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Applied behavior analysis (ABA)

Scientific approach for discovering environmental variables that reliably influence socially significant behavior and for developing a technology of behavior change that takes practical advantage of those discoveries

Behaviorism

Philosophy of the science of behavior

Determinism

Scientists presume that the universe, or at least that part of it they intend to probe with the methods of science is a lawful and orderly place in which all phenomena occur as a result of other events

Empiricism

Practice of objective observation of the phenomena of interest

Experiment

Carefully conducted comparison of some measure of the phenomenon of interest (the dependent variable) under two or more different conditions in which only one factor at a time (independent variable) differs from one condition to another

Experimental analysis of behavior (EAB)

Analysis of operant behavior "with its unique relation to the environment presents a separate important field of investigation"

Explanatory fiction

Fictitious variable that often is simply another name of the observed behavior that contributes nothing to an understanding of the variables responsible for developing or maintaining the behavior.

Functional relation

Exists when well controlled experiment reveals that a specific change in one event (dependent variable) can reliably be produced by specific manipulations of another event (independent variable) and that change in the dependent variable was unlikely to be the result of other extraneous factors (confounding variables)

Hypothetical construct

Presumed but unobserved entities that could not be manipulated in an experiment

Mentalism

Study of behavior which assumes that mental or inner dimension exists that differs from a behavioral dimension; hypothetical constructs and explanatory fictions

Methological behaviorism

Denied the existence of inner variables or considered them out of realm of scientific account

Parsimony

Requires all simple, logical explanations for the phenomenon under investigation be ruled out, experimentally or conceptually, before more complex or abstract explanations are considered

Philosophic doubt

Scientist continually question the truthfulness of what is regarded as fact

Radical behaviorism

Includes and seeks to understand all human behavior; incorporate private events; Skinner

Replication

Repeating of experiments; determine reliability and usefulness of their findings and discover their mistakes

Science

Systematic approach to the understanding of natural phenomena as evidenced by description, prediction and control that relies on determinism as its fundamental assumption, empiricism as its prime directive, experimentation as its basic strategy, replication as its necessary requirement for believability, parsimony as its conservative value, and philosophic doubt as its guiding conscious.

Explain the philosophical assumptions of behavior analysis such as the lawfulness of behavior, empiricism, experimental analysis and parsimony

• Determinism or lawfulness of behavior states that events are related in systematic ways to other factors, which are themselves physical phenomena amenable to scientific investigation. Events do not happen by accident. The universe is an orderly place where everything occurs as a result of other events. Assumption that the universe is a lawful and orderly place in which phenomena occur as a result of other events
• Empiricism is the practice of objective observation of the phenomena of interest. This observation is based on thorough description, systemic and repeated measurement and precise quantification of the phenomena of interest.
• Experimental analysis is a carefully conducted and controlled comparison of some measure of the phenomenon of interest (dependent variable) under two or more different conditions in which only one factor at a time (independent variable) differs from one condition to another
• Parsimony requires are simple, logical explanations of the phenomenon under investigation be ruled out, experimentally or conceptually, before more complex or abstract explanations are considered.
• Replication is the repeating experiment to determine the reliability and usefulness of findings
• Philosophic doubt is the continually questioning the truthfulness and validity of all scientific theory and knowledge.

Describe the goals and purpose of scientific investigation

Scientific investigations lead to a further understanding of scientific knowledge. These investigations are divided are divided into three groups of understanding: description, prediction, and control.

What do descriptive studies yield?

Descriptive studies yield a collection of facts about observed events that can be quantified, classified, and examined for possible relations with other known facts, or descriptive knowledge. This information leads to possible hypotheses and/or questions for additional knowledge.

What is a systematic covariation between two events? What can it be used for?

Systematic covariation between two events is when two events consistently covary with each other and create a relationship or a correlation. It can be used to predict the relative probability that one event will occur, based on the presence of the other event.

Describe the relationship between the independent and dependent variables within experimental studies.

A functional relation exists when a well-controlled experiment reveals that a specific change in one event (dependent variable) can reliably be produced by specific manipulations of another event (independent variable) and the change in the dependent variable was unlikely to be the result of other extraneous factors (confounding variables).

What is a confounding variable?

A confounding variable is other extraneous factors other than the independent and dependent variables in a functional relation. Extraneous factors can alter the result of an experiment if not controlled properly.

What are the common set of assumptions and attitudes that characterizes the behavior of scientists in all fields?

Determinism, empiricism, experimentation, replication, parsimony and philosophic doubt are the common set of assumptions that guide the work of all scientists regardless of the field.

What are the three major branches of behavior analysis?

The three major branches are behaviorism, experimental analysis of behavior and applied behavior analysis.

Briefly explain the early form of behaviorism espoused by Watson. How did this fundamentally differ from the form of behaviorism espoused by Skinner?

Watson espoused an early form of behaviorism known as S-R psychology. This S-R paradigm does not account for behaviors for which there were no apparent antecedent causes in the environment.
Skinner founded the EAB (natural science approach for discovering orderly and reliable relations between behavior and various types of environmental variables of which it is a function). Skinner discovered a three-term contingency known as S-R-S. This paradigm accounts for how the environment "selects" the great part of learned behavior.

Who founded the experimental analysis of behavior (EAB)?

B.F. Skinner

Describe the approach Skinner advocated regarding scientific investigation.

His discovery and experimental analysis of the effects of consequences on behavior was a huge contribution to the understanding of behavior. He discovered the basic principles of operant behavior.

What methodological features is the experimental analysis of behavior (EAB) characterized by?

• Rate of response is the most common dependent variable
• Repeated or continuous measurement is made of carefully defined response classes
• Within subject experimental comparisons are used instead of designs comparing the behavior of experimental and control groups
• Visual analysis of graphed data is preferred over statistical inference
• Description of functional relations is valued over formal theory testing

Briefly describe the philosophy for a science of behavior called radical behaviorism.

Radical behaviorism attempts to explain all behavior including private events such as thinking and feeling.

Briefly describe the philosophical position called Methodological behaviorism.

Methodological behaviorism is a philosophical position that considers behavioral events that cannot be publicly observed to be outside the realm of the science.

What are the assumptions of the approach to understanding behavior called Mentalism?

This is the approach to understanding behavior that assumes that a mental, or "inner" dimension exists that differs from a behavioral dimension and that the phenomena in this dimension either directly cause or at least mediate some forms of behavior. It relies on hypothetical constructs and explanatory fictions.

What was the first published report of the application of operant conditioning with a human subject?

The first published report of the application of operant conditioning with a human subject occurred in 1949 and was conducted by Fuller. The subject was a vegetative 18-year-old boy who laid on his back, unable to roll over. Fuller filled a syringe with a warm sugar-milk solution and injected it into the boys mouth whenever he moved his right arm. Within four sessions, the boy moved his arm to a vertical position at a rate of three times per minute.

What was the formal beginning of applied behavior analysis?

The formal beginning of ABA occurred in 1959 with the publication of Ayllon and Michael's paper titled "The Psychiatric Nurse as a Behavioral Engineer."

What event is considered to be the beginning of contemporary applied behavior analysis?

In 1968, the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis (JABA) began publication. It was the first journal in the US that dealt with applied problems that gave researchers using methodology from the experimental analysis of behavior an outlet for publishing their findings.

What are the seven defining dimensions to be considered applied behavior analysis stated by Baer, Wolf, and Risley (1968, 1987)?

Applied, behavioral, analytic, technological, conceptually systematic, effective, and generalized outcomes (generality) are the seven defining dimensions.

What are the characteristics of the approach that applied behavior analysis offers to society?

The characteristics of the approach that ABA offers to society are that it is accountable, public, doable, empowering and optimistic.

Behavior analysts work in one or more of four interrelated domains. Describe them.

Behaviorism is the first domain. A behavior analyst who pursues theoretical and conceptual issues is engaged in behaviorism, the philosophical domain of behavior analysis.
The experimental analysis of behavior is the basic research branch of the science. Basic research consists of experiments in laboratory settings
Applied behavior analysts conduct experiments aimed at discovering and clarifying functional relations between socially significant behavior and its controlling variables (applied research)
The delivery of behavior analytic professional services is the fourth domain. In professional practice, professionals design, implement and evaluate behavior change programs and provide behavior analytic services to consumers.

Why may applied behavior analysis offer humankind its best hope for solving many of its problems?

ABA discovers environmental variables that reliably influence socially significant behavior. Also it develops a technology that takes a practical advantage of those discoveries. It provides an empirical basis for not only understanding human behavior but also improving it. Also, research procured from applied behavior analysis can reveal studies investigating virtually the full range of socially significant human behavior.

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