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A Glossary of Terms Defining the Science of Behavior

Updated on January 10, 2019

Applied behavior analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior.

— Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968 in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis

"Methodological behaviorism is much more characteristic of contemporary behavior modifiers than is radical behaviorism." — From Mahoney, Kazdin, & Lesswing, "Behavior modification: Delusion or deliverance?", as cited in Annual Review of Behavior Therapy: Theory and Practice by Franks & Wilson, pp. 14, 1974.

Beyond behavior modification: A return to behavior analysis... Before applied behavior analysts had a methodology to identify the conditions maintaining aberrant behavior, the reinforcement histories that gave rise to current behavior-environment interactions were largely ignored.

— Mace, 1994 in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis

Instead, existing repertoires were established and new ones altered by superimposing reinforcement contingencies, punishment contingencies, or both, onto the current environmental contingencies or unknown processes that maintained aberrant behavior. The approach was generically known as behavior modification.

— Mace, 1994 in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis

Behavior modification was an early approach that emphasized how powerful reinforcement and punishment contingencies can change behavior regardless of its causes. Applied behavior analysis was an approach that emphasized the analysis of functional relations between behavior and its causes (Mace, 1994).

— Pelios, Morren, Tesch, and Axelrod, 1999 in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis

We briefly summarize...the foundation for the field of behavior modification.... Modification of psychotic and various aggressive, disruptive and otherwise undesirable behaviors was accomplished through the use of [presumed] differential reinforcement procedures used with and without extinction.

— Mace & Critchfield, 2010 in the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

...the basic and applied sectors of behavior analysis were disconnected in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Mace, 1994)... ABA changed abruptly in the mid-1980s... Known collectively as functional analysis methodologies, these procedures shifted the focus of ABA research to determining the factors that maintain undesirable behavior and using this information to promote replacement behaviors that serve the same function (e.g., see Pelios, Morren, Tesch, & Axelrod, 1999)...

— Mace & Critchfield, 2010 in the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

ABA is the application of basic learning principles, including Operant and Respondent Conditioning, to change socially significant behavior.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the application of basic behavioral learning principles, including Respondent and Operant Conditioning, to bring about measurable changes in behavior that are socially significant, whether to: reduce substance abuse, as well as anxiety, depression, phobias, or tics; teach children with pediatric feeding disorders how to eat properly; promote diet and exercise; organize workers in the labor force; preclude school violence; or even train canines. In addition, ABA is widely used and empirically substantiated to be highly effective when utilized as the basis for intensive, early interventions for children diagnosed with autism.

For educators, social workers, psychologists, parents, mental health professionals, and college students entering into similar fields, it is crucial to understand the true science of Behavior Analysis. Currently, many often equate ABA with Discrete Trial Training (DTT). DTT is a technique based on Operant Conditioning principles when implementing early intervention for children with autism.

The student learning about ABA should realize that most college textbooks write various definition and category errors on the subject, the most common of which are the following: Radical Behaviorism only considers overt activity to be behavior; Respondent—not Operant—Conditioning involves stimulus control; and ABA and Behavior Modification are exact synonyms (some college textbooks even state that ABA is just one form of Behavior Modification used as an early intervention for children with autism).

In fact, Behavior Modification is an expired term that was a structural approach mainly concerned with changing overt behavior, either through the use of presumed antecedents and consequences, or "Flooding" Desensitization—which today is considered to be a rather linear approach.

ABA, on the other hand, is a functional approach that seeks to identify the function of all behavior—including cognition and emotions—by throughly examining previous behavioral responses to antecedent stimuli and how historical consequential contingencies comes to regulate current (antecedent) stimulus control, as well as allowing the client to select the reinforcer that he or she finds motivating, or gradually exposing him or her to a feared, aversive stimulus through Systematic Desensitization—also called Graduated Exposure Therapy, or GET. That way, functionally equivalent replacement behaviors can be established.

Despite the evidence, in recent years, some psychologists conducted studies claiming to have used 'behavior modification' in their experiment. However, it is an outdated label and these researchers are still unclear about the true science of Behavior Analysis.

This can be used as a cutting-edge, valid resource for students and professionals alike. It should also be noted that applications of ABA do go beyond this glossary; for example, AIDS prevention, biofeedback, overcoming gambling addictions, providing effective classroom instruction, etc.

Behavior Analysis: The term, initially coined by B.F. Skinner, is used to describe the scientific approach to learning. Also called the science of behavior, it involves the use of stimulus control and differential reinforcement contingencies, stimulus-response procedures to promote various reflexes, or modeling through observational learning. Initially, the behavior analyst will thoroughly assess the events that occurred in the environment to explain the function of behavior—whether such behavior is internal, verbal, and/or overt. That way, we know which current environmental events to manipulate so changes are made in the organism's behavior. It has three subcategories: Radical Behaviorism (or the philosophy of the science), Experimental Analysis of Behavior (EAB), and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Radical Behaviorism: Also called Conceptual Analysis of Behavior (CAB). The philosophy and conceptual foundation of Behavior Analysis. Radical Behaviorism is based on the theory that all behavior, including thoughts and feelings, fulfills a function in the environment. This is not to imply that thoughts and feelings simply lead to overt behavior. Instead, thoughts and feelings are "more behavior to be explained" (Pierce & Cheney, 2013, p. 21). While thoughts are explained in the animal or person's spoken language, feelings are identified through their overt motor actions.

Experimental Analysis of Behavior (EAB): Refers to investigating "the basic laws of behavior"—or principles of behavior that were derived from basic experimental research in behavior analysis. These lawful principles consist of the techniques and procedures used in Respondent and Operant Conditioning.

Functional Analysis (FA): Considered the core lawful principle derived from the experimental analysis of behavior, it is the examination of the variables that underlie the function of the target behavior. A thorough FA will precisely identify either of the following four functions of behavior: escape and avoidance, sensory stimulation, attention seeking, or tangible access to an item or activity. See Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA).

Respondent Conditioning: Frequently credited to Ivan Pavlov. In Respondent Conditioning, a neutral (antecedent) stimulus associates with an unconditioned stimulus with the result that the neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus (CS). Before conditioning, the target behavior is not elicited when the neutral stimulus is present. After conditioning, however, it is elicited as a conditional response—or reflex in the presence of the conditioned stimulus. Sometimes referred to as Classical Conditioning; see Stimulus-Response (S-R).

Operant Conditioning: Skinner explored how behavior is controlled by the contingencies in the environment, particularly the antecedent stimuli that precede and the consequences following the behavior. While the discriminative (antecedent) stimulus (Sd) emits the given behavior, consequences that are motivating will likely increase the desired behavior, skill, or task if the living organism (whether it be a person or animal) chooses from an array of reinforcers. The behavior will decrease, however, if the consequence is a punisher, and the behavior will likely no longer occur if extinction is used. See Three-Term Operant Contingency (A-B-C).

Modeling: Also referred to as Observational Learning or Social Learning Theory. A scientific theory to learning which emphasizes that behavior is to be altered by observing someone else's actions and imitating what they do, usually accredited to Albert Bandura. When employed in a structured Early Behavioral Intervention (EBI) program, the therapist might model puckering the lips together while saying "muh" before the child imitates that action on their lips.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): Also referred to as Behavioral Engineering. The application of Behavior Analysis and basic learning principles to bring about measurable changes in behavior that are socially significant, whether to train canines, organize workers in the labor force, reduce phobias, or deliver intensive teaching interventions to children with autism, just to name a few. The goal of ABA is to understand the function of the underlying behavior. Moreover, in a given situation where behaviors are too difficult to manage, new, replacement behaviors are generally taught.

Behavior Modification: An expired term that was a structural approach mainly concerned with changing overt behavior, either through the use of presumed antecedents and consequences, or "Flooding" Desensitization—which today is considered to be a rather linear approach. It was mainly practiced during the 1970s and '80s, and is currently outdated. To put simply, the procedure lacked not only a Functional Analysis, but also Skinner's Radical Behaviorism, or his Conceptual Analysis of Behavior. See Methodological Behaviorism.

Methodological Behaviorism: The term is frequently used to describe John B. Watson's form of behaviorism during the early 1900s. Also, this "traditional" form of behaviorism most closely resembled the core philosophy of Behavior Modification. That is, like Behavior Modification, Methodological Behaviorism only viewed overt motor activity as behavior.

Stimulus-Response (S-R): Refers to the hallmark of Respondent Conditioning; Stimulus-Response (S-R) procedures outline how pairing environmental stimuli elicit a response (or reflex).

Three-Term Operant Contingency (A-B-C): Refers to the hallmark of Operant Conditioning; reveals the if-then connection between Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence. Also called Three-Term Contingency, A-B-C Contingency Analysis, or Contingency Management (CM).

Antecedent: An observable environmental stimulus that precedes respondent or operant behavior, including the Unconditioned Stimulus (US), Neutral Stimulus (NS), Conditioned Stimulus (CS), Discriminative Stimulus (Sd), and Stimulus Delta (S-delta). Also see Stimulus Control.

Neutral Stimulus (NS): An antecedent stimulus in Respondent Conditioning. After being paired with the unconditioned stimulus (US), the neutral stimulus (NS) potentially elicits a conditioned response (CR)—or reflex.

Conditioned Stimulus (CS): Refers to the NS that has been conditioned through Respondent Conditioning.

Stimulus Control: One of many lawful principles derived from the experimental analysis of behavior, it refers to antecedent control in operant conditioning, consisting of the Discriminative Stimulus (Sd) and Stimulus Delta (S-delta). For example, the "Slide to unlock" label on your iPhone is the Sd prompting you to unlock and use it. Another instance of this is when a green traffic light (Sd) signals the driver to place their foot on the gas petal, or pressing the break in response to a red traffic light (S-delta).

Discriminative Stimulus (Sd): An antecedent stimulus that emits the operant behavior. As perfectly stated by Cooper et al. (2007), "the history of differential reinforcement is the reason an Sd increases the momentary frequency of the behavior."

Stimulus Delta (S-delta): As perfectly summarized by Julie Skinner Vargas (2013), an educational psychologist who happens to B.F. Skinner's daughter, "A[n] [antecedent] stimulus in the presence of which a particular [operant] response does not occur because of being extinguished when that [antecedent] stimulus was present" (p. 350).

Motivating Operations (MOs): Refers to antecedent stimuli in Operant Conditioning that impacts the effectiveness of the reinforcer, consisting of the Establishing Operation (EO) and Abolishing Operation (AO). While the EO enhances the effectiveness of the reinforcer through deprivation, the AO decreases its' potency with satiation. Because of MOs, some have purposed calling Operant Conditioning a "four-term contingency."

Behavior: Central to Behavior Analysis, behavior is any biological event that occurs in the environment. While public events refer to overt behavior—particularly motor and vocal actions, private events are, as Skinner called them, "[behavior] within the skin" (Skinner, 1974, p. 24). The latter event consists of the organism having thoughts, feelings, and even dreams.

Consequence: An observable environmental contingency that follows the operant behavior. Consequences include reinforcers, punishers, and extinction, which are some of the many lawful principles derived from the experimental analysis of behavior.

Reinforcement: Consequences (reinforcers) that increase the likelihood of the target behavior.

Positive Reinforcer: Any stimulus (usually pleasurable) added resulting in the likelihood of such behavior to increase.

Negative Reinforcer: Any stimulus (usually aversive) removed resulting in the likelihood that the behavior will increase.

Punishment: Consequences (punishers) that decrease the likelihood of the target behavior.

Positive Punisher: Any stimulus (usually aversive) added resulting in the likelihood of the target behavior to decrease. One notable example of a positive punisher is a physically aversive stimulus, such as spanking or electric shocks, which have been—for the most part—abolished throughout schools for decades. This is the direct result of attempts made since the mid-1980s to move away from implementing aversive consequences through the use of Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support (SWPBS) systems in schools nationwide. With that said, only one boarding school in Massachusetts still administers electric shocks, which has been the subject of quite controversy, including several news castings and even a state investigation in 2011 after a Anderson Cooper special on CNN depicted unqualified staff using them on a student for basic noncompliance.

Negative Punisher: Any stimulus (usually pleasurable) removed resulting in the likelihood that the behavior will decrease.

Extinction: Respondent extinction involves the reflex (unconditioned response or UR; i.e., salvation) being faded out as a result of augmenting the conditioned stimulus (CS; i.e, cash) while discontinuing the unconditioned stimulus (US; i.e., food). In operant conditioning, extinction is the process by which all reinforcement becomes discontinued; when used with children, this is often accomplished by ignoring.

Shaping: The process in which positive reinforcement is provided each time after the organism (for example, a child) performs a new skill (i.e., speech) until it is fully mastered.

Habituation: One of many lawful principles derived from the experimental analysis of behavior, it is based on respondent conditioning and involves repeated exposure to a particular stimulus to diminish—or, in many cases, fully eliminate—a maladaptive behavior or response. Habituation and punishment are the hallmark techniques used in Desensitization.

Replacement Behavior: Introducing a new, alternative behavior which fulfills the same function as the aberrant behavior. Six notable procedures used to establish such functionally equivalent replacement behaviors (FERBs) include Task Modification, Environmental Enrichment, Intermittent Reinforcement, Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior (DRA), Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors (DRO), and Counterconditioning.

Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior (DRA): The process in which "the undesirable behavior is placed on extinction while [only] the alternative reinforced" (Pierce & Cheney, 2013, p. 477). One instance of DRA is Functional Communication Training (FCT).

Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors (DRO): A procedure involving the use of extinction following each occurrence of the aberrant behavior; all "other behaviors [are] reinforced" (Pierce & Cheney, 2013, p. 477).

Functional Communication Training (FCT): A DRA procedure in which the learner with autism or another disability has to use their words or some other functionally equivalent form of communication. For instance, if the child is non-verbal and having a tantrum, the therapist won't draw any attention to their tantrum and only acknowledge the child if he or she points to what they want when using the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) board.

Counterconditioning: A principle of behavior that consists of replacing a maladaptive with a more adaptive response to a particular stimulus; it comes in two distinct forms: Covert and Overt Conditioning. Mindfulness is one instance of counterconditioning used in such clinical behavior therapies as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Other counterconditioning techniques include breathing and meditation which are often incorporated into Systematic Desensitization.

Data Collection: The process of collecting data on specific dimensions of behavior.

Preference Assessment: An assessment procedure conducted that precisely determines the reinforcer motivating to the animal or person.

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA): An assessment procedure based on Functional Analysis that is implemented to analyze and evaluate the function of overt behavior (as private events cannot be precisely measured); precedes a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP): A plan conducted after an FBA to outline an intervention that will measurably change behavior. Also known as Behavior Management Plan, or Behavior Support Plan (BSP).

Applied Animal Behavior (AAB): The application of behavior analysis (ABA) to the training of animals, such as canines.

Behavioral Neuroscience: The process of "integrating the science of behavior (Behavior Analysis) with the science of the brain (Neuroscience)" (Pierce & Cheney, 2013, p. 471), which serves as the basis for studying "the effects of drugs on behavior (Behavioral Pharmacology), neural imaging and complex stimulus relations, choice and neural activity, and the brain circuitry of learning and addiction" (Pierce & Cheney, 2013, p. 471).

Forensic Behavior Analysis: A sub-discipline of ABA that involves the study of criminal behavior (criminology) and law (forensic psychology) in relation to its behavior-environment interactions, particularly learning theory principles and behavioral neuroscience. To precisely measure forensic behavior, practitioners will often implement a Behavioral Forensic Assessment, one form of Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA).

Behavioral Economics: Also known as Applied Behavioral Economics, it is the application of the theory of supply and demand to societal issues.

Organizational Behavior Management (OBM): The application of behavior analysis (ABA) to the management of organizations. OBM involves the following processes and procedures: system analysis, positive reinforcement, modeling, performance management, and behavior-based safety.

Positive Behavior Support (PBS): An application of behavior analysis (ABA) that focuses on forming a support system between families and staff. PBS is used to manage the behavior of children and adolescence, often employed as a School-Wide Positive Behavior Support (SWPBS). It can even be implemented in juvenile detention centers or the child's home. Also referred to as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS).

Verbal Behavior (VB): A technique devised by Skinner consisting of four basic verbal operants. While mands refer to making a verbal requestor demand for something, tacts are stimulus-to-stimulus pairing procedures in which the individual has direct contact with—or, in other words, labels—something in the environment. Echoics are verbal operants in which someone repeats another person's word or phrase, and intraverbals refer to answering someone else's question. Further, if imitative modeling—including gestural and oral motor imitation—were classified as a verbal operant, it would technically be called a "mimetic" (see Vargas, 1982). Verbal operants are highly effective when used to teach children with autism. For its use in Clinical Behavior Analysis (CBA) therapies or Behavioral Economics, see Relational Frame Theory (RFT).

PROMPT Therapy: Abbreviation for Prompts for Restructuring Oral Motor Phonetic Targets. Also called the Touch Cue Method (TCM), it is a highly effective speech therapy grounded heavily in the science of ABA. Often used by speech pathologists for children with developmental delays—such as verbal apraxia, the approach relies on oral motor imitation and incorporates tactile prompts—or touch cues—to the neck, lips, tongue, and jaw that is rehearsed through mass practice and shaping. For the children with autism who do not respond correctly to echoic training alone, highly-trained behavior analysts (i.e., see Lovaas, 1977) will often incorporate tactile prompts into Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT), or structured Early Behavioral Intervention (EBI) programs.

Early Behavioral Intervention (EBI): A collection of ABA-based teaching interventions used for children with autism and developmental disabilities under the age of 5 and implemented for 25 to 40 hours per week. EBI consists of instructional strategies proven to help children with autism establish eye contact, verbally communicate, improve their IQ scores and adaptive functioning (or daily living skills), as well as replacing maladaptive behaviors with more functional ones and also covering a wide array of other behavioral targets. Also see Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT), Errorless Learning, Rapid Motor Imitation Antecedent (RMIA), Natural Environment Training (NET), Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), and Social Responsivity.

Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT): Also called Discrete Trial Training or Instruction (DTI). Developed by Ivar Lovaas and colleagues, it is a structured EBI procedure which consists of repeated and structured techniques of teaching by systematically breaking tasks down and using positive reinforcement strategies to acquire new skills. It is the simple application of the Three-Term Operant Contingency, following three steps: the discriminative stimulus (Sd), or the therapist's instruction; the behavior, or more specifically, the child's response (R); and the consequence, particularly the stimulus reinforcer (Sr). When implemented at an intensity of 30 to 40 hours per week, it is referred to as Intensive Behavioral Intervention (IBI), or Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI). Related terms include Mass Trials, Errorless Learning, and Rapid Motor Imitation Antecedent (RMIA).

Errorless Learning: A structured EBI strategy that is initially incorporated into a DTT program to prevent 'errors' from occurring. The errorless teaching procedure relies on high forms of prompting followed by less prompts and eventually prompt fading to ensure that prompting is not being relied on. For instance, when teaching the child with autism to respond to their name, it will involve the following steps: 1) the therapist's instruction "Look at me" (Sd) while holding a favorable item (i.e., M&M or toy) between their eyes and by the top of their nose; 2) the visual prompt (motivating operation, or MO), or moving the item gradually toward the child's eyes and back to the therapist's; 3) the child's response (R), which is establishing eye contact with the therapist; and 4) the consequence (Sr), referring to the therapist's verbal praise, "Nice looking!" before giving the item to the child.

Rapid Motor Imitation Antecedent (RMIA): A commonly used form of DTT that consists of the student imitating a wide array of fine and gross motor exercises (i.e., waving bye-bye, clapping hands, etc.) in response to the therapist's instruction—antecedent (or Sd), "Do this."

Natural Environment Training (NET): Also called Incidental Teaching. An EBI teaching procedure used to generalize new skills through play-based, child-led activities in a natural setting. For example, if the child is to verbally request—or mand—for an item while outside playing, it has to be child-initiated. This item also must be something that the particular child finds motivating. Related terms include Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) and the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM).

Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT): Previously known as Natural Language Paradigm (NLP). Derived from the science of ABA and implemented for 25 hours per week, it was developed by Robert and Lynn Koegel as a naturalistic, play-based teaching procedure for children with autism and other developmentally delays. The goal of PRT is to foster pivotal areas of motivation, including self-management, responsivity to multiple cues, language, and social initiations. Although similar to NET in that it incorporates mand (request) training to teach language in the natural environment, PRT differs as it often further expands such language training in a socially engaging, playful manner.

Social Responsivity: A form of PRT (and NET), which involves using the child's interests and lead into play (i.e., singing a song, playing with a toy car or train) as natural reinforcers for relationship-building in the natural environment. To establish eye contact, the practitioner might engage the child by playing peek-a-boo or tickling him or her.

Behavior Therapy: Although it can technically refer to any educational or clinical therapy derived from behavioral principles, the term is typically used throughout the research literature to exclusively describe clinical services. Such clinical services are delivered either by a cognitive behavior therapist, behavior analyst, clinical health psychologist, or speech pathologist.

Cognitive-Behavior Therapies (CBTs): An array of scientifically proven cognitive and/or behavior interventions used in clinical treatment, including Cognitive Therapy (CT), Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP), and Systematic Desensitization. Cognitive-behavior therapists will initially change the client's thoughts and feelings, but later—depending on the therapy—alter the physical environment by incorporating behavioral learning principles. Contrast to Clinical Behavior Analysis (CBA).

Clinical Behavior Analysis (CBA): An array of empirically validated clinical intervention applications of behavior analysis (ABA). From the behavior analytic viewpoint, you will first change the overt environment before altering the client's behavior—whether such behavior is public or private. CBA encompasses Voucher-Based Contingency Management (CM), Behavioral Medicine, Habit Reversal Training (HRT), Systematic Desensitization, and counseling services based on Relational Frame Theory (RFT), such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP).

Contingency Management (CM): Precise management of operant contingencies to acquire certain alterations of behavior, i.e., in the treatment of substance abuse. For drug abuse, patients receive vouchers (typically, financial incentives) to stop taking drugs. People addicted to cigarettes receive nicotine gum or patches (the Differential Reinforcer of Alternative Behavior, or DRA). Related terms include Stimulus Control, Motivating Operations, Differential Reinforcement Contingencies, Shaping, Token Economy, and Contingency Contracting.

Behavioral Medicine: A sub-discipline of CBA consisting of "behavior-change programs that target health-related activities, such as following special diets, disease [prevention strategies], [engaging in] exercise, taking medication [regularly], and so on" (Pierce & Cheney, 2013, p. 471). Related terms include Behavioral Pharmacology, Behavioral Gerontology, and Behavioral Pediatrics (such as Pediatric Feeding Therapy).

Behavioral Pharmacology: The field of study concerned with identifying the contingent relationship between behavior and pharmacological products, used in such incidences as Nicotine Replacement Therapy for those who smoke cigarettes.

Behavioral Gerontology: Refers to behavior analytic research on people who are aging as well as the design of treatments implemented to assist them.

Behavioral Pediatrics: An area of reasearch that fuses two distinct scientific disciplines: applied behavior analysis and pediatrics, serving as the basis for, i.e., Pediatric Feeding Therapy.

Pediatric Feeding Therapy: A clinical behavior analytic (CBA) procedure used in the treatment of pediatric feeding disorders. It encompasses the following set of procedures: biting acceptance, differential reinforcement contingencies, extinction, reclined seating, and the use of a chin prompt feeder and liquid chaser.

Relational Frame Theory (RFT): Refers to the extension of stimulus equivalent research to cognition and language, sometimes used to teach executive functioning and social cognition (also known as Theory of Mind).

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): A cognitive-behavior therapy devised by Marsha M. Linehan that is well-established for altering the suicidal thoughts and self-injurious behaviors of those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It consists of the following six principles: cognitive modification, chain analysis, distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotional and interpersonal regulation, and positive reinforcement.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): Based on the pioneering work of Steven C. Hayes, ACT is a clinical application of behavior analysis (CBA) used, i.e., in treating eating and feeding disorders to managing anxiety, depression, tics, and sexual abuse. It incorporates the following four procedures: mindfulness, acceptance and commitment, value-based living, and positive reinforcement.

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP): Derived from applied behavior analytic (ABA) principles used in psychotherapy for individuals with a wide range of mental disorders, including personality disorders, depression, or a related disorder. It is based on the A-C-L model: awareness, courage, and love, a step-by-step process accomplished through shaping.

Behavioral Activation (BA): A FAP used in the treatment of depression.

Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy: A clinical behavior analytic therapy used in the treatment of marriage counseling. Also called Traditional Behavioral Marital Therapy.

Desensitization: Also called Exposure Therapy, it is based on the behavioral principles of Habituation and Punishment. Related terms include Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), and Systematic Desensitization.

Systematic Desensitization: Also known as Graduated Exposure Therapy. An exposure therapy used to combat specific phobias, requiring the client to gradually expose themselves to that fear while often undergoing the following counterconditoning techniques: breathing and meditation. When infused with shaping, it is called Contact Desensitization.

Habit Reversal Training (HRT): A counterconditioning procedure used to break various habits, such as tics and trichotillomania, a disorder of impulsive hair pulling. It consists of six principles: awareness training, competing response training, self-monitoring, social support, and generalization training, as well as positive reinforcement.

Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT): A form of HRT used to decrease the occurrence of tics. In this procedure, every time the individual has the urge to tic, they are redirected in performing a new activity that fulfills the same purpose.

Social Skills Training: A form of CBT and clinical behavior analysis (CBA) used to help people with social concerns, ranging from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), establish friendships with their peers. For the treatment of mild ASD, the goal is to teach perspective taking; how to reciprocate non-verbal, social cues; and to paraphrase when engaging in, or even initiating and maintaining a conversation with others.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA): An individual who received national certification by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) and either practices (Applied) and/or conducts research (Experimental) in Behavior Analysis when working with people. Some states provide licenser laws for BCBAs.

Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB): Someone who received a certification in Applied Animal Behavior (AAB). They either practice and/or conduct research in the field of animal training that is firmly grounded in the science of Behavior Analysis.

Cognitive Therapy (CT): Often branded less favorably as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. A scientifically proven cognitive intervention used in psychotherapy that was devised by Aaron Beck. In sharp contrast to Behavior Analysis, Cognitive Psychology theorizes that thoughts and feelings are not internal behavior. Rather, they are the antecedents that lead to motor behavior. Therefore, cognitive therapists focus mainly on changing thoughts and feelings.


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Additional resources

[1] PsychCore (2016, August 28). Methodological behaviorism. Retrieved from

[2] PsychCore (2016, August 28). Radical behaviorism. Retrieved from

[3] Ousseynou diallo (2011, June 17). B F Skinner learning and behavior 1959. Retrieved from

[4] Prosocial Progress Foundation (2016, May 26). B.F. Skinner in 2 minutes. Retrieved from

[5] Prosocial Progress Foundation (2016, May 21). Behavior analysis: A natural science of behavior (Dr Henry Schlinger). Retrieved from

[6] Association for Behaviour Analysis Australia (2016, September 5). What is ABA?. Retrieved from

[7] Association for Behaviour Analysis Australia (2016, February 18). Who is ABA for?. Retrieved from

[8] Autism Live (2014, January 16). What is ABA?. Retrieved from

[9] autpar (2008, September 20). Language development Jacob. Retrieved from

[10] Shupsych (2016, February 5). Teaching language skills (Lovaas method 4 of 7). Retrieved from

[11] Dale Thomas (2014, September 23). ABA therapy with Kerry Farrell #talktools my son Callum part 1. Retrieved from

[12] Behaviorfrontiers (2011, June 17). Discrete trial teaching - Autism therapy video. Retrieved from

[13] The Gevirtz School, UC Santa Barbara (2014, December 22). Communication: Lynn Koegel on "Supernanny". Retrieved from

[13] CCBS VIDEO SERIES (2014, December 16). Effective treatment video series: Social responsivity - Building rapport. Retrieved from

[14] EliteBehaviorMedia (2012, December 6). Applied behavior analysis in schools: Positive behavior supports. Retrieved from

[15] Creative Behavioral Health & Education (2016, October 29). Systematic desensitization to scary halloween costumes using behavior analysis. Retrieved from

[16] Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (2016, February 26). Dr. Steven Hayes: Contextual behavioral psychology and evolution science. Retrieved from

[17] Autism Center of Excellence (2015, December 15). Assessment and treatment of pediatric feeding disorders. Retrieved from

[18] American Psychological Association (2012, June 5). Will behave for money. Retrieved from

[19] Brett DiNovi (2016, October 1). Increasing your productivity using behavior analysis. Retrieved from

[20] Brett DiNovi (2016, May 18). Organizational behavior management: ABA not just for autism. Retrieved from

[21] Behaviororg (2013, June 21). Welcome to the animal behavior section of CCBS. Retrieved from

[22] GRCCtv (2010, January 21). Applied animal behavior. Retrieved from

Almost 45 years ago, Baer et al. (1968) described a new discipline—applied behavior analysis (ABA). This discipline was distinguished from the experimental analysis of behavior by its focus on social impact (i.e., solving socially important problems...). ABA has produced remarkably powerful interventions in fields such as education, developmental disabilities and autism, clinical psychology, behavioral medicine, organizational behavior management, and a host of other fields and populations...

— Timothy A. Slocum et al., 2014 in The Behavior Analyst

Organizational behavior management (OBM) is a sub-discipline of ABA, which is the application of the science of behavior. ABA emphasizes the use of operant and respondent procedures to produce behavior change. Behavior analysis as a science has very explicit goals. Prediction and control of behavior, with an emphasis on control, are the objectives of behavior analysis (Hayes & Brownstein, 1986).

— OBM Network, the official website for the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management (JOBM)

"Clinical behavior analysis (is) the application of the assumptions, principles and methods of modern functional contextual behavior analysis to 'traditional clinical issues.' " — From Hayes, "Clinical Behavior Analysis", as cited in Clinical Behavior Analysis (1999) by Dougher, pp. 11.

Early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) is a treatment approach that is based upon the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and the research of Ivar Lovaas and colleagues at the UCLA Young Autism Project... Influenced by theories of learning and motivation, practitioners of EIBI refer to it as "the science of teaching."

— Susan Hepburn on Springer Link


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