Applied Behavior Analysis: Chapter 3 Review

October 22, 2019 No Comments

This week’s blog post is going to be an overview of Chapter 3 in the book Applied Behavior Analysis 3rd Edition from Cooper, Heron and Heward. This chapter is on Selecting and Defining Target Behaviors and is on pages 48-72. This covers on the Task List Sections: F and H.

This chapter begins by stating that, “Applied behavior analysis is concerned with producing predictable and replicable improvements in behavior” (page 48). Throughout the chapter, you will learn about the role of assessment in applied behavior analysis, three principal behaviorial assessment methods, how to assess and prioritize the social significance of portiential target behaviors, and how to apply criteria for defining target behaviors (page 48). For the overview I am going to go over each of these topics.

The Role of Assessment in Applied Behavior Analysis

In any systematic model of instruction, assessment is considered to be the first phase in a total of four phases. These phases are: assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation (page 48).  In applied behavior analysis a behavior assessment will be conduction first. The book defines a behavior assessment as a form of assessment that includes indirect and direct procedures such as interviews, checklists, and tests, which will help identify and define specific target behaviors. In addition to identifying behavior(s) to change, comprehensive behavioral assessment can uncover functional relations between variables: it provides context on the resources, assets, significant others, competing contingenciess, maintenance and  generalization factors and reinforcers (or punishers) that can be combined to improve the efficiency of an intervention (page 49). There are five phases of a behavior assessment and they are:

  1. Screening
  2. Defining and quantifying problems and establishing outcome criteria
  3. Pinpointing the target behavior(s)
  4. Monitoring progress
  5. Following up

(page 49)

This chapter is really just going to focus on the first three pahses.  Before starting any behavior assessment two questions should be asked.

  1. Who has the authority, permission, resources, and skills to complete an assessment and intervene with the client?
  2. What records, resources or data currently exist that shed light on what has been done in the past to identify, treat and evaluate the target behavior?

(page 49)

These questions questions are important to ask. For question one, becasue if a practioner does not have permission to assess then the behavior analysit role in the assessment and intervention will be restricted. For question two, because as a behavior analysis should review all preexisting data and information to rule out certain things. This will help determine if the behavior could be caused by a medical reason or maybe something was tried in the past that did not work (you do not want to repeat something that did not work in the past) or it did work and it could be replicated again to see if it could be successful again (page 49).

Three Principal Behaviorial Assessment Methods

There are some assessments that a behavior analysist will use to determine which behavior to target for change. 

  • Indirect Assessments
    • Interviews -This could be with the client, parents, teacher or coworkers) (page 50-51)
    • Checklists -This provides a description of specific behaviors and the conditions under which each behavior occurs ) (page 52)
    • Rating scales -These are used to attempt to be more precisely described and quantify the target behavior of interest by using an ordinal scale.) (page 52)
  • Direct Assessments
    • Standardized tests -The same questions and tasks are presented using specified procedures and the same scoring criteria are applied each time the test is administered.  (page 55)
    • Criterion-Referenced Assessment (CRC) -This measures a child’s skill performance across recognized and commonly accepted “developmental milestones” (page 55)
    • Curriculum-Based Assessment (CBA) -The data obtained is based on the learners performance on planned lessons during daily and weekly tasks. (page 55)
    • Direct Observations -The observation takes place in the client’s natural environment to determine the behaviors to assess and select as target behaviors. (page 55)
      • Anecdotal Observation or ABC Recording -A form of direct, continuous observation in which the observer records a descriptive, temporally sequenced account of all behavior(s) of interest and the antecedent conditions and consequences for those behaviors as those events occur in the client’s natural environment. (page 55)
  • Ecological Assessment – a lot of information is gathered about the person and the various enviroments in which that person lives and works. (page 58)

When assessing the client the assessment may have an effect on the behavior that is being assessed and this called reactivity. This can be obtrusive and means that the client is aware of the person that is there to observe them. 

How to Assess and Prioritize the Social Significance of Portiential Target Behaviors

When decideing which behaviors to target they should not be chosen because they will benefit others or just because they are of interest from a person that is in a position to change the behavior. When choosing the behaviors can be challenging, but answering this question will help:

  1. To what extent will the proposed behavior change improve the person’s life experience? (page 59)

As we continue to try to determine the behavior to target, you need to determine the meaningfullness of any behavior. This should be considered within the context of habilitation. Habilitation is defined as “the degree to which a person’s repertoire maximizes short and long term reinforcers for that individual and for others, and maximizes short and long term punisher. (page 59)

Answering these questions will help determine what behavior to target for behavior change:

  • Will this behavior produce reinforcement inthe client’s natural environment after treatment ends? (page 59)
    • To determine if the target behavior is functional for the client the relevance of behavior rule should be looked at. What this means is that the behavior that is targeted shuld be selected only when it can be determined that the behavor is likely to produce reinforcement in the person’s natural environment. (page 59)
  • Is this behavior a necessary prerequisite for a useful skill? (page 59)
  • Will this behavior increas the client’s access to environments where other important behaviors can be learned and used? (page 60)
  • Will changing this behavior predispose others to interact with the client in a more appropriate and supportive manner? (page 61)
  • Is this behavior a behavioral cusp of a pivital behavior?
    • A behavioral cusp occurs when a learner performs a new behavior that sets the occasion to access reinforcers that otherwise would not have been available. (page 61)
    • A pivotal behavior is a behavior that, once learned, produces corresponding modifications or covariations in other adaptive untrained behaviors. (page 62)
  • Is this an age-appropriate behavior? (page 62)
  • If the proposed target behavior is to be reduced or eliminated, what adaptive behavior will replace it? (page 63)
  • Does this behavior represent the actual problem or goal, or is it only indirectly related? (page 63)
  • Is it just talk or is a real behavior of interest? (page 63)
  • What if the goal of the behavior change program is not a behavior? (page 64)

After conducting a behavior assessment, you will review the information that you recieved from this and you may see multiple behaviors that need to be changed. In order to prioritize which behavior is more important and would be most beneficial to the client these questions should be addressed:

  1. Does this behavior pose any danger to the client or to others?
  2. How many opportunities will the person have to use this new behavior or how often does this problem behavior occur?
  3. How long-standing is the problem or skill deficit?
  4. Will changing this behavior produce higher rates of reinforcement for the person?
  5. What will be the relative importance of this target behavior to future skill development and independent functioning?
  6. Will changing this behavior reduce negative or unwanted attention from others?
  7. Will this new behavior produce reinforcement for significant others?
  8. How likely is success in changing this target behavior?
  9. How much will it cost to change this behavior?

(pages 64-65)

How to Apply Criteria for Defining Target Behaviors

Once it is determined which behavior is going to be targeted a defintion of the target behavior needs to be established. The definition must be defined in a clear, objective and concise manner. (page 67)

There are two ways to write target behavior defintions and they are functionally and toppgraphically.

A function-based defintion designates responses as members of the targeted response class soleyby their commom effect on the environment. There are three reasons why a function-based defintion should be used: 1) it encopasses all relevant forms of the response class, 2) the outcome or function of the behavior is the most important, and they are often simpler and more concise than topography-based definitions. (page 67)

A topography- based definition identifies instances  of the target behavior by the shape or form of the behavior. There are two reasons why topography-based definitions should be used: 1)It doesn’t have a direct, reliable or easy access to the functional outcome of the target behavior and 2) it cannot rely on the function of the behavior because each instance of the target behavior does not produce the relevant outcome in the natural environment or the outcome might be produced by other events. (page 68)

When definition a target behavior a good defintion will have an accurate, complete and concise description of the behavior. (page 69)  Here are three things to look for when writing a good definition: 1)is it objective, 2) is it clear, and 3) is it complete. (page 70)

To help ensure that the defintion is good you can test it by answering these 3 questions:

  1. Can you count the number of times that the behavior occurs in a certain amount of time?
  2. Will a stranger know exactly what to look for when you tell him or her the target behavior you are planning to modify?
  3. Can you break down the target behavior into smaller behavioral components, each of which is more specific and observable then the original target behavior? (page 70)

When working on changing a behavior behavior analysists attempt to increase, maintain and generalize adaptive, desirable behaviors and decrease the occurance of maladaptive, undesirable behavior. The change in behavior should be positive and meaningful and have social validity in order to make a difference in the person’s life. (page 70)

That is the end of the overview for chapter 3. This information was taken from The Applied Behavior Analysis Book  3rd Edition by Cooper, Heron, and Heward.


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