Here is my ABA glossary


ABC: Acronym for ‘Antecedent Behaviour Consequence’ that relates to the three-term contingency.




ABC Recording: This is when professionals or parents take data on Antecedent, Behaviours and consequences that occur around challenging behaviours. This can be done to assess baseline levels, to help develop interventions, or to help assess the efficacy of an intervention.

ABLLS-R: The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills – Revised is an assessment tool developed by Dr. Partington. This is used by practitioners to assess skills and develop ABA programmes.

Acquisition: The addition of a new skill to a person’s repertoire. Within the programme summary, the mastery criteria is outlined and typically will be two or three consecutive ‘YES’ probes , across two therapists.

Adjunctive behaviours: These are time-filling behaviours, for instance smoking, biting nails, playing with hair which accompany a periodic reinforcement schedule for other behaviours. This occurs when there is a break in reinforcement for behaviour (due to a interval schedule; reinforcement not available for a certain amount of time), adjunctive behaviours may occur. Also known as schedule-induced behaviour.

Alternating Treatments Design:  This design is one in which two or more treatments are rapidly alternated across sessions. Presentation is random and this design gives you an opportunity to directly compare the effectiveness of two interventions.  Alternating treatment Designs may have a baseline phase, or may also end with a ‘best intervention’ phase. Issues with this is there may be multiple treatment interference., where results are due to the combination of both interventions.

Antecedent: The event in the environment that occurs immediately (within approximately 5 seconds) before a behaviour.

Aversive Stimulus: This is a stimulus that is unpleasant and typically will evoke a behaviour that has been reinforced by the removal of that stimulus. For example, a spider may be considered aversive, and will evoke behaviours that result in the spider being removed from the environment, possibly using a glass, or by leaving the room.



Back up Reinforcers: These are rewards and tangibles that can be exchanged for tokens. A token economy is set up and tokens are delivered to learners to reinforce target behaviours. When a certain number of tokens are collected they can be exchange for items the learner enjoys, e.g., stickers, toys, sweets, etc..

Baseline: This is when data is collected prior to the introduction of an intervention. This gives a picture of the frequency or/and duration of the target behaviour before the intervention introduced. This helps demonstrate how effective the intervention is, if an intervention is found to be necessary.

Behaviour: This is the observable activity (a movement, action) of an organism. This includes anything a person can do.

Behaviour Chain: A behaviour chain are a series of behaviours (actions, movements) that complete a task, for instance washing hands. For this behaviour chain it would contain a variety of steps, turning on the tap, putting hands in water, getting soap, rubbing hands with soap, etc..

Behavioural Momentum: This is the phenomena behind building up compliance by using a series of easy tasks (high probability responses; HPR) before presenting a difficult task (low probability responses). Behavioural Momentum is when compliance is gained through the momentum of responding. This theory is used the procedure called ’High probability requests’.


Changing criterion:  This research/ intervention design demonstrates a gradual stepwise improvement through criteria. When a criteria is met the criteria is increased and reinforcement is delivered contingent on achieving the criteria. This demonstrates experimental control as the participants achieves the criteria.

Chaining: This is when a series of responses  follow one another to produce an outcome. For example, brushing teeth or cooking involve various responses and behaviours that must follow one another to produce an outcome. Teaching these types of skills can be doe using a Task Analysis (see Task Analysis for more information).

Confounding Variable: This is a variable that may exert influence over a target behaviour during an intervention or experiment. It is important to control for confounding variables to demonstrate control over the target behaviour/s.

Consequence: This is an event that occurs immediately after a behaviour. These can have affects on the behaviour (punishment or reinforcing effects), which make them more or less likely to occur in the future.

Conditioned Establishing Operations (CEO; aka Conditioned Motivational Operations CMO): are learnt by contact with a contingency, and increase the value of a reinforcer. There are three types of CEO:

  • Reflexive CEO (CEO-R) signals worsen conditions and increases the value of behaviours that function as escape or avoidance of those worsen conditions. For example having a low bank balance can be a CEO-R and increase the value of obtaining more money through the behaviour of working overtime.
  • Transitive CEO (CEO-T) increase the value of another stimulus. An example of a CEO-T if you lost your car key, or were taking your car to a garage, this may increase the value of locating your spare key, and you may mand for information (“Where is the spare key?”), so you are able to locate your spare keys.
  • Surrogate CEO (CEO-S) is a neutral stimulus that becomes paired and adopts the ability to increase value for a stimulus. For example when you order a take-away the menu flyer may become paired with the take away food. On a later occasion seeing the flyer may increase the value of ordering take away food.

Conditioned reinforcers: These are reinforcers that have become reinforcers through experience with contingencies. Examples of these would be stickers, money, certificates, etc..

Concurrent Schedule: This is a schedule that involves two or more schedules of reinforcement operating simultaneously or independently at one time. This may include a ratio (response) and interval (time) schedules, so learners are required to complete a number of responses within a specified time before reinforcement will be available. This may be when a teacher tells children they can have play once they have completed 10 maths questions, or worked for 10 minutes on maths. This means if they finished 10 questions before 10 minutes they can play, or if they finish fewer questions but have worked for 10 minutes then they can play (independent time and response schedules). Alternative the teacher may say that they must complete 10 questions and work for 10 minutes, this would mean if a child finishes their 10 questions and 10 minutes has not elapsed, they would have to continue and complete more questions and if a child has not completed 10 questions within 10 minutes, then they must continue to work (simultaneous time and response schedules).


Deprivation: This is when certain length of time has passed since an organism has consumed a reinforcer. This describes the state of this organism, as the value of the reinforcer increases and behaviours that are typically reinforced by that reinforcer are evoked. An example of this is thirst, when thirst the organism tries to obtain water or a drink.

Determinism: This is an assumption that the universe is lawful and the behaviours occur for a reason. The three-term contingency helps to explain these reasons through the principles of behaviour.

Differential Reinforcement: This is an important aspect of teaching. Differential reinforcement generally means that the reinforcement matches the response that is made. For instance a good accurate response that is under acquisition gains access to a powerful reinforcement (praise, a big piece of cookie and tickles), whereas a response that is considered mastered that is less accurate than typical, will be taught errorlessly and then receive a less powerful reinforcement (praise). There are also specific Differential reinforcement schedules outlined.

  • DRI—Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behaviour: This procedure is the reinforcement of a behaviour that can not occur at the same time as the problem behaviour. The problem behaviour could be out of seat behaviour and the new target behaviour could be appropriate sitting in a chair. These behaviours can not occur simultaneously therefore a DRI procedure may be used
  • DRA—Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behaviour: This procedure is used to teach a replacement behaviour that is not necessarily incompatible. An example for this could be calling out and the new behaviour being raising your hand. Both behaviours could occur simultaneously, however raising hand appropriately would be reinforced to increase the probability of the behaviour occurring again.
  • DRO—Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviours: This is when reinforcement is delivered for any behaviour when the problem behaviour is not present. This could be used in an instance where Self-Injurious Behaviours occurs. If the child is, for example, hand biting, all appropriate behaviours that occur while the hand is not in contact with the mouth would be reinforced.  There are two types of DRO , Interval and Momentary that can be implemented on a Fixed or Varied schedule.
  • DRL—Differential Reinforcement of Low Occurring Behaviours: This is a procedure that can be used to decrease the frequency of a problem behaviour without eliminating it. This is an appropriate procedure for a child that seeks out the teacher for assistance at high frequency. This behaviour can be disruptive to teaching, however does not need to be eliminated.
  • DRH—Differential Reinforcement of High rates: This procedure is used to increase the rates of a behaviour using an increasing criteria for a set interval. For example the participant must make 5 responses in 30 minutes to obtain reinforcement, and then the criteria is increased to 8 responses per 30 mins.
  • DRD—Differential Reinforcement of Diminish rates:  Similar to DRH, uses a set interval, however the criteria decreases to slowly decrease the frequency of behaviour.

Dimensions of Applied Behaviour Analysis: A famous paper written by Baer, Wolf and Risley (1968), it’s entitled “Some dimensions of Applied Behaviour Analysis”.

  • Applied: This dimension emphasises the importance of choosing areas that are socially significant and enhance peoples lives.  This can be important to an individual, for example teaching daily living skills, or to a group, for example, decreasing littering behaviours.
  • Behavioural: This dimension focuses on choosing observable behaviours when implementing interventions.  Behaviours must be observable and measurable. It is also important to consider whose behaviour is being changed. Ensuring the results have occurred due to accurate data and well planned intervention.
  • Analytical: This dimension discussing Behaviour Analyst being able to demonstrate control over the behaviour. This means that when an intervention is in place it changes the behaviour and when the intervention is absent the behaviour occurs at levels that may be considered ‘normal’.
  • Technological: This dimensions mean that researchers describe the interventions clearly and concisely so that it can be replicated. With regards to programmes being run in homes and schools  being Technological is equally  as important to ensure each professional is consistent and respond to the same behaviours with the exact intervention.
  • Conceptually Systematic: This dimension focuses on the importance of using principles that are based on Behaviour Analysis. This includes  describing how interventions are effective in line with behavioural principles.
  • Effective: This dimension discusses the important of ensuring an intervention is effective in the sense that it is achievable and cost-effective. It must be practical to implement the intervention in applied settings . Most importantly the intervention should achieve a behavioural change that is socially significant. This behaviour change must be functional. If the behaviour change does not directly improve the persons life and allow the subject to assess better quality of life then the intervention is not effective.
  • Generality: This dimension stresses that behaviour change must last across time and settings and occur with many different people/stimuli. This achieved when the intervention is faded and removed and the behaviour change continues. This is when generality is achieved.


Discriminative Simulus (SD): It is a stimulus or stimuli that signals availability of reinforcement. An example used in Cooper, Heron and Heward (2007, reference below) is a phone ringing. When the phone rings it signals reinforcement is available, because the behaviour of picking up the phone will lead to speaking to someone. When the phone isn’t ringing, there is no reinforcement available, because picking up the phone will not lead to speaking to someone. When behaviours occur in the presence of the SD (i.e. answering the phone when it is ringing) this demonstrates stimulus control (see stimulus control).

DTT: Acronym for Discrete Trial Teaching, another name for Intense Trial Teaching, (See ITT).


Echoic: This verbal behaviour is identical to what is heard before the speaker speaks. There is a vocal prompt (e.g. “Say Buh”) and the speakers echoic response would be “buh”. N.B. The SD and behaviour have point-to-point correspondence (start, middle and end are identical) and formal similarity (physically resemble each other).

Ethics: These are behaviours and practises within the field that address what is right and fair. Ethics discuss decisions that may be difficult to make, due to the implications to what is morally right. The Behaviour Analyst Certification Board (BACB) have provided us with a set of guidelines called the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behaviour Analysts. This discussion answers questions about intervention choices, and the importance of the client. It also advises on payments, termination of services and relationship with colleagues and clients. It also discuss the role of the Behaviour Analyst, with regards to keeping up-to-date with the field and research and promoting the field.



Group Contingency: This is when the behaviour of the group or one person in the group will affect a reward being delivered to individuals in the group

  • Independent Group Contingency: A contingency rule is given to a large group but only the members of the group that meet the criteria receive the reward. A Independent Group Contingency is used by a teacher whom sets homework for the class and promises a sticker to those who complete the homework by Friday.
  • Dependent Group Contingency: This is also known as the hero procedure as the performance of one member (or a small group) will result in a reward for the entire group. An example of this could be a goalkeeper during a penalty shoot-out, or if a schools sports team wins a trophy, the entire school may receive recognition when only the team has performed.
  • Interdependent Group Contingency: This depends on every member of the group meeting the criteria before the reward is delivered. This could be a promise of a break from work  when the whole class has finished a task.


HPR: Acronym for High Probability Response/s.


ITT: Intense Trial Teaching involves fast pace of targets being taught in succession to allow several teaching opportunities and to improve fluency.

Intraverbal: A verbal behaviour that is evoked by a verbal discriminative stimulus that does not have point-to-point correspondence. An example of this would be responding to the mand [for information] “What’s did you have for dinner?”, the response “Steak” is an intraverbal response. This is because the question and answer do not physically match or share any features.






Mand: A behaviour that expresses a NEED or WANT. A mand is a request, so could include a vocalisation, a gesture, a sign [from Makaton, or British Sign language, etc.] or a PECS selection. An example of this would be a toddler lifting their arms up in front of an adult to indicate they want to be picked up, or an adult asking another adult for the time. N.B. Mands benefit the speaker

Motor Imitation: This is when a physical movement is copied and imitated. This could be a gross motor movements, fine motor movements, object manipulation or sign language.

Multiple baseline design:  A Multiple baseline staggers the introduction of an intervention across settings, subjects or behaviours. This design is perfect for behaviours that are irreversible and if it is undesirable to return to baseline. There are two types of Multiple baseline designs, the multiple probe design and delayed multiple baseline design.  Another benefit is that it follows a natural implementation of interventions being applied in this way. One limitation is that  there is poor experiment control demonstrated.


NET: Acronym for Natural Environment Teaching involves using an activity to generalise skills by capturing motivation in the environment. This is typically a less structured play activity.

Non-contingent Reinforcement (NCR): This is a schedule of reinforcement that is non-contingent of responses. A reinforcement is delivered regardless of the behaviours that occur . This usually occurs after a set time (Fixed-time) or an average time (Variable-time).



Premack Principle: This is a behavioural tool that can be used to increase the likelihood of someone engaging in a low probability response or behaviour. A low probability response or behaviour is a behaviour in their repertoire that is not consistent in frequency. The Premack Principles outlines that to increase the frequency of these behaviours, they should be followed by a high probability response or behaviour (a response or behaviour that is engaged in at a high frequency). The Premack Principle is often referred to as Grandma’s rule. This rule is typically “if you eat your peas, you can have ice cream”, where eating peas is a low probability behaviour and eating ice cream is a high probability behaviour. This means eating peas will increase in frequency if followed by eating ice cream. Some other examples are, if I go to the gym I can get a massage or if I study for an hour I can watch a movie. These contingencies encourage low probability behaviours and the high probability behaviours act as reinforcers.

Prompt: Prompts are used to assist learning. These are used to ensure the person is able to complete a task with accuracy and learn the steps to perform a task or elicit a behaviour.

  • GP: Acronym for Gestural Prompt, typically appears on data sheets. This means giving a prompt using a gesture, pointing, modelling, etc..
  • V: Short for Vocal. Usually used to record a prompt level that is delivered in teaching
  • PPP: Acronym for Partial Physical Prompt, typically appearing on data sheets. This means a prompt that uses a partial physical prompt. This includes anything less that a full physical prompt (hand over hand) and a slight touch.
  • FPP: Acronym for Full Physical Prompt, typically appearing on data sheets. This is also known as hand over hand, and involves assisting your client to complete the movement with the most intrusive prompt.
  • IND: Abbreviation of Independent, typically used as short hand in data. This means that the client was able to perform the target behaviour independent of any prompts or support.

Punishment: This is when the future probability of a behaviour is decreased when a stimulus is added or removed from the environment immediately after the behaviour.

  • Positive Punishment: You receive a bad grade (stimulus added) on a piece of course work, procrastinating behaviours (checking social media, online shopping, etc) ceases (behaviour decreases in frequency).
  • Negative punishment: You usually keep loose change in your pocket, however it falls out. You lose your money (stimulus removed) and you stop keeping loose change in your pocket (behaviour decreases).



Ratio Schedules: These schedules explain when reinforcement is delivered for responses.

  • Fixed Interval (FI): Following a set length of time the first response is reinforced. For instance with a FI 1 minute, after 1 minute the therapist delivers a reinforce following the first response to occur after the 1 minute.
  • Fixed Ratio (FR): Following a set number of demands a reinforcer is delivered . This means if there is a FV 6 then reinforcement would be delivered after every 6th demand.
  • Variable Interval (VI): After an average time the reinforcer is delivered. For instance this means that for a VI 2 minutes the first response 1 minute, then 3 minutes and then 2 minutes would be reinforced. ( 1 + 3 + 2 = 6 then 6 ÷3 ( 3 represents the number of trials) = 2)
  • Variable Ratio (VR): As a consequence of a mean number of demands a reinforcer is delivered. If a VR 5 is being used then a reinforcer would be delivered after the 2nd demand, 15th demand, 8th demand and the 5th deamnd would be reinforced. ( 1 + 6 + 9 + 4 =  20 then 20 ÷ 4 (4 represents the number of trials ) = 5.


Reinforcement: This is when the future probability of a behaviour is increased when a stimulus is added or removed from the environment immediately after the behaviour.

  • Positive reinforcement: You work hard on an assignment and receive a good grade (stimulus added). On your next assignment you spend as much or more time studying (behaviour increases in frequency).
  • Negative Reinforcement (escape): Your fire alarm goes off when you burn toast and is aversive. You press the reset button, the alarm stops (stimulus removed) and next time you reset the alarm (behaviour increases in frequency).

Reversal design (ABAB or ABA): This design begins with a baseline phase (A) then the intervention is implemented (B) and then a return to baseline (A). This should demonstrate control over the behaviour in question. It is ideal, for ethical reasons, to end on the intervention, so following the return to baseline the intervention (B) may be reintroduced. A disadvantage to this design is that you can not use interventions that are irreversible, (for instance tying a shoe lace can not be unlearnt in the return to baseline) and also withdrawal of the intervention may be unethical.


Scrolling: This is when a client is producing several response behaviours. An example of this Is when a child is learning the mand water and when presented with water vocalises “cookie, cake, juice, water”.

Shaping: This occurs when differential reinforcement is used on a target behaviours. Approximations receive less reinforcement and responses that are closer to the terminal behaviour receive the largest reinforcement.

Stimulus control:  This is when an environmental event occurs and the behaviour is changed by an antecedent stimulus. This occurs when a behaviour is preceded by a stimulus and reinforcement increased the frequency of the behaviour occurring in the future. When this stimulus is present this can affect the latency, duration, frequency or intensity of the behaviour. An example of this is a red light at a traffic light. When the red light is present the behaviour of braking occurs.

SD (SD—’ess-dee’): Abbreviation for Discriminative Stimulus, see Discriminative stimulus for a description.

Stimulus equivalence: This is defined as the development of untrained relations between stimuli. This was developed by Murray Sidman. A stimulus-stimulus relation is taught and the emergence of an untrained relation is the essence of this phenomena, for example if A = B and B=C are taught, then A=C will emerge (transitivity). Stimulus Equivalence is defined by either symmetry, reflexivity or transitivity.

  • Reflexivity: is when a relation emerges without training or a history of reinforcement. For instance the child matches a picture to it’s corresponding picture when scanning a field of stimuli.
  • Symmetry: is the reversal of a trained stimulus relations, for example A=B, so B=A. An example of this would be teaching the label for a picture. When this relation is reversed the client will select the picture upon hearing the spoken word.
  • Transitivity: is explained in the example above. If A = the spoken word, B = the picture and C= the written word. The client would be taught to select the picture upon hearing the word (A=B) and to match the picture to the written word (B=C) and then the selection of the written word upon hearing the spoken word would be tested (A=C).


Tact: A behaviour that labels an event in the environment. The person speaking is labelling an event in the environment, using nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, etc.. An example of this would be a child signing “dog” when seeing a dog, or an adult saying “It’s 5 o’clock” to a colleague.

Task Analysis: A task is broken down into smaller steps to develop stimulus control (stimulus control = stimulus consistently evokes a behaviour). This may be, for example, brushing teeth and steps may include, picking up toothbrush, putting toothpaste on the toothbrush, brushing teeth and then rinsing mouth. In this case the Instruction “Brush you teeth” will develop stimulus control for the entire task, becoming a Discriminative Stimulus (SD). The most effective ways to develop a task analysis is to perform the task yourself, or observe someone who is already fluent at the task and write down the steps.  Consider the ability of the learner and be prepared to make changes if necessary. Task Analysis steps can be “chained” together in a variety of ways during teaching  and the learner may require physical prompting. Here are the following prompting/teaching methods:

  • Backwards chaining: In the example of Brushing teeth, backwards chaining would occur if the practitioner performed every step of the task, excluding the last (rinsing mouth). This would be performed by the learner. When the learner demonstrates they are able to rinse their mouth, the practitioner would complete every step except the last two steps (brushing teeth and rinsing mouth). This process would be continued until the learner complete all steps independently.
  • Forwards chaining: Similar to backward chaining, although it occurs in reverse. The learner would perform the first step (picking up the toothbrush) and then the practitioner would do each of the other steps.
  • Total Task presentation: Is similar to forward chaining, although the learner performs  each step of the task, although supplementary reinforcement is delivered. This reinforcement will need to faded until reinforcement occurs only at the end of task.
  • Most-to-least:  Involves using the most supportive physical prompt through the entire task. Between trials you reduce the prompt until the learner is able to perform the task in it’s entirety without support when presented with the SD.
  • Least-to-most: This involves the practitioner allowing the learner a set time to perform each step. When no response or an incorrect response is emitted the practitioner provides the least intrusive prompt, then waits again, then offers a slightly more intrusive prompt until that step is performed.

Time out: This is a widely used punishment procedure (i.e., a procedure in which the future probability of behaviour decreases following a change in the environment). There are two main types of time out procedures. This month we are looking at exclusion time-out (following last month when we did non-exclusion time-out).

Exclusion time-out: During this intervention the person is removed from the environment, or the ability to access the environment is blocked, following the target behaviour occurs.

  • Time-out Room: The person is taken to a time-out room for a specified time, which is  separate from any setting where teaching occurs. The room would be typically be plain (no toys or furniture) to prevent the person accessing reinforcement or causing harm to themselves.
  • Partition Time-out: In this procedure the person remains in the environment where the target behaviour occurs, however their view is blocked.
  • Hallway time-out: The client is expected to go to the hallway for a specific time. This would just be outside the learning environment. This procedure is adopted frequently in schools following challenging behaviour.

Inclusion time-out: During this type of time-out procedure the client is not physically removed from the environment. This means the client is excluded from an activity or having access to reinforcement for a period of time although remains in the environment. There are several variations:

  • Planned Ignoring: The therapist turns away, remains quiet or does not interact with the client following the occurrence or a specific behaviour.
  • Withdrawal of a specific positive reinforcer: The reinforcer is removed.
  • Contingent Observation: Client sits away from the activity, but can still view the activity.
  • Time-out Ribbon: The client wears a band or ribbon on their wrist which signals they can be given reinforcement (attention, tangibles etc.). When the band/ribbon is removed they do not access reinforcement.

Token economies: These are used regularly within education to reward appropriate behaviours. A token economy involves the delivery of tokens (a conditioned reinforcer) contingent on appropriate behaviours. The tokens are conditioned as they are neutral until paired with reinforcement, and these are used to “buy” back-up reinforcers. Back up reinforcers are prizes that have a higher value to the learner. These may include stickers, toys, activities, outings, etc.. A real life example of a token economy are points on a store privilege or points  card. Every time you shop there you receive points and when you have saved up a sufficient amount of points, you can exchange this for other goods.


Unconditioned Established Operations: This are innate factors that can change the value of a reinforcer. For example, hunger, thirst, tiredness, can increase or decrease stimulus’ value as a reinforcer.

Unconditioned Reinforcer: Stimuli that act as reinforcers that are not learnt through experiencing a contingency. Examples of these are food, water (and other fluids), sleep, sex, etc..


VB-MAPP: Verbal Behaviour Milestones Assessment and Placement Program is an assessment tool, by Mark Sundberg. This is used to assess children and develop ABA programmes. This tool is based on typical milestones of development and falls under three levels; Level 1 = 0-18months, Level 2 = 18-30months , Level 3 = 30-48months .






Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., Heward, W. L., 2007. Applied Behaviour Analysis, New Jersey, Pearson Education Inc.


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