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Steps of the Scientific Method

1. Ask a Question
2. Do Background Research
3. Construct a Hypothesis
4. Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
5. Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
6. Communicate Your Results

3-term contingency

Basic unit of analysis in the analysis of operant behavior


Demonstrate a functional relation


Environmental conditions or stimulus changes that occur prior to the behavior of interest

Antecedent stimulus class

Stimuli that share a common relationship

Applied Behavioral Analysis

The science in which tactics derived from the principles of behavior are applied to improve socially significant behavior and experimentation is used to identify the variables responsible for the improvement of the behavior.

Automatic reinforcement

Reinforcement that occurs independent of the social mediation of others

Automaticity of reinforcement

Behavior is modified by it's consequences regardless of whether the individual is aware of reinforcement

Aversive stimulus

Stimulus conditions whose termination functions as reinforcement

Avoidance Contingency

A contingency in which a response prevents or postpones the presentation of a stimulus

Backup Reinforcer

Reinforcers that can be purchased with tokens

Backward chaining

A teaching procedure in which all behaviors are initially completed by the trainer except for the final behavior in the chain.


The portion of an organism's interaction with its environment

Behavior chain

Specific sequence of responses in which each response produces a stimulus change that functions as conditioned reinforcement for that response and an Sd for the next response.

Behavior chain with limited hold

A sequence of behaviors that must be performed correctly and within a specified time to be reinforced.

Behavioral contract

A document that specifies a contingent relationship between the completion of a specified behavior and access to a reinforcer.

Behavioral cusp

A behavior that has sudden and dramatic consequences that extend beyond the change because it exposes the person to new environments, reinforcers, contingencies, responses and stimulus control


Philosophy of the science of behavior

Concept Formulation

Stimulus control that requires both stimulus generalization within a class of stimuli and discrimination between classes of stimuli

Conditioned reinforcer

A stimulus change that functions as a reinforcer because of prior pairing with one or more other reinforcers

Conditioned stimulus

Stimulus component of a conditioned reflex


Stimulus change that follows a behavior of interest


Dependent and/or temporal relations between operant behaviors and its controlling variables

Contingent observation

Person is put in time out within setting so they can see ongoing activities but access to reinforcers is lost

Continuous measurement

Measurement conducted in a manner in which all instances of the response classes of interest are detected during observation period


Number of occurrences of a behavior


How much time has elapsed since it has consumed or contacted a reinforcer


The universe if a lawful orderly place, phenomena occur in relation to other events and not in an accidental fashion

Discriminated operant

An operant that occurs more frequently under some antecedent conditions than under others

Discriminated stimulus

Stimulus in the presence of which responses of some type have been reinforced and in the absence of which the same type of responses have not been reinforced.


Differential Reinforcement of Alternate behavior


Differential reinforcement of high rates


Differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior


Differential reinforcement of other behavior


The length of time a behavior occurs


The objective observation of the phenomena of interest

Escape contingency

A response in which a response terminates (escapes from) an ongoing stimulus

Establishing operant

Motivating operant that increases effectiveness of stimulus as a reinforcer

Event recording

Count of the number of times a behavior occurs

Exclusion time out

Person is removed physically from the environment for a specified period

Explanatory fiction

A fictitious variable that takes another name for the observed phenomena it claims to explain and contributes nothing


The discontinuing of a reinforcement for a previously reinforced behavior

Extinction burst

An increase in the frequency of responding when an extinction procedure initially implemented

Feature stimulus class

Stimuli that share common physical forms or structures or relative relationships. "made from wood".

Forward chaining

A teaching procedure that begins with the learning being prompted to perform the first behavior, trainer completes remaining steps.

Functional Relation

Establishing a consistent effect on the DV by manipulating the IV, unlikely to be a result of extraneous variables.

Dependent variable DV

The variable measured to determine if it changes as a result if manipulating the IV


A comparison of some measure of the DV under 2 or more different conditions in which one factor at a time (IV) differs from one condition to another.

General case analysis

Process for identifying and selecting examples that represent the full range of stimulus variations and response requirements in the generalization settings.


A generic term for a variety of behavioral processes and behavior change outcomes.


When a person's repertoire has been changed so that the short and long-term REINFORCERS are Maximized and short and long-term PUNISHERS are Minimized


A decrease in responsiveness to repeated presentation of a stimulus

History of reinforcement

All of a person's LEARNING experiences

Imitation behavior

A behavior controlled by physical movement as a model, has similarity with the model and immediately follows the model.

Independent variable

The variable that is systematically manipulated to see whether it produces reliable changes in the DV

Indescriminable contingency

A contingency in which the learner cannot discriminate whether the next response will produce reinforcement. (Reinforces some but not all occurrences of responses)


2 or more observes report the same observed values after measuring the same events

IRT Inter Response Time

Time elapsed between 2 successive responses

Level system

Type of token economy systems in which participants move up or down a hierarchy of levels contingent on meeting criteria with respect to the target behaviors.


Assumes that a mental or inner dimension exists that differs from behavior.

methodological behaviorism

A philosophic position that views behavioral events that cannot be publicly observed outside the realm of science.

Momentary time sampling

Behaviors are recorded at precisely specified intervals

Motivating Operant

An environmental variable that (a) alters (increases or decreases) the reinforcing effectiveness of some stimulus, object, or event and (b) alters (increases or decreases) the current frequency of all behavior that have been reinforced by that stimulus, object, or event".

Multiple examplar training

Used for setting/situation generalization. Using different stimuli within the same stimulus class to teach a concept.

Negative punishment

A response behavior is followed immediately by the removal of a stimulus (or a decrease in the intensity of the stimulus), that decreases the future frequency of similar responses under similar conditions.

Negative reinforcement

A contingency where the occurrence of a response produces the removal, termination, reduction, or postponement of a stimulus, which leads to an increase in the future occurrence of that response".

Non-exclusion time out

Person remains within setting but does not have access to reinforcers for a specified period

Observer drift

An unintended change in the way an observer uses a measurement system that results in error.


The history of the development of an individual organism during its lifetime.

Operant behavior

Any behavior whose future frequency is determined by its history of consequences.

Operant conditioning

The process by which operant learning occurs; consequences result in an increased or decreased frequency of behavior in the future.


Practice of ruling out simple, logical explanations before considering more complex explanations

Partial Interval Recording

Time sampling method in which observation period is divided into brief time intervals, observer records whether the behavior occurs at any time during the interval

Philosophic Doubt

The continuing questioning of what is regarded as truth.

The history of the natural evolution of a species.


Observer records whether each person in a group is engaged in the target behavior at specific points in time


A behavior is followed immediately by the presentation of a stimulus that decreases the future frequency of the behavior.

Positive punishment

Occurs when a behavior is followed immediately by the presentation of a stimulus that increases the future frequency of the behavior in similar conditions.

Positive reinforcement

A stimulus whose presentation or onset functions as reinforcement.

Positive reinforcer

A principle that states that making the opportunity to engage in a high-probability behavior contingent on the occurrence of a low-frequency behavior will function as reinforcement for the low-frequency behavior.

Premack principle

Taking elements of the generalization environment and adding them to the teaching environment.

Programming Common Stimuli

the degree which two or more observers report the same observed values after measuring the same events. It is the most common indicator of measurement quality in ABA.

Interobserver agreement (IOA)

Recording antecedent, behavior, consequence streams. Used in descriptive assessments.

ABC recording

responsive to stimulation


Direct and repeated observations of a client's behavior in the natural environment are the preferred method for determining which behaviors to target for change. The observer records a descriptive, temporally sequenced account of all behaviors of interest and the antecedent conditions and consequences for those behaviors as those events occur. This technique produces behavioral assessment data that can be used to identify potential target behaviors.

anecdotal recording

holds that only behaviors likely to produce reinforcement in the person's natural environment should be targeted for change

relevance of behavior rule

A checklist that provides descriptions of specific skills (usually in hierarchical order) and the conditions under which each skill should be observed. Some checklists are designed to assess one particular behavior or skill area. Others address multiple behavior or skill areas. Most use a Likert scale to rate responses.

behavior checklist

refers to the extent to which target behaviors are appropriate, intervention procedures are acceptable, and important and significant changes in target and collateral behaviors are produced

social validity

A form of evaluation that involves a full range of inquiry methods (observation, interview, testing, and the systematic manipulation of antecedent or consequence variables) to identify probably antecedent and consequent controlling variables. These are designed to discover resources, assets, significant others, competing contingencies, maintenance and generality factors, and possible reinforcer and/or punishers that surround the potential target behavior.

behavioral assessment

an isolated behavior selected as the object for a behavior change program

target behavior

a behavior that has sudden and dramatic consequences that extend well beyond the idiosyncratic change itself because it exposes the person to new environments, reinforcers, contingencies, responses, and stimulus controls

behavioral cusp

Defines instances of the targeted response class by the shape or form of the behavior.

topography-based definition

an assessment protocol that acknowledges complex interrelationships between environment and behavior - a method for obtaining data across multiple settings and persons

ecological assessment

designates responses as members of the targeted response class solely by their common effect on the environment

function-based definition

(adjustment) occurs when a person's repertoire has been changed such that short- and long-term reinforcers are maximized and short- and long-term punishers are minimized


a process for evaluating and correcting table structures to minimize data redundancies, thereby reducing the likelihood of data anomalies


a type of graph in which the lengths of bars are used to represent and compare data in categories

bar graph

a three step form of reasoning that begins with a true antecedent-consequent (if-A-then-B) statement and proceeds as follows: (1) If A is true, then B is true; (2) B is found to be true: (3) therefore, A is true. Although other factors could be responsible for the truthfulness of A, a sound experiment affirms several if-A-then-B possibilities, each one reducing the likelihood of factors other than the independent variable being responsible for the observed changes in behavior.

affirmation of the consequent

(statistics) a variable whose values are independent of changes in the values of other variables

independent variable

shows an increasing trend in the behavior overtime

ascending baseline

the characteristic of an experiment that allows one to draw accurate inferences about the causal relationship between an independent and dependent variable

internal validity

A systematic approach for interpreting the results of behavioral research and treatment programs that entails visual inspection of graphed data for variability, level, and trend within and between experimental conditions.

visual analysis

refers to the fact that every instance of behavior occurs during some amount of time

temporal extent

Refers to the fact that every instance of behavior occurs at a certain point in time with respect to other events (i.e., when in time behavior occurs can be measured); often measured in terms of response latency and inter-response time (IRT). One of the three dimensional quantities of behavior from which all behavioral measurements are derived .

temporal locus

(n.) the length of time that something continues or lasts


the elapsed time from the onset of a stimulus (e.g., task direction, cue) to the initiation of a response

response latency

Any operant whose response rate is controlled by a given opportunity to emit the response. Each discrete response occurs when an opportunity to respond exists. Synonymous technical terms: restricted operant, controlled operants; contrast with free operant

discrete trial

measurement procedure for obtaining a tally or count of the number of times a behavior occurs

event recording

A behavior that, when learned, produces corresponding modifications or covariation in other untrained behaviors; compare to BEHAVIORAL CUSP

pivotal behavior

A variation of momentary time sampling in which the observer records whether each person in a group is engaged in the target behavior at specific points in time; provides a measure of "group behavior"

planned activity check (PLACHECK)

A three phase experimental design consisting of an initial baseline phase (A) until steady state responding is obtained, an intervention phase in which the treatment condition (B) is implemented until the behavior has changed and steady state responding is obtained, and a return to baseline conditions (A) by withdrawing the independent variable to see whether responding "reverses" to levels observed in the initial baseline

A-B-A design

A-B-A design with addition of second intervention phase to see if initial treatment effects are replicated

A-B-A-B design

A three phase experimental design that begins with the treatment condition. After steady state responding has been obtained during the initial treatment phase (B), the treatment variable is withdrawn (A) to see whether responding changes in the absence of the independent variable. The treatment variable is then reintroduced (B) in an attempt to recapture the level of responding obtained during the first treatment phase.

B-A-B design

A special form of event recording; a measure of the number of responses or practice opportunities needed for a person to achieve a pre-established level of accuracy or proficiency


The principle that a less frequently performed behavior can be increased in frequency by reinforcing it with a more frequent behavior. It's a simple case of Grandma's Rule: if you do what I want, then I'll do what you want.

Premack Principle

A stimulus change that decreases the future frequency of behavior that immediately precedes it.


Occurs when stimulus change immediately follows a response and decreases the future frequency of that type of behavior in similar conditions.


Radical Behaviorism

A form of behaviorism that attempts to understand all human behavior including private and public events

Ratio Strain

Abrupt increases in ratio when moving from denser to thinner reinforcement schedules

Reactivity (aba)

Effects of an observation and measurement procedure on the behavior being measured if person is aware of observer's presence


A stimulus-response relation consisting of an antecedent stimulus and the respondent behavior it elicits.


Occurs when a stimulus change immediately follows a response and increases the future frequency of that type of behavior in similar conditions.


A stimulus change that increases the future frequency of behavior that immediately precedes it.

Reinforcer assessment

Concurrent schedule, multiple schedule, progressive ratio.


Consistency of measurement


All of the behaviors a person can do.


Repeating conditions to determine the reliability and increase internal validity, and to determine the generality of findings of previous experiments


A single instance or occurrence of a specific class or type of behavior

Response blocking

Therapist physically blocks the behavior

Response class

Behaviors all function the same way. A group of responses of varying topography, all of which produce the same effect on the environment".

Response cost

The contingent loss of reinforcers (i.e. fine) producing a decrease of the frequency of behavior

Response generalization

A learner has learned one or more responses ans can respond in slightly different ways that are functionally equivalent.

Response latency

Elapsed time between onset of a stimulus and initiation of a response

Response maintenance

Generalization across time after the intervention has been discontinued.


A decrease in the frequency of behavior presumed to be the result of continued contact with or consumption of a reinforcer that has followed the behavior.

When does aversion work best according to research:

1) the program is part of the individual's natural environment;

2) a biologically appropriate aversive stimulus is used, preferably in the same modality as the target behavior;

3) person is encouraged to take self-control of the situation;

4) the aversion conditioning is combined with positive reinforcement of adaptive responses

What conditions have systematic desensitization been shown to useful?


John B. Watson

Father of Modern Behaviorism, Little Albert white rat phobia experiment

variable ratio schedule (VR)

reinforcement occurs after a variable # of responses. E.g. VR-10--person receives reinforcement on AVERAGE 1 per every 10 behaviors, but on some trials will receive after 2 occurrences on others after 15. Gambling an example of VR schedule. relationship b/w behavior & reinforcement unpredictable--creates high & constant rate of responding. behavior becomes most resistant to extinction

Variable Interval Schedule (VI)

behavior is unpredictably reinforced

Transfer of Training

Formal study of certain subjects strengthens intellectual functions. Transfer is caused by similarity of concepts & techniques, not the development of intellectual or memory faculties.

Trace Conditioning

form of conditioning in which a longer delay separates the conditioned and unconditioned stimuli; neutral stimulus presented first, removed, then the unconditioned stimulus is presented.

token economy

a structured environment is established in which tokens (points, tickets, stickers, etc) are used as reinforcers for targeted behaviors. response cost is often also involved


secluding or ignoring an individual so that access to reinforcers is cut-off for a specified, short period of time. Based on punishment

Schedule thinning

Gradually increasing the response ratio or time interval


A systematic approach to understanding of natural phenomena


Using differential reinforcement to produce a series of gradually changing response classes; each response class is a successive approximation toward a terminal behavior.

Spontaneous Recovery

Extinction effect; when behavior suddenly begins to occur after frequency has decreased to reinforcement level or stopped entirely


An energy change that affects an organism through its receptor cells.

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