Welcome to Behaviorbabe
Ethical Advocate for Accurate Application & Dissemination of Behavior Analysis

Welcome to Behaviorbabe

Ethical Advocate for Accurate Application & Dissemination of Behavior Analysis

ABA Acronyms and Terms

Applied behavior Analysis (ABA) - The attempt to solve behavior problems by providing antecedent and/or consequences that change behavior.  Applied behavior analysis owes no affiliation with a particular intervention, rather it is a scientific problem-solving approach aimed at producing socially significant behavior change and improving quality of life for individuals, families and communities. 

ABC Analysis – Viewing behavior (B) as a function of its antecedents (A) and consequences (C)

ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act

ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Antecedents – Environmental events that occur before a behavior

ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder, onset of behaviors must occur before age 3.  Red flags include lack of eye contact, lack of responsiveness when name is called, limited or no attempts to engage others to satisfy wants and needs.  ASD includes PDD-NOS, Autism and Aperger's Syndrome.

Baseline - refers to the pre-treatment phases prior to implementation of an intervention.  In baseline, instructors should not prompt or consequate a behavior (i.e. do not reinforce or provide correction).  The purpose of a baseline is to establish present rates of responding.  Once a steady state has been obtained, it is appropriate to implement an intervention.  Changes (or lack thereof) in the rate of behavior suggest to practitioners whether to remove or continue with a treatment method.

BCBA – Board Certified Behavior Analyst, indpendent practitioner that may work independently or through an agency. The BCBA conducts descriptive assessment, functional analysis and provides behavior analytic servces.  Often serve as consultants. BCBA's the only individuals' qualified to oversee BCaBA staff according to the Behavior 

Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

BCaBA – Board Certified Associate Behavior Analyst, conducts assessments and can interpret results and design ethical treatment for situations and scenarios that are similar to what they encountered in supervised field work.  All BCaBA's must receive supervision at least 1 hour per month by a BCBA in order to maintain their credential (as of August 2010).

Behavior – An observable and measurable act an organism does, including covert (unseen) actions (like thinking, dreaming, etc).  Behavior is not limited to challenging behaviors, rather behavior applies to all observable and measurable acts emited by a living organism (e.g. breathing, eating, singing, yelling, laughing, reading, running, etc.).

Behavior Analyst – An individual who has demonstrated mastery of the professional competencies involved in assessing behavior and designing, implementing, evaluating, and communicating the results of an applied behavior analysis program.

Behavioral Contract – A behavioral plan of action that is negotiated between a client, child, spouse, etc. and concerned others.  This plan usually includes a statement of target responses, consequences that follow different actions, and long-term goals. The contract objectively specified what is expected of the person and the consequences that follow behavior.

Behavior Contrast - Change in one component of a multiple schedule that increases or decreases rate of responding of one behavior which is accompanied by a change in response rate of the other unaltered component.  This occurs as a result of a change in reinforcement or punishment density.

Behavioral Repertoire – Behavior that a particular person has emitted in the past.This is very important to consider when teaching a new skill to someone.  It may seem easy to others or logical to respond in a particular way in a particular situation, however for others emitting a particular behavior will be more challenging if it is something the individual has never done before (e.g. Expecting an individual to use pictures to ask for "help" would require an individual who will need to maintain focus, likely cross the room,  obtain the attention of another person in the environment, scan pictures in an array, have fine-motor control to manipulate the picture and velcro and then hand the icon to a waiting participant.)

BIP – Behavior Intervention Plan, often developed after a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) or minimally descriptive assessments have been completed.  Behavior Intervention Plans should have the target behaviors/challengs listed and defined.  In addition, there should be preventative (antecedent management) measures noted as well as the consequences for 1) for responding when the individual has emitted the desired behavior and 2) for responding when the target behavior (or no response) occurs.

CFR – Code of Federal Regulations: Best piece of advice I can give, is to familiarize yourself with the laws, research and science.

Consequences – Environmental events that occur after a behavior, these may be planned events (such as a time out when a child tantrums in a store) or unplanned events (items on shelf all over store floor) that may have an impact on maintaining a particular behavior of concern.  Consequences are not only "negative" in nature.  In the field of ABA, the term consequence also includes "positive" responses to a behavior, that occur after the behavior.  For example, if a child is promised that they can have dessert after dinner and they eat all of their dinner, "having access to dessert" is a consequence.

Dependent Variable – The measure of the subject’s behavior.  The dependent variable is the one that you are trying to change.  If working to help someone quit smoking, dependent measures might be 1) number of cigarettes consumed per day 2) number of dollars spent on nicotine items and/or 3) time between cigarette breaks.

Deprivation – is a state of withholding or lack of access to a particular reinforcer.  Deprivation is an establishing operation, which increases the effectiveness of the reinforcer.  If you offer a child a cookie for helping clean up the house and the child has skipped breakfast and snacks, the (a smaller amount of the) cookie is likely to become momentarily more valuable because the child is in a state of food deprivation.

DESE - Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, formerly the Department of Education (Massachusetts)

DOE – Department of Education; in Massachusetts now referred to as Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)

DOH - Department of Health

DSM-IV - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual currently version IV (4) is the most up-to-date version available.  Soon to be released is the DSM-V, which proposes absorbing Asperger's Syndrome as mutually exclusive with an Autism 


DTT – Discrete Trial Training, often referred to as Lovaas teaching.  The concept behind discrete-trials is that for some individuals larger, more complex skills need to be broken into smaller more discrete steps.  Each step is taught individually and then is strategically intermixed with other acquired skills.  Most often DTT programs occur at a table top as they allow for materials to be placed in front of the learner.  DTT is commonly assumed to be synonymous with Applied Behavior Analysis, which is an incorrect comparison.

Establishing Operation – An antecedent event or change in the environment that alters the momentarily increases the value of  a reinforcing item.  Some medications can increase the "reinforcing capacity" of food, for example.

EI – Early Intervention

EIBI - Early intensive behavioral intervention 

Escape – The term escape describes a relation between a performance and an aversive stimulus in which the performance terminates the aversive stimulus.  There are four functions of behavior 1) attention 2) sensory/automatic 3) to access a tangible/edible item and 4) to escape a particular person, place or activity.

Extinction - The withholding of reinforcement.  Removal of reinforcement that decreases a behavior would be considered a negative punisher NOT extinction.  As an example, if your spouse typically takes out the trash because you clean the bathroom, and you stop cleanning the bathroom (therefore withholding their reinforcement), their behavior of taking out the trash is likely to decrease.  Of course, in this example, we see how it is possible to inadvertently apply extinction procedures which will result in undesireable outcomes (a smelly kitchen trash AND a dirty bathroom).  However, if you and your spouse are planning to go to dinner and they know if they pester enough they will get to pick the restaurant...and you consistently decide to not give in with the pestering, eventually the pestering will cease.  Thus, giving us another example - only this time, one with a desireable outcome.

FA – Functional Analysis:  The process of testing hypotheses about the functional relations among antecedent, target behavior, and consequences

FAST – Functional Analysis Screening Tool, one tool that is available to Behavior Analytic practitioners when conducting informal descriptive assessment (aka interviews).

FBA – Functional Behavior Assessment.  A FBA has five (5) components.  1) Identify and Operationally define the target behavior(s) 2) Identify situations in which the behavior will and will not occur (antecedents and consequences) 3) Identify the functions the behavior(s) serve/the reason the behaviors occur 4) Develop hypotheses/summary statements and 5) Collect direct observation data to confirm or refute the hypotheses developed.

FAI – Functional Assessment Interview, an semi-structured indirect assessment tool available to Behavior Analysts.

FAPE - Free and Appropriate Public Education

Frequency – The number of times a behavior occurs. Frequency is the dimension of measurement one should select when you wan to answer the question "How many times".

Functional Relationship – A relationship in which one variable changes systematically according to the value of another.  Often events tend to co-vary, or change at the same time and seemingly be related in ways that they are not. 

Generalization – The spread of the effects of reinforcement (or other operations such as extinction or punishment) of one stimulus to other stimuli, which differ from the original, along one or more dimensions.

Hypothesis – A speculation, prediction, or guess about the outcome of an experiment. In respec to behavioral assessments, hypotheses are developed after indirect assessments have been conducted.  Direct observation should occur following the development of hypotheses to attempt to confirm or dispute the suspected reasons and cause.

IBI - Intensive behavioral intervention 

IDEA – Individuals with Disability Act

IEP – Individual Education Plan, team members must include 1-Special Edcuation Teacher 2- Parent 3- Regular Education Teacher 4- Adminstrator or someone who can commit services on the part of the district and whenever possible, 5- The child..., IEPs are annual meetings to discuss a students specific goals and benchmarks which offer a means of measuring the degree and rate of progress a student makes.  If a child is awarded an IEP, the team will meet annually to review, unless a meeting is called by any member for any reason sooner than the determined due date (sometimes teams will convene and do 6-week check-ups, etc.).

Independent Variable – Any variable that is different from the dependent variable in that it can change independently of it.  It is something that can change when the dependent variable does not or can remain the same when the dependent variable changes.  Simply put, the independent variable is your intervention/treatment.  If you are trying to lose weight, your independent variable might be 1) reading nutrition labels 2) decreasing caloric intake 3) increasing number of fruits/vegetables.  If you are trying to increase a person's vocabulary, the independent variable might be 1) site word programs 2) sounding letters out 3) observing others perform the skill and repeating (such as the case with Video Modeling and echoic operants).

IOA – Inter-observer Agreement – A procedure for enhancing the believability of data that involves comparing independent observations from two or more people of the same events. IOA is computed by taking the number of agreements between the independent observers and divide by the number of agreements+disagreements.  The coefficient is then multiplied by 100 to compute the percentage (%) of agreement.

LEA – Local Education Agency

LRE – Least Restrictive Environment

Maintenance – Continuation of the conditions that generated a performance

Matching Law - The rate of responding is typically proportional to the rate of reinforcement from each choice alternative (Herrnstein, 1961).

Negative Reinforcement – The removal of a stimulus upon the occurence of a behavior that is likely to lead to that behavior happening again in the future. For example, a loud Fire alarm prompts you to exit a building.  If it is the absence of being caught in a burning building, being reprimanded or potentially fined for not exiting the building or even the removal of the loud, blarring noise of the alarm are enough to suggest that when you hear an alarm again in the future, you are likely to continue to engage in the behavior (i.e. exit the building).

Negative Reinforcer – An event or stimulus that increases the frequency of operants when it is removed contingent on behavior.  If when you put on your sunglasses the sun is no longer blinding you while you drive - AND - because you can see, you are more likely to put your sunglasses on when the sun is in your eyes in the future, then you could say that you have been negatively reinforced.  In this situation, the "removal of the blinding sun" is the negative reinforcer.

Operant – A class of responses defined by a functional relation with a class of common environmental effects.  Behaviors that are operant in nature are directly shaped by the antecedents (events that precede) and consequences (events that follow) surrounding that behavior.  The (3) three-term contingency is another name for an operant paradigm.

Operational Definition – A definition in terms of the operations used to produce and measure a phenomenon.  It is important to define a behavior in clear and concise terms so that it can be accurately measured, assessed and treated by a number of individuals across a variety of environments.

Overt Behavior – Behavior that can be observed by someone other than the person performing it (i.e. singing, screaming, laughing, smoking, eating, etc.). Conversely, covert behavior is behavior that cannot be observed by anyone other than the person performing the behavior (i.e. thinking, dreaming, etc.).

Positive Reinforcement – The presentation of a stimulus that increases the future likelihood that a behavior will occur.  It is important to note that "positive" does not necessarily mean "good" or "desirable".  Examples of positive reinforcement: 1) Giving a child a high five after they clean their room and increases the odds that they will clean their room again next time.  2) Giving your spouse a massage after they do the dishes, which leads to them doing the dishes more and more in the future.

Positive Reinforcer – A stimulus which is presented following a behavior which increases the likelihood that the behavior will occur in the future.  In the examples above the "reinforcer" is the 1) high five and 2) massage.

PDD – Pervasive Developmental Disorder - this disorder is used when there is severe and pervasive development of reciprocal social interaction or verbal and non-verbal communication skills, or when stereotyped behavior, interests, and activties are present (DSM-IV). 

Punishment –  The term punishment in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) literally means to "reduce behavior".  An example of a punishment procedure could include having a person brush their teeth after each cigarette they smoked.  If brushing their teeth after each cigarette led to the person smoking less and less cigarettes, this "tooth-burhsing procedure" would be considered a "punishment procedure". 

Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) - credentialed offered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) for direct support workers (DSW), which requires coursework, competency, and an exam. For more information, visit www.BACB.com

Reinforcement – The procedure of providing consequences for a behavior that increase or maintain the frequency of that behavior.  There are positive and negative reinforcement procedures.  Positive refers to the addition of a stimulus and negative to the removal of a stimulus which leads to a target behaviorincreasing in the future. The right to effective behavioral treatment: 1) An individual has a right to a therapeutic environment 2) An individual has a right to services whose overriding goal is personal welfare 3) An individual has a right to treatment by a competent behavior analyst 4) An individual has a right to programs that teach functional skills 5) An individual has a right to behavioral assessment and ongoing evaluation and 6) An individual has the right to the most effective treatment procedures available. (Van Houten, et al, 1988).

Shaping - Reinforcing successive approximations of a terminal behavior until the terminal behavior is exhibited.  Differential reinforcment is involved in shaping procedures.  In order to be effective when reinforcing closer approximations, previous versions of the behavior will be put on extinction aka will no longer receive reinforcement.  For example, if you are trying to teach a child to sign, you might first accepting hands clapped together for "more".  As the student becomes more precise with the formation, such as folding their hands you would no longer honor 'sloppier' versions for "more".  Every interaction we have with our environment shapes our behavior.

Stimulus – Any thing or event.  A stimulus exists even if nobody responds to it. A stimulus can be a bottle of water, a paycheck, an article of clothing, a television, table, and so forth.

TAG Teaching - TAG is an acronym that stands for teaching with Accoustical Guidance.  In TAG teaching a target behavior exhibited correctly is indicated by a click of a clicker.  This teaching method is most notably used for gymnastics and animal training. 

Topography – the way a behavior looks

Unconditioned Reinforcer - (also known as Primary Reinforcer) Reinforcement that is inherent, that you do not have to experience in your past for it to be reinforcing (increase behavior).  Examples include food, clothing, shelter, and sex.