Behavior: The good, the bad, the ugly

Read Time: 5 minutes

As described by Cooper, Heron and Heward (2007), behavior is anything an organism does and their effect on their environment. The saying goes “If a dead man can do it, then it is not behavior.”

As adults, we engage in different types of behaviors for different outcomes:

  • If I call my doctor’s office →  they will schedule my appointment

  • If I pay someone to take a test for me →  I don’t have to study

  • If I get a massage → it will make me feel relaxed

  • If I continue to call my ex-boyfriend → he will eventually pick up

Kids do the same thing:

  • If I ask for a cookie nicely → I will get the cookie

  • If I scream →  I won’t have to do my homework

  • If I spin quickly →  my head feels funny

  • If I scream for my mom when she’s on the phone → she will hang up

What do these scenarios have in common? A behavior usually has 3 things in common: an antecedent (something that happens before the behavior), the behavior itself, and the consequence (what happens after the behavior).

Why do these behaviors occur? Adult or child, usually our behavior occurs for one or combined reasons. The first reason is to get access to attention. This may be positive or negative attention but in the end we classify it all as attention. A child who constantly yells “mom” while she’s on the phone has learned that by calling her name, she will provide the attention he/she desires. The second reason that could be behind a behavior is to escape from a task. In the example above, the child has learned that by screaming, he/she will eventually get out of doing their homework. The third reason a behavior may occur is to gain access to items. We often see this example on the playground. A child may learn that if they push another child, the child will give them their turn or toy. The last reason a behavior may occur is because it simply feels good. My favorite example is of myself! Whenever I begin to get nervous, I begin to twirl my curls with my fingers because it feels calming to me.

Why do these behaviors continue to occur? These behaviors continue to occur if they result in the same desired outcomes. For example, if the mom no longer acknowledges the screaming child when she’s on the phone, he/she will attempt other behaviors to gain her attention. If a child no longer gets his way from pushing his peers, this behavior will decrease.

Our following blog will review how to teach appropriate behaviors while working on decreasing undesired behaviors!  

Cooper J.O, Heron T.E, Heward W.L. Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson; 2007.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?



What is Applied Behavior Analysis? Applied behavior analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991).             


ABA methods are used to support persons with autism in at least six ways:

  1. to increase behaviors (eg reinforcement procedures increase on-task behavior, or social interactions);

  2. to teach new skills (eg, systematic instruction and reinforcement procedures teach functional life skills, communication skills, or social skills);

  3. to maintain behaviors (eg, teaching self control and self-monitoring procedures to maintain and generalize job-related social skills);

  4. to generalize or to transfer behavior from one situation or response to another (eg, from completing assignments in the resource room to performing as well in the mainstream classroom);

  5. to restrict or narrow conditions under which interfering behaviors occur (eg, modifying the learning environment); and

  6. to reduce interfering behaviors (eg, self injury or stereotypy).

Source: Center for Autism and Related Disorders

Is Applied Behavior Analysis ONLY for children with Autism? Absolutely not! ABA is a science that when implemented correctly is beneficial for all children and adults with or without a diagnosis. Recent research continues to be developed in the areas of health and fitness, organization behavior management, substance abuse and addiction and education.  

Who provides Applied Behavior Analysis services? Services can be provided by a Board Certified Behavior Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D) or a Board Certified Behavior Behavior Analyst (BCBA) : a doctoral or master’s level clinician who has passed the Behavior Analyst Certification Board Exam. Services can also be provided by a Board Certified assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) who is a bachelor’s level clinician often accruing their hours to become a BCBA overseen by a BCBA. A registered behavior technician (RBT) can also provide services while being overseen by a BCBA. Individuals at the RBT level have also passed a certification exam by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. For more information regarding credentialing requirements, see

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At AMA Behavioral Consulting, LLC, we pride ourselves in providing the most effective services driven by our core values.

Our organization believes that each family has the right to receive most effective services and deserves to be a part of the behavior analytic process each step of the way. Our values summarize the purpose of our existence.


We will always adhere to our moral and ethical principles in every aspect of our service and business.


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We are committed to serving our families. We are a team and we will work on what what will help bring our clients to their full potential.

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Everything we do, we do with the families best interest in mind. Communication is key to success when working with our families and we believe that it is an essential component in the services we provide. We truly care about the families we serve.