Ramona Houmanfar, PhD
Professor & Director, Behavior Analysis Program, University of Nevada, Reno; Editor, Journal of Organizational Behavior Management
Interview conducted by Kaitlynn Gokey
Dr. Ramona Houmanfar is a Professor of Psychology and serves as the Director of the Behavior Analysis Program at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and an editorial board member of Behavior and Social Issues, trustee of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, and Chair of the Organizational Behavior Management Section of Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, Dr. Houmanfar is also the former senior co-chair of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, Director of the Organizational Behavior Management Network and President of the Nevada Association for Behavior Analysis.
Dr. Houmanfar has published over sixty peer reviewed articles and chapters, delivered more than 100 presentations at regional, national, and international conferences in the areas of behavioral systems analysis, cultural behavior analysis, leadership in organizations, rule governance, communication networks, instructional design, and bilingual repertoire analysis and learning. She has published co-edited books titled “Organizational Change” (Context Press) and “Understanding Complexity in Organizations” (Taylor & Francis Group). Her third co-edited book titled “Leadership & Cultural Change” was recently published by Taylor & Francis Group.
How did you get into the field?
I was introduced to it in undergrad as a pre-med student at UNR. It was one of my psychology courses and the data-driven nature and parsimony appealed to me. So I shifted my major to psych/bio to delve into it further. Then I met Linda Hayes. (I’m a graduate of UNR). My experience with her cemented my interest in Behavior Analysis and I’ve been in the field ever since.
What’s your most important accomplishment?
I’m extremely excited about the research being developed in my lab. The topics and phenomena we study haven’t been explored by other labs. I like the analysis of rumor and gossip in organizations and the power of rule governance in such settings. I’m proud of my students and their work, and how we developed a line of research related to communication/verbal behavior and RFT/rule governance in organizations. Developing your niche is hard to do and takes courage. It’s hard to break into publication.
What do you think the field should be doing more of?
We could be investigating socially-significant global issues from the foundation work in behavior analysis. Namely, climate change, violence, and obesity. These topics beg for our contribution and they can all be ultimately traced to behavior change. If we can address behavior change at socio-cultural level we can increase our scientific visibility. A system-oriented behavioral perspective can bring our science from an individual-level to a more socio-cultural level, allowing us to become a better known and more relevant science. Engineering and medicine eat up what we have to offer.
Behavior analysts could also publish and present in journals and conferences outside of behavior analysis. Co-authoring with other disciplines helps publish in those areas and fosters collaboration and dissemination. It adds to the breadth of our analyses and applications and generates more research avenues.
What advice do you have for folks just entering behavior analysis?
Be mindful of politics and work on your political skills early. Collaborate and work with others. Respect other disciplines while maintaining the integrity of behavior science. Acquire exposure with common populations that receive clinical ABA as soon as you can, to get your feet wet, but then be open to other areas and populations. Learn our concepts and principles and technical language to fluency so you are able to converse constructively with your professors, peers, and be able to explain our approach to a layperson.