What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

December 19, 2016

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Applied behavior analysis is a discipline that aims to change behavior that is socially important by applying it systematically. The most important element behaviorists point out is that it is necessary to observe behavior not in social environment, but in natural environment. Thus, behavior analysis focuses on the observable relation between behavior and the environment.

Seven Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis:

1- Applied: Applied behavior analysis focuses on the social importance of behavior that is studied.  To exemplify, in a non-applied study, generally “eating behavior” may be observed and with the results, information on metabolic processes can be obtained. However, an applied study focuses on changing the eating behavior of an individual that overeat or undereat into a more “acceptable” behavior for both individual and their environment.

2- Behavioral: ABA is pragmatic; it asks how to make someone do something efficiently and to answer this question, the behavior itself should be assessed objectively.

3- Analytic: Behavior analysis is deemed successful to the extend that the person analyzing clearly understands and easily changes at will the conditions that control the said behavior.

4- Technological: Explanations and instructions of the study should be described in detail and clearly, so that another researcher can later on practice the study without error.

5- Conceptual System: Methods used should be based on behavioral principles.

6- Effective: If the results do not show significant enough effect that means the analysis has failed.

7- Generality: The methods used in the study should work in various environments, can be applied on many behaviors and should have long lasting effects.

In this analysis method that behavioral psychology suggests and applied depending on process of basic behavior principles, the primary issue is to profile the targeted behavior in detail. It is important that this behavior does not specify what the individual cannot do, it is what they can do while deciding on a “targeted behavior” that is functional for the individual and their environment, a prerequisite for more complicated behaviors, and will help the individual to participate in social life easier.

Besides from that, while deciding, the functional relationship between environment, also called “independent variable” and targeted behavior, also called “dependent variable, should be examined in detail.

Evaluating and recording the targeted behavior is the next stage after determining the targeted behavior, by interviewing the individual or important people surrounding them, using an assessment tools or directly observing. Targeted behavior assessment and recording procedure is completed by collecting photographs and video record, behavior data via control lists (or event records), ABC data collection, controlled environment data, duration and latency data and observing. Since it is not possible to see developments if the behavior is not analyzed carefully and showed in graphic, and the risk of forgetting unrecorded behavior is out there, an utmost attention must be paid at this point.

After determining targeted behavior, assessment and recording comes choosing the practice method to change targeted behavior.

  • Increasing Appropriate Behavior: Targeted behavior is aimed to be increased by using positive or negative reinforcement depending on the situation.
  • Decreasing Inappropriate Behavior: One of four different behavioral characteristics, known as frequency, duration, latency and intensity, may need to be eliminated. The best way to decrease inappropriate behavior is to first try taking the middle of the road. It would not be wise to use punishment method for a behavior that can be eliminated with reinforcements.
  • Preventing inappropriate behavior: Rather than making an effort on reducing the frequency of the behavior, it is more practical to prevent the behavior by changing antecedent stimulus.


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