How to Use the Right Measurement System

Measuring and observing behavior is such an important part of what we do as scientists, especially within the field of human behavior. How about we talk you through it? Let the bitches help you out SNABA style!

Measurement: is the process of applying a label to a naturally occurring event. There are three parts to the process of measurement in ABA, identify the behavior to be measured, define the behavior and select the appropriate data collection method.

Measurable Dimensions of Behavior: Behavior has three fundamental and measurable dimensional quantities.

  • Repeatability: also referred to as countability (you can count it), refers to the concept that instances of a behavior can occur over and over through time

Real World Example
While out at the bar with your best friend, you count how many shots you’ve had. Cheers to responsible adults!

Clinical Example
A therapist is assigned to take baseline data from their supervising BCBA on the number of times a specified student raised their hand during a math lesson. The therapist kept a tally on a sheet of paper and gave the final number to the BCBA at the end of the lesson.

Real World Example
Bored on a summer day, you create the world’s greatest obstacle course with your group of friends. It includes a slip and slide, flip cup, egg balance and hopscotch. You break everyone up in two groups and record the total duration it takes each team to get through the obstacles! Winner gets bragging rights of course.

Clinical Example
After working on two digit math facts for months, Tonya records the duration it takes her learner to complete 10 two digit math facts correctly. This measurement will give her a better understanding of how fluent the learner is, instead of how accurate they are.

  • Temporal locus: every behavior happens at a certain point in time with respect to other events (when a behavior occurred can be measured)

Real World Example
Laurie is fed up with her roommates’ untidy behavior. She asks her to clean the dishes every Thursday. After bringing it up in a random conversation, her roommate is convinced that she gets it done in a timely fashion. Laurie decides to record the amount of time that passes between her telling her roommate to clean the dishes and it actually getting done. She camps out in the kitchen to ensure she has the most accurate time.

Clinical Example
Molly, a BCBA, explains to a therapist during supervision that they will start timing how long it takes a learner to begin the first step in a chain of unpacking after giving the Sd “put away your things” and gesturing to a locker. Molly would like for the learner to respond faster to the Sd after the initial baseline measure was 5:04 minutes.

Selecting a Measurement Method: Selecting the most appropriate measurement method for a given behavior is a very difficult and complex skill. Often the selection of an appropriate measurement method is far from simple.

Generally consider the following:

  • Overall behavior change goal
  • Direction that you want the behavior to go
  • Ease of detecting the occurrence of behavior
  • Where and when the behavior will be measured
  • Data collector’s availability and skill set

LeBlanc and colleagues (2016) offer a good visual map of this process:

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