Monthly Archives: August 2022

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) and relationships

Over a year ago, my mom urged me against having a tit-for-tat mentality in relationships. Since then, I have wondered: does this mean pure cooperation–no defection at all (ideal)–or only defecting after two offenses? Everyone deserves a second chance…but, what about a third?

As someone new to the field of ABA, I got to wondering this past week about its discouragement of punishment. Punishment in the field can be justified perhaps only as follows: a client fails to produce correct behavior more than twice in a row. (This occurs after a reinforcement protocol of correct behavior.) After two offenses, what is a competent behavior interventionist to do without giving up? One answer would be to switch to a better reinforcement procedure, such as differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior (DRI). It is better to teach over an inappropriate behavior with a replacement behavior than to take away something valued.

Tit-for-tat might be the optimal strategy to employ in a prisoner’s dilemma setting. But, its success as a relational tactic is likely only limited to such contexts. Certainly, escalating or snowballing with someone into mutually frustrated (or, God forbid–vengeful) behavior won’t be a good time! But in settings like romantic relationships or ABA, tit-for-tat should be transcended in favor of always seeking to establish cooperation (or, worst-case, healthily-spirited competition or friendly rivalry).

Love keeps no record of wrongs. Let them go with forgiveness and grace, and work to do better in one’s relationships next time!


Grief (and beyond): Netflix’s *Never Have I Ever* 《spoilers》

A central theme running through this series is grief. Devi Vishwakumar and her mother must face the recent death of the former’s dad and latter’s husband. I just finished watching Season 3, which seems to give the most solid treatment of Devi’s grief.

The first explicit case of grief in this season happens as Devi moves on after Paxton breaks up with her. Narrator John McEnroe lists three of five stages of grief per Kübler-Ross’ model: anger (“raging”), depression (“wallowing”)–and finally, acceptance.

Devi notes to therapist Jamie Ryan (played by Niecy Nash) that her life is going well, and she feels guilty for such given her late father Mohan’s passing. In Episode 9 of this season, Devi plays her first harp concert since Mohan’s heart attack at her performance just a couple of years prior. After retreating anxiously to the bathroom just before playing in this season’s concert, Devi is able to confide in her boyfriend Des’ mother Rhyah that she had a visual hallucination of Mohan sitting in the audience.

Rhyah validates Devi’s feelings, supporting her enough for Devi to successfully play through her performance. While Rhyah is later shown to not be fully understanding, this portion of Season 3 shows Devi being able to lean on those close to her as she copes with her feelings of grief.

Finally, following Paxton’s graduation speech at the end of the season, Devi acknowledges that he got her through her dad’s death. This is a touching moment worthy of a goodbye, as Paxton will be leaving Sherman Oaks (and Devi) to attend Arizona State University. What starts off as an enduring obsession with Paxton for Devi ends up being a “dream” that allows her to move forward and let others into her life. Overall, Devi handles her grief maturely by letting people get close to her throughout the series.

As someone who has studied and/or worked in the field of psychology for 13 years, I look forward to seeing what Devi’s previously defining grief transforms into in Season 4. After learning acceptance through her relationship with Paxton, what will come next for this teenage Indian-American character?