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What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Updated: Dec 19, 2018

Applied Behavior Analysis is an approach to creating meaningful change in any behavior by using a scientific approach to examine behavior, apply procedures developed from learning principles, and continuously shape outcomes based on data.

written by: Angela Cathey, MA & Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA

Brett DiNovi & Associates


Many people misunderstand Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). “ABA” is often confused with Autism treatment or misunderstood as a bag of techniques and tricks. Behavior Analysis is an approach to understanding behavior based on well-established principles. Applied Behavior Analysis is an approach to creating meaningful change in any behavior by using a scientific approach to examine behavior, apply procedures developed from learning principles, and continuously shape outcomes based on data.

Though “ABA” is frequently, and effectively, used to reduce maladaptive behaviors and increase adaptive behaviors with the developmentally disabled, it has also been used to effectively change a dizzying array of behaviors across a wide variety of people and industries. ABA has been used to change the behaviors of leaders, to influence behavior in organizations, to train seeing-eye dogs, to reduce graffiti in public places, and many, many, other ways.

To be a good behavior analyst, one must approach new problems of human behavior as a “scientist-practitioner” would. A “scientist-practitioner’ is someone who understands the scientific underpinnings of the work they do, can apply the scientific method to understanding problems at hand, and then can use that knowledge to apply solutions based on science. This is a vital distinction between a good behavior analyst and someone who may know techniques or procedures commonly used by behavior analysts, but yet will struggle to apply them effectively.

A good behavior analyst works from principles but realizes that behaviors function differently for different individuals, in different contexts, and for the same individuals across time. How a behavior functions is determined by the individuals ever-evolving learning history, thus measurement and alteration of the environment as it influences the individual are the best way to influence behavior. A behavior analyst frequently measures behavior and the impact of various learning experiences with particular methods, like single-case study designs, but can use a wide variety of methodologies so long as they appropriately understand the underlying scientific principles and how to apply knowledge gained from the scientific method in the situation appropriately.

In the current video Brett DiNovi & Associates, Dr. LaRue, PhD, BCBA-D describes how a single-case study design and behavioral principles were used to understand how one child’s behavioral problems were related to his stimulant medication use. Though this data would need to be provided to the prescribing physician in order to change medication use safely and appropriately, Dr. LaRue describes how data about this particular child’s behavior was taken under a variety of conditions in order to determine the causes of his maladaptive stereotypical behaviors. The data collected were used to develop an appropriate, science-driven, intervention to reduce these behaviors.

Make sure to check out the full video, and to subscribe to Brett DiNovi’s YouTube channel and let him know what you would like to see in future videos.  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

bSci21Media, LLC, owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world, bSci21.org. bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog, bSciEntrepreneurial, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.


See more: https://bsci21.org/what-is-applied-behavior-analysis/

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