AABP Position Statement - Theoretical Orientation

AABP Position Statement: On Theoretical Orientation

Last updated: December 31, 2016


The AABP is a behaviorological association. That is, it is founded specifically on the philosophical position of radical behaviorism as elucidated by B.F. Skinner and embodied in the discipline of behaviorology, which is the completely independent natural science of behavior. Behavior analysis is a branch of psychology rather than being an independent discipline, but it more or less operates based on radical behaviorism as well. Radical behaviorism is a natural science philosophy and emphasizes the functional relationship between stimuli and behaviors. Behaviorologically oriented professionals emphasize the assessment of contingencies of reinforcement over applying structural diagnostic labels (medical model), exploring natural selection of heritable traits over generations (ethology), our postulating mystical forces and other fictitious constructs that cannot be measured and observed (psychology). While there are many eclectic organizations and forums available for those with no particular foundational theoretical orientation, there are very few resources available to the behaviorologically oriented professional animal behavior technologist. The AABP is dedicated to supporting behaviorologically oriented professional animal behavior technologists. 

If you are not as familiar with a behaviorological approach as other approaches and would like to find out more, the AABP is here to help on the member's email list and the resources we can point you to. It will be worth the effort to familiarize yourself with the most parsimonious, effective, and efficient approach available for explaining and changing behavior. For more information on a behaviorological approach the Companion Animal Sciences Institute provides courses in functional assessment and behavior change programming and procedures and the Living and Learning with Animals course is an excellent way to expand your repertoire of behavior with respect to behavior analysis too. 

For more on behaviorology, see the web site for The International Behaviorology Institute at: http://www.behaviorology.org

See also excellent books like these:

Ledoux, S. F. (2016). Running Out of Time. Ottawa, Canada: BehaveTech Publishing

Fraley (2008). General Behavioralology: The Natural Science of Human Behavior. Canton: ABCs of Canton.

Ledoux, S. F. (Ed.). (2002). Origins and Components of Behaviorology (Second ed.). Canton: ABC's of Canton.

O’Heare, J. (2016). Problem Animal Behavior: Functional Assessment and Constructional Contingency Management Planning.  Ottawa, Canada: BehaveTech Publishing

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis. Upper Saddle River: Merril Prentice Hall.

Umbreit, J., Ferro, J. B., Liaupsin, C. J., & Lane, K. L. (2007). Functional Behavioral Assessment and Function-based Intervention: An Effective, Practical Approach. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.  

Miltenberger, R. G. (2004). Behavior Modification Principles and Procedures (3rd ed.). Toronto: Thomson Wadsworth.

- AABP

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The Model Matters 

by Susan G. Friedman, Ph.D., PABC

Professionals and clients alike are often confused about where to turn for sound, science information with which to prevent and solve behavior problems. This is in part due to the fact that there are many different disciplines that investigate behavior, each in their own way. Ask the same question about the cause of a problem behavior to an ethologist, veterinarian and behavior analyst and you will likely get 3 very different answers.

The ethologist is likely to explain a problem behavior in terms of an evolution model, with natural selection as the primary causal agent. The ethologist might reframe the question by asking, "What survival function could this behavior have in the wild?" The veterinarian is likely to explain a problem behavior in terms of the medical model, with disease or physical dysfunction as the primary causal agent. The veterinarian might reframe the question by asking, "What underlying disease process accounts for this behavioral symptom? The behavior analyst is likely to explain a problem behavior in term of the behavioral model, accounting for the behavior by identifying the environmental conditions which signal the behavior (antecedents) and give it  function (consequences).

Note that with both the ethological and medical models,the primary source of behavior problems is in the animal. However, with the behavioral model, the primary source of behavior problems is in the environment. As discussed by O'Neill, Horner, et.al (1997), when the problem is believed to be in the animal, the focus is on curing the animal; but, when the problem is in the environment, the focus is on changing the conditions in which the animal behaves. Thus the model an animal trainer and behavior consultant adheres to matters in terms of the way behavior questions are framed, the way behavior is described, and in the methods used to solve behavior problems.

(c) 2008 Susan G. Friedman. Draft for a future publication. All rights reserved.

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