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Applied Behavior Analysis

  • By: Edward J. Daly & Merilee McCurdy
  • In: Encyclopedia of School Psychology
  • Edited by: Steven W. Lee
  • Subject:School/Educational Psychology (general), School Psychology, Educational Psychology

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the scientific study and application of principles of behavior to improve human behaviors that are recognized as important to society (Baer & colleagues, 1968). The redundancy of the term behavior in this definition is purposeful; it reflects the overall emphasis and defining feature of the field. Whereas other psychological models attempt to measure and sometimes change thoughts, feelings, knowledge, and awareness, behavior is the hallmark of ABA. Behavior is what is measured and behavior is what is changed.

The number and types of behaviors that are significant to society seem almost limitless—a few examples are aberrant behaviors like self-injury, deviant behaviors like stealing, unsafe behaviors like poor driving, and not enough behavior like when a child in a classroom cannot give ...

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