An Experimental Approach to Assessment
Functional analysis is a very specific type of FBA assessment. Functional analysis uses an experimental procedure to determine the function of a target behavior. During the functional analysis, conditions are arranged and systematically presented to the individual. The rates of behavior in each condition are measured and compared. The condition with the highest rate of behavior is determined to be the function that is maintaining the behavior.
Conditions of the Functional Analysis
The play condition is considered the “control” condition. In an experiment, the control is the condition that does not receive the treatment. For example, when drug companies test the effectiveness of a drug, the control condition does not receive the medication. If there are changes observed in the test condition that are not observed in the control condition, the experimenter may attribute these changes to the intervention being tested. Below is an example.
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Is Drug X effective at treating milk allergies?
Test condition: people allergic to milk who are taking Drug X
Control condition: people allergic to milk who are not taking Drug X
If the people in the test condition begin to feel better and the people in the control condition do not feel better, then Drug X was effective at treating the allergy. However, if both groups begin to feel better, then it does not matter whether they took Drug X and the researchers may conclude that the drug has no effect on milk allergies.
A task is presented to the individual. If the individual engages in the target behavior, the task is then removed. If the behavior begins to increase, the researchers conclude that the function of the behavior is to escape demands.
The individual is ignored by the researcher. If the individual engages in the target behavior, the researcher provides attention. If the behavior begins to increase during this condition, the researchers conclude that the function of the behavior is to receive attention.
The individual is denied access to a desired item. The condition begins with the individual playing with the item, then the researcher taking it away. If the individual engages in the target behavior, then the researcher gives the item back. If the rate of behavior increase during the tangible condition, the researchers conclude that the function of the behavior is access to items or activities.
For the alone condition, the individual is alone with no attention, toys, or demands. If the individual engages in the behavior when left alone, the researchers conclude that the function of the behavior is automatic reinforcement.
Summary of Functional Analysis Conditions
|Condition||Function the condition tests for||When the client engages in target behavior, the client receives...|
|Play||Control, this condition is used as a reference for comparison when analyzing behavior rates of the other conditions||No response|
|Demands||Escape from demands||A break from demands|
|Attention||Access attention||The researcher's attention|
|Tangible||Access to items and activities||Access to desired items and acitivites|
|Alone||Automatically reinforced||No response, client is alone during this condition|