Center for Behavior Analysis

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Well what it is not is CSI or Criminal Minds where they give a picture that this is all about criminal profiling. In actuality Applied Behavior Analysis is an evidence-based method of examining and changing what people (and other living creatures) say and do. Behavior analysis is the experimental investigation of variables that influence the behavior of any living organism. Behavior analysts identify and decide to change a problem or area of functioning, prepare an environment to support constructive change, specify and refine goals and objectives, identify current reinforcers of behavior, collect useful data, and implement and monitor an intervention plan based on antecendents and consequences of behavior.

Please view a power point presentation created by the American Psychological Association's Division of Behavior Analysis

Why is the field called behavior analysis?

The term "behavior analysis" was coined by B. F. Skinner, generally considered the founder of behavior analysis. The term was meant to distinguish the field as one that focuses on behavior as a subject in its own right, rather than as an index or manifestation of something happening at some other level (in the mind, brain, psyche, etc.). Skinner believed that thinking and feeling were covert forms of behavior. “Thoughts and feelings do not explain behavior,” he wrote, “they are more behavior to be explained.” Skinner thought that the concept of mind belonged to the philosophers, and that science should focus on behavior. These ideas form the core of behavior analysis today.

If thoughts and feelings do not explain behavior, what does?

Behavior analysts make the assumption that all behavior is the product of two kinds of variables: biological and environmental.

Biological variables include anatomical structures (birds can fly, people can’t), normal physiological processes (digestion, respiration, neurological changes resulting from experience), and anomalies in anatomy and physiology due to injury or disease. Genes influence behavior indirectly through their effects on anatomy and physiology.

Environmental variables include any changes in the environment (a rise in temperature, the availability of food, comments by other people, cultural customs). Behavior analysts are primarily interested in the role of environment in behavior change.

Why Behavior Analysis for the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders?

ABA's effectiveness has been widely studied, here are a few excerpts from some key health organizations:
From National Institute of Mental Health, a section of the National Institute of Health:
"Among the many methods available for treatment and education of people with autism, applied behavior analysis (ABA) has become widely accepted as an effective treatment."

From the U.S. Surgeon General:
Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General states,"Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior"

From the American Academy of Pediatrics:
"The effectiveness of ABA-based intervention in ASDs has been well documented through 5 decades of research by using single-subject methodology"... "Children who receive early intensive behavioral treatment have been shown to make substantial, sustained gains in IQ, language, academic performance, and adaptive behavior as well as some measures of social behavior, and their outcomes have been significantly better than those of children in control groups."

In addition to using sound principles, the National Research Council, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education says in their report "Educating Children with Autism" that "entry into intervention programs as soon as an autism spectrum diagnosis is seriously considered" is important.

 

Page revised 11/30/12
Center for Behavior Analysis•abacenter@rowan.edu•856-256-5470