Applied Behavior Analysis

So I wanted to take this space on our Webpage to briefly review current and past literature in the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis through the scope of our adult day program. I thought for our initial review why not start with the seminal paper published in the first issue of the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis in 1968 by Baer, Wolf, and Risley, “Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis”. This groundbreaking article named seven definitive dimensions to the approach of behavior analysis. To this day it defines what behavior analysis should look like.

The first dimension identified by Baer, Wolf and Risley is “Applied”. This dimension implies that the work we do should be committed to creating improvements in behavior that enhance people’s lives. At Quest we take great pride in our “Applied” work. All of our teaching and behavioral programs are designed to make our clients more successful in the community and at work. Programs such as responding to text messages, identifying your location, increasing social interactions and managing changes in routine are all designed to help our clients be more successful in their daily lives both at Quest and at home.

The second dimension identified in the article is “Behavioral”. How obvious right? Well, not always. At Quest, what we do to make sure all of our programs are “Behavioral” is make all of our outcomes measurable. We define the programs explicitly and establish ways to effectively measure the behavior in question, thus making it more likely that are programs are behavioral in nature.


The Third dimension is “Analytic” and means that as a program we need to be able to control the occurrence and nonoccurrence of a particular behavior as best as the environment will allow. Well this is obviously our end goal at Quest. We want to demonstrate effectiveness of our programs by controlling what behaviors will and will not occur. Let’s take a work site for example; we want to demonstrate that our programs increase the occurrence of work skills while decreasing the occurrence of behaviors that would interfere, like stereotypic behavior.

The fourth dimension offered by Baer, Wolf and Risley was “Technological”. Now their definition of technology is slightly different than what we think today. While technology like computers, smart phones and tablets make all of our jobs easier and have advanced services for people with disabilities, when Baer, Wolf and Risley talk about technology they mean replication. At Quest, we have a library of programs created through the years detailing in exact clarity what to do to run a goal. The program or goal is then individualized to each participant based upon strengths, likes and deficits and then clearly written out in a step by step format so that anyone can pick up a program, read it and know exactly what to do! The fifth dimension is “Conceptually Systematic”. What this dimension implies is that all programs and plans need to be based on the basic principles of Behavior Analysis. This is important at Quest because we want to teach our staff that work with participants the principles behind all of our procedures, so that the staff have a better understanding of the reasons programs are effective and which ones are most appropriate for a specific situation. The better the staff comprehend the science of behavior the more likely they will utilize successful interventions.

IMG_8622AThe sixth dimension is “Effective”, which states that interventions must produce behavior changes that are clinically or socially significant. At Quest we determine the effectiveness of programs by graphing data and evaluating the changes in behavior. We also use social validity to determine the effectiveness of programs by getting input from families, participants and work sites to determine if they feel programs are effective. The last dimension is “Generality”, which states that behavior changes last over time, appear in novel environments and/or spread to different behaviors not originally taught. This dimension is important in an adult day program designed to teach vocational, social and daily living skills. Quest creates programs designed to increase or decrease behavior that in order to be considered effective must occur other environments or spread to novel behaviors. We need to make sure that if we teach a skill to be used at Quest, that the participant can use that skill at home, work and in the community.

I hope you enjoyed this brief literature review of Baer, Wolf and Risley’s article “Some Current Dimensions in Applied Behavioral Analysis”, through the Quest lens, which although written nearly 50 years ago, still remains relevant and “current”!