For those who are interested in becoming a BCBA or just interested in applied behavior analysis then these next few blogs will be for you. As I prepare to sit for the BCBA exam in November, I am going to be writing a blog post for each of the chapters of the book, Applied Behavior Analysis, 3rd edition. I will begin with chapter 1, “Definition and Characteristics of Applied Behavior Analysis.” (All information in this post is taken from chapter 1 pages 2-24)
The Basic Characteristics of Science
To understand applied behavior analysis you need to understand that it is a science. The science is to understand and improve human behavior. According the chapter 1, “science is a systematic approach for seeking and organizing knowledge about the natural world.” But what is the purpose of science. Science is used as a way to achieve an understanding of the event of which is being studied. So in the field of ABA, scientific event that is being studied is socially important behavior change. So when you look further into the term understanding, you will discover there are three different levels. These levels are description, prediction, and control.
- Description is the way we observe events in order to achieve an understanding of the event and be able to describe it. These observed events can be quantified, classified or examined for possible relations with other known facts. The information that was obtained during the observation oftens gives a hypothesis about the event or it creates more questions for further research. (Page 3)
- Prediction is another level of scientific understanding that will occur when observations are repeated. When the observations are repeated to determine if two or more events either occur together or do they correlate. Also remember that just because two events consistently occur together doesn’t mean that one causes the other. (Page 3-4)
- Control is the ability to predict the results of science in a way that is confident, valuable, and useful. Functional relations are what is primarily used in applied research in behavior analysis. Since there is control in scientific research then functional relations can exist. According to Johnston and Pennypacker (1980) functional relation is described as “the ultimate product of a natural of scientific investigation of the relation between behavior and it determining variables.” This is also the highest level of scientific understanding. (Page 4)
I love this quote by B.F. Skinner, “Science is first of all a set of attitudes.” B.F. Skinner was basically saying that science does not fall under science equipment, but in the behaviors of scientists. Scientists have assumptions about the events that are being investigated through science. These are known as the 6 attitudes of science and they are:
- Philosophic Doubt
- Determination is the assumption that the universe is a lawful and orderly place in which all phenomena occur, as the result of other events. This basically means that there is a reason why the events are happening and their are other events that are related to the one event that is happening (Science is based on a cause and effect relation). (Page 4)
- Empiricism is the practice of objective observation and measurement of the phenomena of interest. This means that the results of methods done empirically are open to anyone’s observations and are not dependent on the scientists’ beliefs ( Science is based on the facts, observations and experiments). (Page 5)
- Experimentation is the controlled comparison of the independent variable and the dependent variable. This means that the different variables are being manipulated and measurement and data are being collected based on this manipulation.Also from these experimental studies you can attain a functional analysis. The functional analysis demonstrates the relations between both the environmental and behavior variables. (Page 5)
- Replication is the repeating of experiments. With replication the experiment you can determine the reliability and value of the experiment. By replicating the experiment are also checking for errors within the experiment. (Page 6)
- Parsimony is looking at the simplest and most logical explanation by ruling them out either experimentally or conceptually, before going with a more complex or abstract explanations. (Page 6)
- Philosophic doubt is questioning the truthfulness of what is regarded as a fact. It means being skeptical about the scientific findings and replace the skepticism with new findings. (Page 6)
According to Cooper, Heron and Heward, they define science as a “systematic approach to understanding 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, parisony as its concervative value and philosophic doubt as its guiding conscience.” (Page 7)
History of Behavior Analysis
Philosophy, basic research and applied research are the three domains of behavior analysis. Cooper, Heron and Heward describes these domains as: behaviorism is the philosophy of the science of behavior, basic research is the province of the experimental analysis of behavior and developing a technology for improving behavior is a concern of applied behavior analysis. (Page 7)
John B. Watson is recognized as taking psychology into a new direction and defining it as the science of behavior. This is when he argued that psychology was not a state of mind, but an observable behavior. He developed an early form of behaviorism. This was known as the stimulus-response (S-R). So this is the relationship between the environmental stimuli (S) and the responses (R) they evoke. This is also known as the Watsonian behaviorism. (Page 7)
Looking at behavior there are two types of behavior respondent and operant behavior. In 1927 Ivan Pavlov said that respondent behavior is reflective and elicited( or brought out) by an antecedent stimuli. They are also described as functional unit called a reflux. (Page 10)
Skinner attempted to explain the process behind voluntary behavior, he decided to take a different track. He decided not to create hypothetical constructs, which is a presumed unobserved process, but he looked at the environment and to determine what caused the behavior that did not have antecedent for the cause. That is when he came up with the three-term contingency. The three-term contingency is the formula S-R-S (Stimulus-Response-Stimulus). With this contingency it did not replace S-R, but it gave us a new model. (Page 10)
This brings us to the second type of behavior, which is called the operant behavior and this is what Skinner called it. So operant behaviors are not elicited by antecedent stimuli, but are influenced by changes or through the consequences that immediately follows it. Operant behavior was considered a new science which Skinner named the experimental analysis of behavior. (Page 10-11)
One of the most common model and approach to the study of behavior , is known as mentalism. Moore (2003) defined metalism as an approach to the student of behavior which assumes that a mental or “inner” dimension exists that is different from a behavioral dimension. When looking at mentalism it relies on hypothetical constructs and explanatory fictions. Heron, Tincani, Peterson and Miller describe explanatory fictions as a fictitious variable that often is simply another name for the observed behavior that contributes nothing to an understanding of the variables responsible for developing (or maintaining) the behavior. It has a circular view of the cause and effect. (Page 12)
7 Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis
The big part of chapter 1 that I am going to end on is the Characteristics of Applied Behavior Analysis. Baer, Wolf and Risley wrote the paper called, “Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis,” which was published in 1968 in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. There were seven dimensions which are still relevant today. Those dimensions are applied, behavioral, analytic, technological, conceptually systematic, effective, and generality.
- Applied investigates socially significant behaviors with immediate importance to subjects.
- Behavioral entails precise measurement of the actual behavior in need of improvement and documents that it was the subjects behavior that changed.
- Analytic demonstrates experimental control over the occurrence and non occurrence of the behavior.
- Technological is the written description of all procedures used in the study is sufficiently complete and detailed to enable others to replicate it.
- Conceptually Systematic is the behavior change interventions are derived from and are the basic principles of behavior.
- Effective improves behavior sufficiently to produce practical results for the participant.
- Generality produces behavior changes that last over time, appears in other environments and with other behaviors.
This is a short overview of chapter 1. All of the information was taken from chapter 1 of the Applied Behavior Analysis 3rd Edition Book.