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Applied Behavior Analysis

The sciencetific approach to improving socially significant behavior, in which procedures derived from the principles of behavior are systematically applied to improve behavior, and to demonstrate experimentally that the procedures employed were responsible for the improvement in behavior.


The philosophy of a science of behavior. Conceptual basis of behavior principles as it relates across many spectrums


The assumption upon which science is predicted; presumes that the universe is a lawful and orderly place in which phenomena occur in relation to other events and not in a willy-nilly, accidental fashion; Events are related in systematic ways.


The objective observation of the phenomena of interest; What all scientific knowledge is built on. Objective is the key to gaining a better understanding of what is being studied. Results of these methods are objective in that they are open to anyone's observation and do not depend on the subjective belief of the individual scientists."


A carefully controlled comparison of some measure of the phenomenon of interest (DV) under two or more different conditions in which only one factor at a time (IV) differs from one condition to another.

experimental analysis of behavior (EAB)

basic research - lab studies; Goal of discovering & clarifying fundamental principles of behavior

explanatory fiction

A fictitious variable that often is simply another name for the observed behavior that contributes nothing to an understanding for the variables responsible for developing (or maintaining) the behavior; circular view of the cause & effect

functional relation

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

hypothetical construct

A presumed but unobserved process or entity. (eg Freud's id, ego, & superego)


An approach to explaining behavior that assumes that a mental, or "inner," dimension exists that differs from a behavioral dimension and that phenomena in this dimension either directly cause or at least mediate some forms of behavior. Relies on the premise of explanatory fiction.

methodological behaviorism

A philosophical position that views behavioral events that cannot be publicly observed as outside the realm of science. Acknowledge the existence of mental events but do not consider them in the analysis of behavior. .Rejects all events that are not operationally defined by objective assessment. Use scientific manipulations to search for functional relationships between events; Restrictive view since it ignores major areas of importance.


The practice of ruling out simple, logical explanations, experimentally or conceptually, before considering more complex or abstract explanations.

philosophic doubt

An attitude that the truthfulness and validity of all scientific theory and knowledge should be continually questioned.

radical behaviorism

Skinner's - A thoroughgoing form of behaviorism that attempts to understand all human behavior, including private events such as thoughts and feelings. Behavior that takes place within the skin is distinguished from other ("public") behavior only by its inaccessibility.


The repetition of experiments to determine the reliability and usefulness of findings; Includes the repetition of independent variable conditions within experiments; Method by which mistakes are discovered


A systematic approach to the understanding of natural phenomena (as evidence by description, prediction, and control) that relies on determinism as its fundamental assumption, empiricism as its primary rule, experimentation as its basic strategy, replication as a requirement for believability, parsimony as a value, and philosophic doubt as its guiding conscience.

Dimensions of ABA

Applied, Behavioral, Analytic, Technological, Conceptually Systematic, Effective & Generality


Select behaviors to change that are socially significant & enhance/improve the person's life. Ex. Social skills, language, academics, socialization, daily living, self care, recreation & leisure skills


in need of improvement; must be measureable, precise & reliable measurement is critical to applied research; when it is observed to change, must ask whose has changed/ must assess reliability of the measures


Demonstrate a functional relation between the manipulated variables and the target behavior; The experimenter can control the occurrence of the behavior; ABA demonstrates control to the greatest extent possible


All operant procedures are identified & described in detail & clarity so they can be replicated (explicit); Procedures are not valuable unless they can be replicated; Check for soundness;

conceptually systematic

Procedures for changing behavior need to be related to the basic principles; needed so that there is an integrated discipline


the behavior under study must improve to clinical or social significance


last over time; appear in environment where it was not taught; spreads to other behaviors not directly assessed; continues after treatment is withdrawn

Additional characteristics of ABA

accountable, public, doable, empowering, & optimistic


commitment to being effective; detect successes and failures through direct and continuous measurement and make changes based on data


explicit and straight forward; no hidden treatment and no magic; of value across a very broad spectrum of fields


not prohibitively complicated or arduous; parents, teachers, coaches, supervisors, & participants can implement procedures themselves


provides real tools for changing behavior; data raises confidence


possibilities for each individual; environmental view; direct & continuous measures show small changes; more often there are positive outcomes, the more optimistic the practitioner


An environmental condition or stimulus change existing or occurring prior to a behavior of interest


The highest level of science; Functional relations can be derived; Specific change in one event (DV) can reliably be produced by specific manipulations of another event (IV), and the change in the DV was unlikely to be the result of other extraneous factors (confounding variables)


Collection of facts about observed events that can be quantified, classified, & examined for possible relations with other know facts. Often suggests hypotheses or questions for additional research


Basic strategy in most sciences. Mnipulation of the independent variable to produce a change in the dependent variable

Types of investigations

description, prediction, & control


Relative probability that when one event occurs, another event will or will not occur; Based on repeated observation revealing relationships between various events; Demonstrates correlation between events; No causal relationships can be interpreted; a statement of anticipated outcome of a presently unknown or future measurement

Attitudes of science

determinism, empiricism, experimentation, replication, parsimony& philosophic doubt

Major branches of Behavioral Analysis

behaviorism, Experimental Analysis of Behavior (EAB) & Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

respondent behavior

Reflexive behavior; Involuntary responses; Occur whenever eliciting stimulus is present; are elicited ("brought out") by stimuli that immediately precede them; Antecedent stimulus & response it elicits form a functional unit called a reflex (Pavlov's dogs)

operant behavior

Behavior is shaped through the consequences that immediately follow it; Three term contingency S-R-S model (A-B-C); Behaviors that are influenced by stimulus changes that have followed the behavior in the past.


Rejects all events that are not operationally defined by objective assessment; Restrict activities to descriptions of behavior (much of current school psych); Make no scientific manipulations; do not address causal questions (i.e., school psych)

Key components of ABA

- Guided by attitudes of methods of scientific inquiry - All behavior change procedures are described & implemented in a systematic, technological manner - Only procedures conceptually derived from the basic principles of behavior are circumscribed by the field - Focus is socially significant behavior - Seeks to make meaningful improvement in important behavior - Seeks to produce an analysis of the factors responsible for improvement.

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