Applied behaviour analysis is the application of behavioural principles to modify behaviour. Behavioural analysts assess the relationships between people, behaviour and social conventions to modify people’s behaviour. The reach of behavioural analysis principles is extremely widespread and can be applied to many situations. Hoping to be a Clinical Psychologist, specialising in working with children, the findings of behavioural analysis are extremely applicable. The behaviour analysis principles can be applied to amend problematic behaviour and help clients.
Behavioural analysts attempt to identify what is reinforcing a behaviour as without a reinforcer encouraging behaviour, it would not repeatedly occur. This relates to Thorndike’s law effect whereby the probability of a behaviour occurring is determined by the consequences that behaviour has had in the past. When someone has a disorder, their behaviour can seek to reinforce itself and continue the cycle. Identifying the reinforcer and addressing it can successfully extinguish the problematic behaviour. For example, manic behaviours are maintained by attention thus implementing noncontingent reinforcement is effective in reducing problematic behaviours (Allen et al., 2013).
Behavioural analysis also emphasises that for effective and long-term behaviour modification it must be client-specific. The reinforcer must be something which will be pleasant for the client. Willner et al., (1977) found that youths with a multitude of issues rated the trainees who used the youth-preferred methods more favourably. Thus emphasising the impact personalisation and empathy can have in therapeutic situations. Thus as a Clinical Psychologist it is important to appear empathetic and that you care about the client specifically. Hasse and Tepper (1972) found that nonverbal communication such as leaning forward and making eye contact with a client meant they were rated as highly empathetic even when they were saying something moderately empathetic. Therefor even the illusion of being empathetic can help clients to feel more comfortable which can in turn improve the likelihood of the effectiveness of the treatment.
Clinical psychologists can also make use of the weapons of influence Cialdini (2001) put forward. Social proof in particular has been found to be beneficial in helping to change problematic behaviour. Porterfield et al., (1976) found that contingent observation (stopping and watching playmates for a few seconds) significantly reduced the disruptive behaviour of young-children in day-care. This principle can also be applied to autistic children who like rigid routines and deviations from which can be extremely distressing. Being shown a video model of toy play using various characters encouraged three autistic children to use untrained characters in their play (Dupere, MacDonald & Ahearn, 2013).
Thus behavioural analysis is extremely useful in informing Clinical Psychologists with effective interventions and models of how to interact with patients. The behavioural analysis principles can be applied to a wide range of disorders and have been found to be extremely helpful. It was noted that combining the behavioural techniques of extinction, reinforcement and avoidance served to eliminate problematic behaviour for some patients in a matter of weeks (Ayllon and Michael, 1964).
Allen, M. B., Baker, J. C,. Nuernberger, J. E., & Vargo, K. K. (2013). Precursor manic behaviour in the assessment and treatment of episodic problem behaviour for a woman with dual diagnosis. Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 46, 685-688.
Ayllon, T., & Michael, J. (1964). The psychiatric nurse as a behavioural engineer. Conditioning Technique in Clinical Practice and Research, 275-289.
Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Dupere, S., MacDonald, R. P. F., & Ahearn, W. H. (2013). Using video modelling with substitutable loops to teach varied play to children with autism. Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 46, 662-668.
Hasse, R. F., & Tepper, D. T. (1972). Nonverbal components of empathetic communication. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 19, 15-27.
Porterfield, J. K., Herbert-Jackson, E., & Risley, T. R., Contingent observation: an effective and acceptable procedure for reducing disruptive behaviour of young children in a group setting. Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 9, 55-64.
Willner, A. G., Braukmann, C. J., Kirigin, K. A., Fixsen, D. L., Phillips, E. L., & Wolf, M. M. (1977). The training and validation of youth-preferred social behaviours with child-care personnel. Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 10, 219-230.
Sanaa Kadir (Blog 4)