nested model and the theory-to- impact framework developed by Dixon et al. (2018). Results showed that 7 of the included journals contained studies focusing on racism or sexism. Discrepancies were observed between conceptual studies that emphasized systemic oppression and experimental studies that focused on implicit bias and relational framing. Results indicate a clear need for more extensive research to guide the advancement and widespread use of practical technologies. To support emerging research in areas of stigmatization and discrimination, the second chapter summarizes a set of 2 experiments that evaluated negative stigmatization beliefs toward autistic individuals using an analytic framework rooted in Relational Density Theory (RDT; Belisle & Dixon, 2020). In the first experiment, the relational network was modeled using a multidimensional scale containing positive and negative stigmatic descriptors, and labels referring to autism. The results indicated the presence of negative stigmatic biases in all three samples, with the behavior analysts and technicians sample demonstrating the greatest overall biases. In the second experiment, a new sample was asked to report their preference among various individuals to complete tasks given the presence or absence of autism and stigmatizing descriptors. Participants showed a preference for the average person when in the presence of stigmatic descriptor words. Altogether, results show the interaction between complex relational behavior and stigmatization and speak to the potential interlocking behavior contingencies and metacontengencies that harm marginalized individuals.


prejudice, discrimination, autism, stigmatization, Relational Density Theory, interlocking behavioral contingencies, metacontengencies

Subject Categories

Applied Behavior Analysis | Social Justice


© Claire M. Zuch

Open Access