Please don’t share THAT meme

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True story.

A few years ago, on Carole's first day of work here at ABAC, I mentioned that I was going to set up a task analysis for something. Her response was "do you mean a to-do list?"

"Sort of, kinda..." could have been my answer followed by a statement pointing out the differences. What I really said was:

"Yeah, pretty much"

There is a time and a place for everything. These days, Carole (an LCSW)  knows the difference between a task analysis and a to-do list. In fact, she has written more than a few task analyses for procedures that allow ABAC to run smoothly behind the scenes. The point is, on her first day of work, I didn't need to make a huge deal about her not knowing the difference. I had to show her how to do the job I hired her to do, not scare her away with jargon and technicalities.

Don't share THAT meme

Technical language has it's place. What concerns me isn't that others are not fast to adopt or that they don't use it, but that floating around the internet are "funny" ABA memes that depict us as ridiculing, violent, condescending know-it-alls that make fun of others for using the wrong terminology or demonstrating a lack of understanding of behavior and learning theory. There are not a lot of them, but they are there and they come up when you search for ABA Humor and even worse... BCBA humor. The following are just a few of the more egregious ones.

Seriously. This is not how I want to be portrayed nor do I want my fellow colleagues portrayed in this way. But I am too late. This one is all over Pinterest in various iterations.
What does this one say to you? To me it oozes frustration with people who just won't "do what we say" and a lack of understanding as to why.
This one screams "Duh!! I know more than you and I am going to make you feel stupid when I tell you."
Give me a break. All evidence-based practice is not rooted in ABA. The top frame should say "this is the beauty of a world where people use EBPs."
One of my all time favorites. From: Rhymes With Orange July 12, 2004. Click picture to link to website

How about we all just go ahead and delete THAT meme. 

While we are at it, since we are not going to share them any more I say delete them from your computer folders, go back and remove them if you may have posted one in the past, and otherwise purge your media files of any meme that expresses disgust or frustration with the people who do not use our language, do not have a background in our science, or "do what we say." Why? Because people on the internet will find them, will associate our field with them, but worst off people will associate YOU with them.

Things that are cool to post and share:

I don't know about you, but nothing says you are part of a legitimate field than professional cartoonists poking fun at you using wit. I say post away if anyone with a minimum of an undergrad or high school psychology class can get the joke and giggle. Post the memes that celebrate client progress, the memes that celebrate ourselves, and the memes that teach a concept (Just make sure you give credit to the wonderful and witty artist who create the content you share!). All those are fair game and make people smile at the end of a hard day, because they a good-natured, not because they make fun of clients or colleagues.

In case you are not convinced.

If you don't think my plea to the masses in "lay language" is enough of a reason to avoid posting memes that express disgust and/or frustration with clients, client family members, and professionals from other fields perhaps a few ethical codes will convince you.

  • 1.05 Professional and Scientific Relationships
    (e) Behavior analysts do not knowingly engage in behavior that is harassing or demeaning to persons
    with whom they interact in their work based on factors such as those persons’ age, gender, race,
    culture, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic
    status, in accordance with law.

"But they mean "language" like Spanish or Chinese!" Maybe. I will argue that this applies to fluency in scientific language. While we are at it perhaps it should also include education level and knowledge of learning theory, translational research and evidence-based practice and read as follows...

"Behavior analysts do not knowingly engage in behavior that is harassing or demeaning to persons
with whom they interact with in their work based on factors such as those persons’ age, gender, race,
culture, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, educational background, fluency in learning theory, translational research and/or evidence-based practices or socioeconomic status, in accordance with law."

As it does not say that now, I guess I can't expect you to hold to it...but if you care about other's dignity, then you should. (For a recent discussion on dignity see Reid, Rosswurm, & Rothholz, 2017).

  • 2.15 Interrupting or Discontinuing Services.
    (a) Behavior analysts act in the best interests of the client and supervisee to avoid interruption or
    disruption of service.

What are the best interests of the client? For the client's family members to feel safe and feel confident that they are working with someone who does not ridicule them. A fast and sure way to interrupt or disrupt service is to get caught having posted a meme that makes fun of client family members for not taking data or implementing a plan.

  • 8.01 Avoiding False or Deceptive Statements.
    (a) Behavior analysts do not make public statements that are false, deceptive, misleading, exaggerated, or fraudulent, either because of what they state, convey, or suggest or because of what they omit, concerning their research, practice, or other work activities or those of persons or organizations with which they are affiliated. Behavior analysts claim as credentials for their behavior-analytic work, only degrees that were primarily or exclusively behavior-analytic in content.

Posting a meme that depicts behavior analysts as cruel and insensitive perpetuates that myth, publicly. Nothing you post on the internet is private so when you post something like that you are making a public statement. End of story.

Perhaps you are convinced. Maybe you are not.

If so, I would love to hear why. In the mean time I will be off giggling at Pavlov cartoons.


A reminder

As always, if you think I missed something, could add something, or you want to let me know what you think of this post, feel free to email me at Your input and viewpoint are important to me.

A thank you

A huge thank you to Carole for reading the original version of this post. Based on her feedback that I cut four paragraphs of text and started with the story. She was right. Four lengthy paragraphs was four too many. One little story...way better.

A Disclaimer

Some "less" offensive memes have ended up on the ABAC Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Pinterest pages. We have been locating and removing them since I do not want them associated with my company brand.


Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). (2016). Professional and ethical compliance code for behavior analysts. Retrieved


Reid, D.H., Rosswurm, M, & Rotholz, D.A. (2018). No less worthy: Recommendations for behavior analysts treating adults with intellectual and

developmental disabilities with dignity. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 11, 71-79.