ABAB Research Design
A single participant experiment where the A phase consists of a series of sessions where no consequences following a specific behavior occurs and in B phase consists of a series of sessions where the consequence is provided following each occurrence of that behavior. These phases are alternated in an ABAB fashion to rule out confounding variables or alternative explanations for the findings (Martin & Pear, 2011).
ABCs of behavior
Identifying the antecedents, behavior, and consequences or what precedes and follows a particular behavior in order to understand the function of that behavior
ABC functional assessment
Observing and recording the ongoing antecedents, behavior, and consequences for behavior in a particular situation.
antecedent-based treatment
Methods of addressing challenging behavior where stimuli that occur before the challenging behavior are altered e.g., instructions, noncontingent reinforcement.
applied behavior analysis
An experimentally-based approach involving use of learning principles and procedures to increase individuals’ socially significant behaviors.
automatic positive reinforcement
A behavior is maintained by the immediate consequences for that behavior. No social consequences are involved. For example, screaming due to the sound produced; face tapping due to tactile sensation, or regurgitation due to stimulation of the esophagus.
Behavior Intervention Plan
Individualized plans that describe appropriate interventions for individuals’ challenging behaviors. These plans include prevention, proactive, and reactive components.
Behavioral Definition
Defining behavior in observable, specific, and measurable terms.
case-based learning
Involves presentation of a real-world problem for students to define and solve during instruction.
challenging behaviors
Problem behaviors that are pervasive and persistent, which do not respond to usual methods of intervention.
conditional probability analysis
To aide in determining the maintaining variable(s) for an individual’s challenging behavior, the degree of correspondence of particular antecedents and consequences with the occurrence of the challenging behavior are calculated.
continuous recording
All occurrences and durations of the individual’s behavior are recorded during an observation session.
Council for Exceptional Children
The professional organization for teachers who work with students with disabilities.
Socially transmitted characteristics, patterns, and beliefs of a group of people.
demand fading
To decrease an individual’s challenging behavior maintained by escape from demands, demands are initially removed, then, as the challenging behavior remains low, demands are gradually reintroduced.
Not having something in a long while. To increase the probability of a behavior that results in a particular reinforcer, conditions of deprivation are increased.
differential reinforcement
Reinforcing desirable behaviors and not other inappropriate behaviors.
differential reinforcement of alternative behavior
A procedure to eliminate an individual’s challenging behavior by providing reinforcement following desirable behavior.
differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior
A procedure to eliminate an individual’s challenging behavior by providing reinforcement following a behavior that cannot occur at the same time as the challenging behavior e.g., reinforce talking at conversational level instead of shouting.
differential reinforcement of low rates—limited
A procedure to reduce an individual’s behavior by providing a reinforcer if the behavior occurs less than a maximum amount within a certain time interval e.g., only if less than 3 talk-outs occur during a class is a token delivered to the child.
differential reinforcement of low rates—spaced responding
A procedure to decrease but not eliminate behavior by providing a reinforcer following an instance of the behavior that occurred after a period of nonoccurrence e.g., to decrease someone who is excessively phone calling, only picking up after an interval when that person did not call.
differential reinforcement of zero rates (DRO)
A procedure to eliminate challenging behavior by delivering a positive reinforcer following an interval of no occurrence of the challenging behavior (e.g., every 5 minutes when Jason does not suck his thumb praise and a candy are given to him). If the challenging behavior occurs then the interval starts over.
discrete trial training
An approach to teaching new behaviors where trials involving presentation of an instruction, waiting for the individual’s response, and providing appropriate consequences is performed.
environmental enrichment
Entails enhancing the quality of the individual’s natural environment by adding increased access to preferred activities, people, or objects with variety and choices available.
No longer providing the reinforcer maintaining the problem behavior such that that behavior is less likely in future situations (Martin & Pear, 2011).
extinction burst
Whereby the behavior being extinguished gets ‘worse before it gets better.’ That is, emotional behaviors and aggression in addition to an increase in severity of the problem behavior may occur.
functionally equivalent replacement behavior
A desirable behavior that serves the same purpose as the challenging behavior.
Functional Analysis
An experimental method used to identify the maintaining variables for an individual’s challenging behavior.
Functional analysis case-based training (FACT)
A FACT method incorporates a case-based learning approach, role play, simulation, and performance-based instruction as major instructional methodologies to establish and hone students’ knowledge-base and skills required to implement a functional analysis process.
Functional Communication Training (FCT)
Teaching the individual to ask for (mand) stimuli, events, or people that serve the same function as the problem behavior.
functional replacement behavior
A desirable behavior that serves the same purpose as the challenging behavior.
general case strategy
Entails carefully identifying the relevant aspects of a situation and including a representative sample of those characteristics in your training program.
Transfer of training gains across setting, people, behaviors, and time.
The heterogeneous grouping of children for academic and social reasons, including children with disabilities.
indirect functional assessment
Assessment measures used to gather information about a student from people who know the student, such as rating scales, interviews, and questionnaires.
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
A legal document containing an individualized approach to the academic and social education of a student with a disability.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act
A federal law enacted in 2004 that mandates how educational professionals interact with students with disabilities and their families.
informed consent
Parents and legal guardians must give written permission to professional for access to information, assessment, and treatment procedures.
intellectual disability
A disability which significantly affects the developmental processes, including intelligence and adaptive behaviors.
interobserver reliability
Two independent observers simultaneously record an individual’s behavior and the degree to which their observations agree is calculated.
Transfer of training gains across time.
motivational operation
Refers to an environmental event or condition that alters the effectiveness of a reinforcer and affects the frequency of behaviors that lead to that reinforcer (Michael, 2000).
multielement research design
A single organism research design that involves the rapid alternation of conditions.
negative reinforcement
A behavioral principle which states that if someone does something and it results in the immediate escape or avoidance of an aversive stimulus then that person is more likely to do the same thing in similar future situations.
negative reinforcer
The removal or avoidance of an aversive stimulus e.g., putting sun glasses on when the sun is blinding.
noncontingent reinforcement
Reinforcers for the problem behavior can be provided freely according to a set time before the individual engages in that behavior to potentially remove the reason for the problem behavior.
observational functional assessment
A method to attempt to determine the maintaining variable(s) by collecting data on the antecedents, behavior, and consequences for the individual’s challenging behavior.
performance-based training
An instructional strategy wherein the teacher describes and models the desired behavior, and provides feedback while the learner practices the skill to criterion.
permanent product
The remnants or offshoots of a behavior that can be used to measure the occurrence of the behavior e.g., words on a page to measure writing behavior, crimpled dental floss to measure flossing.
Positive Behavior Support (PBS)
A focus on individuals’ desired behavior, rather than focusing on the undesirable or challenging behavior. This approach is generally conducted on a school-wide level.
preference assessment
An efficient method to identify a potential reinforcer by assessing the individual’s choice in a variety of objects, events, or stimuli.
positive reinforcement
A behavioral principle that states that when a positive reinforcer is delivered immediately following a behavior, that behavior will likely persist or increase.
positive reinforcer
Positive reinforcers refer to objects or events that when delivered immediately after a behavior serve to increase its frequency in future.
reinforcer test
Involves experimentally comparing levels of the behavior in phases where the item being evaluated is delivered immediately after the behavior to that in another phase where the item is provided just according to a set time such as every 5 seconds or noncontingently.
Response to Intervention (RTI)
A procedure whereby professionals monitor the academic and social skills of a child and implement interventions to prevent failure.
role play
A method of teaching procedural behaviors and skills by the individual reenacting the situation and performing the requisite behaviors.
Having too much of something. If a reinforcer is delivered too frequently and satiation occurs then that item loses its ability to serve as a reinforcer or no longer increases the behavior after which it occurs.
social validity
Procedures used to determine whether the goals of training, the training procedures, and/or the outcome of training are acceptable to the person and others involved.
stimulus generalization
Transfer of training gains across objects, events, settings, or people.
task analysis
A procedure whereby a complex task is broken down and described in terms of the specific steps needed to complete it.
time chart
A method of collecting data where an occurrence of a particular behavior is noted during briefer (e.g., 30 minutes) intervals of each day. A data sheet with cells for each time periods during the day as rows and days of the week as columns is used.
token economy
A system of promoting desirable behavior where the individual is provided with conditioned reinforcers (e.g., small pieces of cardboard with Velcro backing) for short intervals (2 hours) where desired behaviors and no challenging behaviors occur. After collecting several conditioned reinforcers, they are then exchanged for backup or more substantial reinforcers.
The form of a behavior such as a dance move, gesture, or yoga movement.
treatment integrity
A procedural check performed to ensure that a treatment procedure is implemented as intended.


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Glossary by Marcie Desrochers and Moira Fallon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.