Behavior Analysis

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Continue reading To view the rest of this content please follow the download PDF link above. Over 10 million scientific documents at your fingertips. Other Sites Springer. Part of Springer Nature. Not logged in Unaffiliated Demand for professionals in applied behavior analysis is growing. School districts, mental health providers, and social service agencies are seeking to support a growing number of children with unique behavioral challenges. Master of Education in Applied Behavioral Analysis.

Common forms of aversive stimulation abated by engaging in specific behaviors include sinus pain, itching, hunger, etc. As previously stated function refers to the effect the behavior produces on the environment. The actual form of the behavior is referred to the topography. Different behaviors may serve the same function, thus describing one limitation of treating behaviors based on form alone.

For example, a child may scream, hit, and cry to obtain attention from their parent. What the behavior looks like often reveals little useful information about the conditions that account for it. However, identifying the conditions that account for a behavior, suggests what conditions need to be altered to change the behavior. Therefore, assessment of function of a behavior can yield useful information with respect to intervention strategies that are likely to be effective.

This method uses structured interviews, checklists, rating scales, or questionnaires to obtain information from persons who are familiar with the person exhibiting the behavior to identify possible conditions or events in the natural environment that correlate with the problem behavior.

They are referred to as "indirect" because they do not involve direct observation of the behavior, but rather they solicit information based on others' recollections of the behavior. This form of assessment typically yields the least reliable information about the function of behavior, but can provide insight as to possible functions of the behavior to be tested in the future, the form of the behaviors e. This type of assessment should be performed as the initial step of any functional behavior assessment to gather relevant information to complete more direct assessments.

Unlike the indirect methods of FBAs, descriptive functional behavior assessment employs direct observation of behavior. These observations occur in the environment in which the behavior naturally occurs e.

In This Section

The most common form of descriptive assessment involves recording the antecedents and consequences that naturally occur when the individual emits the behavior. This is referred to as ABC data collection, in which A represents the common antecedent, B represents the behavior of interest, and C represents the immediate consequences that occur following the behavior. ABC data collection is used to identify the naturally occurring consequences delivered in the environment in which the behavior occurs.

ABC data collection can be conducted by a wide array of individuals who have received appropriate training on how to record the data. Another form of descriptive FBA is called a scatterplot.

Applied Behavior Analysis

In this assessment, staff record the time and setting in which the behavior of interest occurs over a series of days. The data are plotted on a visual scale to indicate whether there are any patterns in the behavior for example, if the behavior occurs more frequently during math instruction than it does during lunchtime. Although this assessment does not indicate the consequences maintaining the behavior, it can be used to identify some of the antecedent conditions that typically precede the behavior of interest.

A functional analysis is the most direct form of functional behavior assessment, in which specific antecedents and consequences are systematically manipulated to test their separate effects on the behavior of interest. Each manipulation of the antecedent and consequence in a particular situation is referred to a condition. In a functional analysis, conditions are typically alternated between quite rapidly independent of responding to test the different functions of behavior.

Psychology MS in Applied Behavior Analysis (MSABA)

When data paths are elevated above the control condition described below it can be said that there is a functional relation between that condition and the behavior of interest. Complexity, time restraints, and setting restraints, are a few limitations to this particular method. When deciding to use this method, there is a chance of high-risk behavior and the possibility of low-rate behaviors.

Below, common examples of experimental conditions are described. A standard functional analysis normally has four conditions three test conditions and one control.

Program Options

In this condition, the experimenter gives the individual moderately preferred items and instructs them to go play. After that initial instruction, the experimenter pretends to act busy and ignores all bids for attention from the individual. If the individual engages in the behavior of interest, the experimenter provides the individual with attention commonly in the form of a reprimand. Behaviors that occur more frequently in this condition can be said to be attention maintained.

What is ABA?

In this condition, the experimenter instructs the individual that it is time to work. After the initial instruction, the experimenter delivers a series of demands that the individual is typically required to complete e. If the individual engages in the behavior of interest, the demand is removed and the child is allowed to take a break.

Applied Behavior Analysis Programs

Behaviors that occur more frequently in this condition can be said to be escape maintained. In this condition, the child is left alone with a variety of items to engage with. If the child engages in the behavior of interest, no programmed consequences are delivered. Behaviors that occur more frequently in this condition can be said to be automatically maintained. In this condition, the child is allowed to engage with a variety of items during the session.

No demands are placed on the child throughout the duration of the session.

Applied behavior analysis - Wikipedia

The experimenter provides attention to the individual throughout the session on any behavior that is not the target behavior. If the target behavior occurs, the experimenter removes attention until the behavior has subsided. This session is meant to act as a control condition, meaning that the environment is enriched for the purpose of the behavior not occurring.

Said another way, by meeting environmental needs for all possible functions, the individual is not likely to engage in the behavior of interest. This condition is used as a comparison to the other conditions. Any condition that is elevated to a large degree form the control condition, shows a higher degree experimental control indicating the functional relationship between the specific environmental conditions and the behavior of interest.

Functional behavior assessments are rarely limited to only one of the methods described above. The most common, and most preferred, method for identifying the function of behavior can be seen as a four-part processes. Task analysis is a process in which a task is analyzed into its component parts so that those parts can be taught through the use of chaining: forward chaining , backward chaining and total task presentation. Task analysis has been used in organizational behavior management, a behavior analytic approach to changing the behaviors of members of an organization e. The skill to be learned is broken down into small units for easy learning.

For example, a person learning to brush teeth independently may start with learning to unscrew the toothpaste cap.

Once they have learned this, the next step may be squeezing the tube, etc. For problem behavior, chains can also be analyzed and the chain can be disrupted to prevent the problem behavior. A prompt is a cue that is used to encourage a desired response from an individual. Types of prompts Prompters might use any or all of the following to suggest the desired response:. This is not an exhaustive list of prompts; the nature, number, and order of prompts are chosen to be the most effective for a particular individual.

The overall goal is for an individual to eventually not need prompts.


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As an individual gains mastery of a skill at a particular prompt level, the prompt is faded to a less intrusive prompt. This ensures that the individual does not become overly dependent on a particular prompt when learning a new behavior or skill. Thinning is often confused with fading. Fading refers to a prompt being removed, where thinning refers to an increase in the time or number of responses required between reinforcements.


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Generalization is the expansion of a student's performance ability beyond the initial conditions set for acquisition of a skill. For example, once a skill is learned in one setting, with a particular instructor, and with specific materials, the skill is taught in more general settings with more variation from the initial acquisition phase.

For example, if a student has successfully mastered learning colors at the table, the teacher may take the student around the house or school and generalize the skill in these more natural environments with other materials. Behavior analysts have spent considerable amount of time studying factors that lead to generalization. Shaping involves gradually modifying the existing behavior into the desired behavior. If the student engages with a dog by hitting it, then they could have their behavior shaped by reinforcing interactions in which they touch the dog more gently.

Over many interactions, successful shaping would replace the hitting behavior with patting or other gentler behavior. Shaping is based on a behavior analyst's thorough knowledge of operant conditioning principles and extinction. Recent efforts to teach shaping have used simulated computer tasks. One teaching technique found to be effective with some students, particularly children, is the use of video modeling the use of taped sequences as exemplars of behavior.

It can be used by therapists to assist in the acquisition of both verbal and motor responses, in some cases for long chains of behavior. Critical to behavior analytic interventions is the concept of a systematic behavioral case formulation with a functional behavioral assessment or analysis at the core. This formulation should include a thorough functional assessment, a skills assessment, a sequential analysis behavior chain analysis , an ecological assessment, a look at existing evidenced-based behavioral models for the problem behavior such as Fordyce's model of chronic pain [91] and then a treatment plan based on how environmental factors influence behavior.

Some argue that behavior analytic case formulation can be improved with an assessment of rules and rule-governed behavior. ABA-based techniques are often used to teach adaptive behaviors [96] or to diminish behaviors associated with autism , so much that ABA itself is often mistakenly considered to be synonymous with therapy for autism. The most influential and widely cited review of the literature regarding efficacy of treatments for autism is the National Research Council's book Educating Children with Autism which concluded that ABA was the best research supported and most effective treatment for the main characteristics of autism.