We are active and dynamic beings. We continually engage in some form of behavior or conduct, usually with some sort of purpose or intention. To do this is relatively simple. But it’s not so much about determining how and why we behave the way we do, the foundations of behavior.
In this sense and from within the branch of psychology, different propositions, models and techniques have emerged throughout history in an attempt to determine it. One is the experimental analysis of behavior, Which we will talk about in this article.
Experimental analysis of behavior: what is it?
It is understood by experimental analysis of the conduct or behavior of this system or paradigm as much theoretical as methodological which tries study and analyze the processes by which we end up generating behaviors through an experimental, exploitable and qualitative methodology.
This system views behavior or behavior as a product of the interaction between natural selection, reinforcement of past behaviors, and interaction with the social environment.
The experimental analysis of behavior emerges as such from the work of BF Skinner, and is largely based on the radical behaviorism he advocates: behavior is the only object of study of psychology by being the only one directly observable. This author insists especially on the importance of the consequences at the time of explaining the behavior and its modification (being also at the origin of the operant conditioning). It aims to explain human and / or animal behavior based on observable and measurable relationships between stimuli and responses.
Technically, the experimental analysis of behavior would be one of the three disciplines that would be included in behavioral analysis, in this case being the one that focuses on the study of basic processes. In addition to this, we might also find conceptual analysis (for theoretical aspects) and applied behavioral analysis (which considers how to reflect and use the acquired knowledge in practice).
It is important to note that this model would be initiated by Skinner, but many other authors would make changes and additions later. These include research conducted with children by Bijou or Wolf, which focused on observing the sensitivity to the consequences of the behaviors of minors under different conditions.
Behavior in this conceptual system
Regarding the consideration of behavior by the experimental analysis of behavior, according to this model is the result of the interaction of biological and environmental variables that allow the generation of associations between stimuli, responses and consequences. The man or animal in question would be an entity classified as a black box, somewhat unexplored and internal elements do not necessarily have to be the mechanisms that trigger the behavior.
One of the main characteristics of the experimental analysis of behavior is that it considers that the conduct as a whole is not arbitrary but is subject to natural scientific laws, in which it is related to a dependent variable ( the conduct) with an independent (its causes), in such a way that these laws allow that the behavior can get to predict and to modify on the basis of them.
The bases of our behavior are, according to the model from which the experimental analysis of behavior begins, the consequences and effects that these have on the organism that emits them. Behaviors that generate pleasant consequences are considered to be reinforced so as to be maintained and perpetuated, while aversive consequences will in principle lead to a tendency for the inappropriate behaviors to disappear.
Also, with regard to the participation of the environment, it should be noted that it is possible to find the existence of contingencies of a phylogenetic, ontogenetic and cultural nature that affect the initiation and commission of behavior. The environment therefore influences participation according to our evolution and the context in which we find ourselves, the reinforcement that our behavior has received throughout our lives and the situation in which we are plunged at the socio-cultural level.
The experimental analysis of behavior starts from a model that does not include the mind or cognition in the explanation of behavior, but nevertheless accepts the existence of behaviors that are private or observable only by the subject who experiences them.
In this way the existence of private verbal conduct is accepted, Bias perceptions based on conditioning and the presence of situations in which the organism itself is the source of the stimulation generated by the behavior.
Reviews of the model
Experimental behavior analysis is a system which has had a great influence and repercussion in the field of psychology, but which is still useful in different fields has also received several criticisms.
Since experimental behavior analysis proposes that behavior is governed by a series of unalterable laws and does not exclude or assess the involvement of unassessable aspects such as motivation, goals, and desires, this model offers a mechanistic view of behavior, being one of the reasons why at the time it was controversial and for which it has received various criticisms.
Another possible criticism to keep in mind is that a lot of research conducted within the experimental analysis of behavior has been done with different animal species, so the conclusions drawn are not always generalizable. However, the model takes this fact into account and is cautious in generalizing its findings across different species (although many of its basic principles have been reflected in both humans and other beings).
Likewise, the existence of internal factors specific to the subject is not taken into account as possible causal factors of behavior, and therefore mainly passive under the paradigm on which it is based. However this does not imply that the existence of private events is not taken into accountSomething that would gradually lead to the emergence of cognitivism.
- Ardila, R. (1999). Experimental analysis of behavior: basic concepts and perspectives. Bogota: Foundation for the Advancement of Psychology
- Gómez, J. (sd) What is Experimental Behavior Analysis? Available at: http://psicoteca.blogspot.com/2008/02/qu-es-el-anlisis-experimental-del.html
- Polit, MA and Calçada, JL (2010). Experimental analysis of behavior: Some experimental models of interest for neuroscience. Mexican Journal of Neuroscience: 11 (4).