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Measuring Behavior

Part 1: Observations

For the first part of this assignment, select two frequently occurring human behaviors that you can easily observe in your workplace or community. (If needed, you may substitute a character’s behavior that can be frequently observed on a favorite TV series.) Two different people should be observed, rather than two behaviors in one person. You are to practice observing behaviors inconspicuously. You must not make any attempt to share your observations, conduct any form of assessment, or intervene.

Using the guidelines in Chapter 5 of your Applied Behavior Analysis text, plan and conduct three separate observation sessions, each for 10–20 minutes, for each behavior you have just observed. You have several options for conducting these observations. You may choose to do several on one day at different times (for example, 10–20-minute sessions in the morning, afternoon, and evening) or on different days. You should then have three separate observations for each of the two individuals you observed.

Part 2: Observations, Definitions, and Data Recording Forms

After observing the behaviors, write a brief description of the person you observed and the setting. After the description, create a brief (1–2 sentences) definition for each of the two behaviors you observed. Follow these guidelines for your definitions:

  • Each definition should meet Hawkins and Dobes’s three characteristics (top of page 70) and Morris’s three criteria for testing a definition (page 70) as described in your Applied Behavior Analysis text.
  • The definitions should not include inferences (for example, about internal state or thoughts), or include background, diagnostic, or historical information about the persons you observed.

You will choose a data recording method to summarize the three observations for each of the two behaviors. After describing your observation method and providing a definition for each of the two behaviors, identify the data recording method you selected to record this data (frequency or duration) and explain why you chose that method.

Summarize the data from your observations on an appropriate data recording form and create a table of this summary. Copy and paste both the data recording form and the table into your assignment. Important: Do not submit a spreadsheet or more than one document. The one document should contain definitions, observations, data form, and table for each of the two behaviors that you observed. You will be using the tables summarizing your data in the Unit 4 assignment.

Assignment Requirements

Your assignment should meet the following requirements:

  • Written communication: Should be free of errors that detract from the overall message.
  • APA formatting: References and citations are formatted according to current APA style guidelines.
  • Resources: A sufficient number of scholarly or professional resources.
  • Length: 3–5 double-spaced pages.
  • Font and font size: Times New Roman, 12-point.

Page 70 notes:

Role of Assessment in Applied Behavior Analysis

  1. Behavioral assessment involves using indirect, direct, and empirical methods to identify, define, and determine the function of target behaviors.
  2. Behavioral assessment consists of five phases or functions: (a) screening, (b) defining and quantifying problems or goals, (c) pinpointing the target behavior(s) to be treated, (d) monitoring progress, and (e) following up.
  3. Before conducting a behavioral assessment, the behavior analyst must determine whether she has the authority and permission, resources, and skills to assess and change the behavior. Past and current records related to medical, educational, and historical events should be examined and analyzed as part of a complete behavioral assessment.

Assessment Methods Used by Behavior Analysts

  1. Subsumed under the three major methods for assessment information—indirect, direct, and empirical—are (a) interviews, checklists/rating scales, (b) tests and direct observations, and (c) functional behavior analysis and reinforcer/punishment preference assessment methods, respectively.
  2. The client interview is used to determine the client’s description of problem behaviors or achievement goals. What, when, and where questions are emphasized, focusing on the actual behavior of the client and the responses of significant others to that behavior.
  3. Questionnaires and needs assessment surveys are sometimes completed by the client to supplement the information gathered in the interview.
  4. Clients are sometimes asked to self-monitor certain situations or behaviors. Self-collected data may be useful in selecting and defining target behaviors.
  5. Significant others can also be interviewed to gather assessment information and, in some cases, to find out whether they will be willing and able to assist in an intervention.
  6. Direct observation with a behavior checklist that contains specific descriptions of various skills can indicate possible target behaviors.
  7. Anecdotal observation, also called ABC recording, yields a descriptive, temporally sequenced account of all behaviors of interest and the antecedent conditions and consequences for those behaviors as those events occur in the client’s natural environment.
  8. Ecological assessment entails gathering a large amount of information about the person and the environments in which that person lives and works (e.g., physiological conditions, physical aspects of the environment, interactions with others, past reinforcement history). A complete ecological assessment is neither necessary nor warranted for most applied behavior analysis programs.
  9. Reactivity refers to the effects that an assessment procedure has on the behavior being assessed. Behavior analysts should use assessment methods that are as unobtrusive as possible, repeat observations until apparent reactive effects subside, and take possible reactive effects into account when interpreting the results of observations.
  10. Choose assessment methods that produce reliable and valid results, conduct assessments according to professional standards, and apply conservative analyses when interpreting results.

Assessing the Social Significance of Potential Target Behaviors

  1. Target behaviors in applied behavior analysis must be socially significant behaviors that will increase a person’s habilitation (adjustment, competence, and quality of life).
  2. The relative social significance and habilitative value of a potential target behavior can be clarified by viewing it in light of the following considerations:
    • Will the behavior be reinforced in the person’s daily life? The relevance of behavior rule requires that a target behavior produce reinforcement for the person in the postintervention environment.
    • Is the behavior a necessary prerequisite for a useful skill?
    • Will the behavior increase the person’s access to environments in which other important behaviors can be learned or used?
    • Will the behavior predispose others to interact with the person in a more appropriate and supportive manner?
    • Is the behavior a cusp or pivotal behavior? Behavioral cusps have sudden and dramatic consequences that extend well beyond the idiosyncratic change itself because they expose the person to new environments, reinforcers, contingencies, responses, and stimulus controls. Learning a pivotal behavior produces corresponding modifications or covariations in other untrained behaviors.
    • Is the behavior age appropriate?
    • Whenever a behavior is targeted for reduction or elimination, a desirable, adaptive behavior must be selected to replace it.
    • Does the behavior represent the actual problem or achievement goal, or is it only indirectly related?
    • A person’s verbal behavior should not be confused with the actual behavior of interest. However, in some situations the client’s verbal behavior should be selected as the target behavior because it is the behavior of interest.
    • If a person’s goal is not a specific behavior, a target behavior(s) must be selected that will produce the desired results or state.

Prioritizing Target Behaviors

  1. Assessment often reveals more than one possible behavior or skill area for targeting. Prioritization can be accomplished by rating potential target behavior against key questions related to their relative danger, frequency, long-standing existence, potential for reinforcement, relevance for future skill development and independent functioning, reduced negative attention from others, likelihood of success, and cost.
  2. Participation by the person whose behavior is to be changed, parents and/or other important family members, staff, and administration in identifying and prioritizing target behaviors can help reduce goal conflicts.

Defining Target Behaviors

  1. Explicit, well-written target behavior definitions are necessary for researchers to accurately and reliably measure the same response classes within and across studies or to aggregate, compare, and interpret their data.
  2. Good target behaviors definitions are necessary for practitioners to collect accurate and believable data to guide ongoing program decisions, apply procedures consistently, and provide accountability to clients, parents, and administrators.
  3. Function-based definitions designate responses as members of the targeted response class solely by their common effect on the environment.
  4. Topography-based definitions define instances of the targeted response class behavior by the shape or form of the behavior.
  5. A good definition must be objective, clear, and complete, and must discriminate between what is and what is not an instance of the target behavior.
  6. A target behavior definition is valid if it enables observers to capture every aspect of the behavior that the “complainer” is concerned with and none other.

Setting Criteria for Behavior Change

  1. A behavior change has social validity if it changes some aspect of the person’s life in an important way.
  2. Outcome criteria specifying the extent of behavior change desired or needed should be determined before efforts to modify the target behavior begin.
  3. Two approaches to determining socially validated performance criteria are (a) assessing the performance of people judged to be highly competent and (b) experimentally manipulating different levels of performance to determine which produces optimal results.

Book Cover, Applied Behavior Analysis, 3/e by John O. Cooper, Timothy E. Heron, William L. Heward, Pearson, 2020

This is the field of Applied Behavioral Anaysis (ABA)

Along the way please feel free to ask additional questions if needed.

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