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9 hours agoNathan Anderson Unit 1 DiscussionCOLLAPSE

To what extent should a person’s diagnosis (for example, autism or ADHD) be considered by a behavior analyst in assessing the cause of his or her behaviors that have been targeted for change?

Behavior analysts should only consider a diagnosis when it directly impacts the behavior of the subject. For instance, a person with a motor disability might emit behavior that is caused by inability to control their body. However, it’s important to be cautious to not start attributing behaviors to disabilities if there isn’t a clear link.  This falls into the “disability” fallacy pointed out by the textbook authors (Chandler and Dahlquist, 2015).

When is it appropriate to attribute a person’s diagnosed condition as the function of his or her behavior in an FBA?

I may be misunderstanding this, but it doesn’t seem very helpful to me to attribute a diagnosed condition as the function of a behavior.  If a behavior is connected to some part of a disability (sensory processing, apraxia, impulse control, etc.) I think we should be using the FBA to make that clear, but also to make clear that even if the behavior serves a function connected to the diagnosis, they are not the same thing. Behaviors can be changed, even if diagnoses can’t. Therefore, the diagnosis is just part of the environment.

Why does the topography of the behavior reveal rather limited information about the conditions that account for the behavior of concern? Explain.

Topographically similar behaviors can have widely different functions, and sometimes behaviors may be topographically identical and functionally different. For instance, my daughter often hums tunes and recites movie lines. An FBA could show that she does this at different times for self-soothing or for avoidance of classwork, even if the behavior is identical.

Is it important to understand why a behavior occurs before planning how it can be changed?

On the question of whether we need to understand why a behavior occurs, my answer is “yes”, but I think this needs to be clarified because behavioral science language departs from regular English here. One of the foundations of Behaviorism is that we don’t look for “explanatory fictions” (Skinner, 1953), meaning that we’re not examining a person’s subjective state of mind.  However, the whole point of this class is to assess functions of behavior, and if we equate “why” to functions, it becomes clear that there’s no way to plan a behavior change without understanding the function.


Chandler, L. K., & Dahlquist, C. M. (2015). Functional assessment: Strategies to prevent and             remediate challenging behavior in school settings (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and Human Behavior. New York: Macmillan.

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