Saturday, June 03, 2006

Reader Request: So You Want to Know About Behavior Analysis

In this analysis I will very briefly, highlight and explain the major branches and subtypes of behavior analysis. I began this analysis upon the request of a reader, and I will have at least two more reader requested articles within the next month or so. I hope that the readers will find this taxonomy helpful and satisfactory in an introductory sort of way.

I have head the argument that all behavior analysis focuses upon is autism. This position simply reflects a lack of knowledge of the field of behavior analysis and perhaps has even done considerable harm. Alternately, I have heard that practitioners of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in the autism field should abandon the “ABA” name in order to disassociate themselves from the formerly used aversive practices in the field. My hope is that by presenting this analysis, those who hold such positions may reconsider (provided they actually read it).

The Two Major Divisions

Division 1. Behaviorism

Behaviorism: Is not the science of behavior, but a philosophy of that science (Skinner, 1974). It is related to logical positivism. It is a sub-branch of materialism, and within the broader field of epistemology.

It is possible to use principles of behavior analysis, but not philosophically, be a behaviorist. Alternately some person can be behaviorists, but not behavior analysts. This was/is true of certain philosophers such as J.R. Kantor.

Behaviorism can be broken into at least 14 major subdivision, only some of which survive into contemporary times.

1) Non specified: Includes a general orientation to towards the philosophical applications of behavior analysis, but without attributes that would allow for a more specific niche.

2) Cognitive-Behaviorism: Combines philosophies found within cognitive psychology an philosophies found within behaviorism. This may be the most popular form of behaviorism.

3) Radical Behaviorism: Is likely to be the second most popular form of behaviorism. It takes the stance that the study of thoughts and feelings are indeed appropriate study matter alongside more directly observable behavior.

4) Classical Behaviorism: Was the initial Branch of behaviorism, and can be traced to the early writings of Watson. It takes the position that covert behavior does not exist or is better explained as overt behavior.

5) Methodological Behaviorism: Holds that the primary focus of psychology should be the objectively and directly observable. For this reason, thoughts, feelings, cognition, are ruled out as appropriate subject, while not denying their existence per se.

6) Logical Behaviorism: Focuses, on the how we know what we know, in terms of behavior.

7) Teleological Behaviorism: Puts special attention on determining the behavior of individual as opposed to the general case.

8) Theoretical Behaviorism: Can be called an extension of radical behaviorism, but exceeds such, in focus upon covert events, and uses theorization about cognition to help explain behavior.

9) Biological Behaviorism: Puts special emphasis on the biological descriptions of behavior analytic theory.

10) Inter-behaviorism: Places special focus on the field theory of behavior analysis.

11) Hullian Behaviorism: Involves a focus on the physiological side of behaviorism.

12) Post-Hullian behaviorism: Involves several modifications of Hullian Behaviorism and is noted an orientation to group research logic.

13) Purposive Behaviorism: An early and distinct branch of cognitive-behaviorism

14) Experimental Behaviorism: Contains a special orientation to research focused on the overt and less emphasis on theoretical structures to explain behavior.

I note that several other subtypes could be said to exist, but I would argue that this is sufficient to be going on with.

Division 2. Behavior Analysis

Behavior analysis is the science of human behavior (Skinner, 1974). However, perhaps it better defined, as the science that focuses on explicit learning. This science is more parsimoniously broken into a taxonomy by its specific applications. This is discrepant from how I have broken down behaviorism. My apologies for any confusion this may cause.

3 Major Sub-Divisions

1) Experimental Analysis of Behavior: Involves research focused upon in the laboratory or other controlled setting. The questions answered in such research are of a highly conceptual nature which allow for the formation or rules or laws of learning via specific methods. This research is often, but not universally conducted with animals, as opposed to humans. Not all behavior analytic concepts originate in this field, some come from the bridge or applied fields, and are carried back later to the EAB. A notable example is the token economy.

2) Applied behavior Analysis: Involves research that looks at actual events in the lives of the participants. This typically involves humans, but is also true for animals.

3) Bridge Research: Denotes research that is not neither applied nor truly an example of EAB. Typically, but not universally, this involves research with humans, and answers a question about a real life concern, but not the participants natural environment.

Applied Behavior Analysis is the largest sub-division and should be broken down even further into the populations each group works with.

A) Educational: Is the largest group and includes several smaller application

a) Mainstream

b) Special Education
-Developmental Disabilities
-Other disabilities

B) Animal

a) Zoo work

b) Pet training

c) Law Enforcement

d) Wild Animal Rehabilitation

e) Animal research

f) Movie/stunt animal training

C) Clinical

a) Phobia deconditioning

b) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment

c) Family/Relationship Therapy

d) Stroke/ Traumatic Brain Injury Therapy

D) Organizational Behavior Management

a) Business training

b) Sports training

c) Safety Training

e) Movement of people

f) Behavior of groups

g) Marketing

I will not dispute that many more groups can be included in this taxonomy, but this should sufficient for an introduction.