The utility of the Functional Behavioral Assessment
The use of the Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) has a series of benefits opposing to other methods. The principal strength of this method resides in the fact that it is focused on determining the motives of a particular behavior. As a result, a psychologist is enabled to resolve the problem by eliminating its cause.
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It is critical to note that this method has numerous advantages comparing to the “old school” methods that emphasized the form of behavior. Therefore, form-focused approaches would not allow resolving the problem completely as they analyzed the outcomes rather than the underpinning reasons.
Another “old school” method – topography – was also inefficient in comparison to the FBA. Thus, the former registered actual behavior without examining the factors that provoked it. In the meantime, practice shows that similar behavior expressions can be motivated by different conditions; therefore, they need to be addressed differently (Cooper, Heron, & Howard, 2007).
The implementation of the FBA has been widely studied throughout the past decades. Thus, the problem was first addressed by Peterson, Bijou, and Ault, who focused on the significance of the motivation that determines a person’s behavior. The problem was further studied in 70-s and 80-s, and the importance of “function” became undoubted. One of the most significant contributions to the study of the FBA method was performed by Carr, who carried out a series of relevant studies aimed at testing the efficacy of the FBA approach (Steege & Watson, 2009).
It is also critical to note that the term, as well as the relevant approach, became widely applied only after this method was elucidated in the Public-Law 105-17. Before that, psychologists and practitioners would use some of its basic concepts, but the term would seldom be applied (Steege & Watson, 2009).
Motivative operations constitute the basis of the FBA concept. Thus, they represent the factors that determine a person’s behavior in different ways. The relevant term is normally applied to such factors that either strengthen or weaken the potential effectiveness of a particular consequence (Cooper, Heron, & Howard, 2007).
There are various types of motivative, or the so-called “motivating” operations, among which, it is essential to point out establishing operations and discriminative stimuli. Thus, the former refers to those factors that influence one’s motivation to perform a particular action (Cooper, Heron, & Howard, 2007). For example, a person is more likely to enjoy a walk in a park, in case he or she has previously spent a lot of time indoors. The latter, in its turn, describes the response provided immediately after the behavioral performance (Cooper, Heron, & Howard, 2007). Hence, people often refuse to obey essentially after they hear a command.
It is also critical to distinguish between conditioned and unconditioned motivating operations. The first type refers to natural inborn operations that a person carries out without considering it. Hence, there are some established unconditioned motivations, such as the deprivation of sleep or water, which have a relatively equal impact on all humans. The second type, conditioned motivating operations, is more complex as it refers to the so-called “learned” operations. This kind of motivating operations is individual for every person. The analysis of motivative operation plays a critical role in FBA as it provides some insights into the potential changes in a person’s behavior.
Cooper, J.O., Heron, T.E., & Howard, W.L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.
Steege, M.W., & Watson, T.S. (2009). Conducting school-based functional behavioral assessments: A practitioner’s guide. New York, New York: The Guilford Press.