Assessment: Applied Behavior Analysis Methodology Functions

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Applied Behavior Analysis methodology functions to understand certain behaviors and modify undesirable psychological characteristics not only at the individual level, but also at the collective level. (for society-at-large) When pertaining to the individual, ABA is most oft used in the treatment of autism related disorders, but also informs experts about how to modify behaviors related to AIDS, natural resource conservation, littering, seatbelt use, as well as very bad mental disorders. The ABA paradigm lies in the premises of behaviorism.

ABA is a systematic approach designed to improve keystone behaviors of sociality. The seminal paper on the topic is Baer, Wolf, and Risley's 1968 paper entitled "Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis." Upfront, the paper elucidates how, while ABA is an effective methodology, it produces "variable precision, elegance, and power." The power of a scientific theory or approach lies in its ability to produce predictable results.

(Baer, Wolf, Risley)

A particular strength of ABA is the assessment and modification of subconscious or nondeliberate behaviors. For example, while ABA can neatly analyze a person who exhibits particular behaviors beyond this individual's purview, many individuals are tactfully manipulative, showcasing behaviors that appear out of the blue. It is in these latter individuals that ABA cannot probe (exept for in young children), for their behaviors are calculated and arisen from desires inside and are therefore unpredictable, as opposed to reactions from the external environment, which, for example, in the case of somebody driven to extreme anger easily, can be rather predictable.

ABA depends on a step-by-step process of behavioral modification. The first step to intervention is defining the behavior in understandable terms, for behaviors can be more difficult to understand that one might typically think. In the case of subject Max, who suffered from extreme anger and outbursts, the questions of why, when and where were relevant to the addressing of the problem. For instance, Max, it was presumed, acted out for attention, as well as to relieve himself of pent-up stress and aggression, as well as depression. He did this in situations where much was expected of him, and was inclined to demonstrate this behavior most anywhere. Most typically, Max's behavior was a means of escaping a demand.

ABA is a cousin of B.F. Skinner's Behaviorism. According to Behaviorism, the individual's character is a combination of reactions to stimuli. Worth noting, however, is that the linguistic interpretation of Behaviorism was negated by scholar Noam Chomsky, who argued for a biological component of the mind to language acquisition, as well as general species-wide algorithms for syntax and grammar.

One's environment is responsible for the molding of personality, preference and behavior. The manifestation of one's environment in the development of character extends to language acquisition. This is the reason that a baby born in Japan speaks Japanese, whereas a baby born in England speaks English. Further, a child born in the inner city develops an inner city dialect, whereas the child of the suburb develops another.

Modifying behavior can be done both with the knowledge and consent of the individual, or without. There are a multitude of methods by which to modify the behavior of the individual, and ultimately, the collective. It is true that the methods most effective depends on the individual, but, nevertheless, general guidelines can be set to effectively alter behavior.

The changing of the subject's environment offers a way of modifying behavior. In the case of OCD, for example, the subject can be weaned off those circumstances that facilitate undesirable behaviors. Displacement from the environment, where these behaviors are most readily manifested, can put the individual in such a flux as to readily accept new, better habits.

A subject who, perhaps, suffers from intense anger must experience a process by which the dependency upon the undesirable behaviors is eradicated. Like a drunkard coming down from inebriation, the most precious ingredient is time. Still, numerous are the techniques which can re-engineer the technologies of the individual's mind.

In subject Max's case, a soft approach for his anger issues was taken. When faced with responsibility or requests for favors, Max exhibited a tendency to explode into fits of anger, directed at those around him, especially his family. In this particular experiment, the subject was made aware of his undesirable behavior; i.e. his anger. Confronting it by pointing it out, however, oft exacerbated the problem, thereby hurting the process to quell the issue. Instead of requesting Max to do the chores that enraged him, he was allowed a fair independence, and was, for a time, not confronted about his lack of responsibility and quickness to anger. This fair independence was cause for concern by his mother, for she felt it was giving into him, since he oft got out of chores by this neutral method.

In the year prior to the behavior modification, Max's parents had suffered a divorce, of which Max viewed himself as the primary victim, though, of course, all members of the family were negatively affected to varying degrees. In his daily endeavors, and in his relationships, Max drifted away from cooperation towards antagonism.

The subject, Max, spoke of his depression and unfortunate circumstance often. Coupled with laziness, his moods increasingly tended towards worse. The motivation for Max's behaviors were no mystery. As Maag and Kemp outline in their article, "Behavioral intent of power and affiliation: implications for functional analysis": (Maag and Kemp)

There are two major functions of problem behavior: (a) to obtain something desirable, such as attention from others or tangible objects activities (positive reinforcement), and (b) to escape/avoid something aversive, such as a difficult task (negative reinforcement). However, two well-researched constructs from the social psychology literature-power/control and affiliation-may be valid outcomes for some students. The purpose of this article is to consider power/control and affiliation as valid functions for some students' maladaptive behaviors and describe how school-based manipulations for testing them may be performed.

Various techniques were used to improve Max's behavior. First, motivations for certain actions had to be pinpointed. For instance, it was determined that the goal/intent of Max's outbursts were to "let off steam." Though he was never made to exercise by any of his acquaintances or family member, they oft hinted that this might be an useful way in which to "let off some steam." Over the course of months, Max made an increasing effort to incorporate exercise into his everyday routine. This corresponded with a decrease in angry outbursts.

By ignoring his outbursts, the family took away from Max the pleasure he received from his outbursts: attention, even if it was negative attention. By ignoring the outbursts, Max oft would be the only one who spoke or reacted to his own outburst, leaving him feeling silly, since nobody us joined him in the ritual. Moreover, the technique of example functioned well. Max's brother would do chores of asked of him without protest. He never held this against Max, since he oft had to take over what would have been Max's chores. Instead, Max received no attention when his brother did his chores.

Max's lack of education and inability to find work also resulted in depression and anger in Max, and so he was encouraged to pursue the endeavors he loved in daily life as a means to make money. At first, these attempts were mocked as unrealistic, for persons do not get to do the things they love for money, according to Max's logic. but, again, Max incorporated his love for photography into his life as a possible means of making money. This enabled him to see some hope in his future prospects.

These new advents were encouraged by those who surrounded Max, and, increasingly, those undesirable behaviors, when they presented themselves, were ignored or corrected neutrally. Important to this process was word choice by Max's family and acquaintances. Since Max began this process as a person who was quick to "fly off the handle," the seemingly most innocent of utterances could be viewed by Max as an attack on himself, and, therefore, reason for misbehavior; i.e. A tantrum. Neutral language disguised the intent of the friends and acquaintances, and often opened Max up to suggestions. In fact, in many cases, Max's proclivity to anger need not be an issue addressed. As a means of alleviated the problem, the inclusion of Max in healthy and fun gatherings, such as concerts and baseball games, made him feel accepted and liked by those with whom he associated, and decreased his dependence on acting out for attention. Sometimes the most minute of language changes resulted in changed responses:

Person: Hey Max, could you do [this] for me?

Max: No response or onset of outbursts

(another example)

Person: Hey Max, could you HELP me do this?

Max: No response or an answer of "sure."

Based on all the information gathered to help Max lower, and eventually eradicate, his dependency on his problem behavior, there developed, over time, techniques to prevent the behavior from occurring. Originally, Max's mother was turned off by the idea of ignoring Max… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Applied Behavior Analysis Methodology Functions.  (2010, August 29).  Retrieved October 18, 2019, from

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"Applied Behavior Analysis Methodology Functions."  August 29, 2010.  Accessed October 18, 2019.