Applied Behavior Analysis: Introduction

Behavior analysis is a discipline that studies the interaction between behavior and environment in order to determine the variables that influence behavior. Its roots are found in the writings of B. F. Skinner, although its foundation is ever-changing as data accumulates (e.g., see the Special Issue of the American Psychologist, 1992, Volume 47(11), Reflections on B. F. Skinner and Society). Persons involved in behavior analysis are likely to be affiliated with the Association for Behavior Analysis International, an organization that has over 2700 members worldwide, provides a forum for twenty-one special interest groups, maintains a mutually beneficial relationship with thirty-six affiliated chapters, and organizes an annual convention.

Behavior analysts who conduct basic research, in a sub-field known as the experimental analysis of behavior, seek to clarify the underlining principles that govern behavior, usually under tightly controlled laboratory conditions. A major journal that publishes their findings is the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior.

Another sub-field within behavior analysis is called applied behavior analysis, which has been defined as "process of applying sometimes tentative principles of behavior to the improvement of specific behaviors, and simultaneously evaluating whether or not any changes noted are indeed attributable to the process of application - and if so, to what parts of that process" (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968, p. 91). Practitioners include not only psychologists, but also psychiatrists, physicians, sociologists, social workers, teachers, administrators, hospital staff, and parents. When the application involves "self-control," the client may even be the practitioner him or herself. Not surprisingly, researchers in applied behavior analysts often publish their findings in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.

The purpose of this tutorial is to teach you seven major tactic labels to guide the conduct of applied behavior analysts, as outlined by Baer et al. (1968) and further refined by Baer, Wolf, & Risely (1987). These labels include:

  1. Applied
  2. Behavioral
  3. Analytic
  4. Technological
  5. Conceptual
  6. Effective
  7. Generality

You can access a PDF version of the Baer et al. (1968) paper.