Section C: Measurement, Data Display, and Interpretation
C. Measurement, Data Display and Interpretation
C-1: Establish operational definitions of behavior.
Target Term: Operation Definition
Definition: A specific, objective statement about a behavior of interest.
Example in everyday context: You are having a disagreement with your significant other. They tell you that you are “emotionally unavailable”. You ask, “What does that mean?” They define “emotionally unavailable” as “not responding to them when they need to talk, ignoring their attempts for affection, and not providing them with any reassurance”.
Example in clinical context: Hand to head self-injury is defined by a behavior analyst as “hitting their head with a closed fist with mild to severe intensity. It does not include using their hands to scratch an itch on their head”.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A BCBA consulting for a company that work productivity is defined as “completing all assigned work tasks within an eight-hour work period”.
Why it matters: Operational definitions describe exactly what we are measuring. Without operational definitions, our ability to collect and analyze data would be extremely hindered.
C-2: Distinguish among direct, indirect, and product measures of behavior.
Target Terms: Direct Measures, Indirect Assessment, Product Measures
Definition: Procedures that provide measurable and validated information about the learner’s behavior.
Example in everyday context: Standardized tests such as the SATs and GREs are direct measures of a person’s college and graduate school readiness.
Example in clinical context: A behavior analyst collects ABC (anecdotal, behavior, consequence) while observing a client who engages in aggressive behaviors toward their classmates for 90 minutes each day in the morning and afternoon for one week.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A teacher conducts a curriculum-based assessment on several students in a classroom receiving specialized instruction. The teacher gathers data from the assessment and graphs it for visual analysis.
Why it matters: Direct measures allow an observer to directly assess a client’s behavior in the environment that may yield the most information about the target behavior.
Definition: Data that are obtained by interviews, checklists and rating scales which include an individual’s subjective analysis of a target behavior(s).
Example in everyday context: You are hanging out with a group of friends and a heated discussion about the current political climate erupts. Each friend asks each other open ended questions (e.g., “What direction do you think the next election will take us?”) and closed ended questions (e.g., “Tell me specifically what you think this candidate will do for this country!”)
Example in clinical context: A behavior analyst is conducting a functional behavior assessment on a new client that demonstrates a significant amount of self-injurious behavior. The behavior analyst has direct support professional staff members complete a behavior checklist that identifies the time, location, activity and severity rating of the problem behavior throughout the day.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A supervisee has their first individual group supervision with their supervisee and administers a checklist which assesses their knowledge on the BACB 5th Edition Task List. The supervisee must rate their knowledge on each content area on a scale from 1 (no knowledge) to 5 (proficient knowledge) for each task list item.
Why it matters: Indirect assessments provide information from the individual, family members and other caregivers that may not be available when conducting a direct assessment.
Definition: Measuring a behavior after it occurred by examining the effects the behavior produced.
Example in everyday context: You are packing your lunch for the week and have to plan our five lunches to bring to work. When you have completed packing your five lunches, you are finished with meal prepping and can move onto another task.
Example in clinical context: A client is folding laundry as their chore for the afternoon. They have to fold 10 pieces of laundry. When the laundry is completed, the client shows the staff member they are finished.
Example in supervision/consultation context: Employees are required to submit 100 applications by noon.
Why it matters: Permanent product measures allow for accurate, complete and continuous data when warranted.
C-3: Measure occurrence (E.g., Frequency, Rate, Percentage).
Target Terms: Frequency, Rate, Percentage
Definition: How often a behavior occurs.
Example in everyday context: Checking your phone 120 times would be the frequency that you checked you phone.
Example in clinical context: A BCBA is observing a student in their classroom and observes the them call out 17 times while sitting at their desk.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A supervisor observes their supervisee provide praise to a student when conducting an intensive teaching session and counts how often the supervisee says, “Nice job!” to the student. The supervisor counts 24 instances of the supervisee saying “Nice job” to the student.
Why it matters: Frequency is used when you want to count how many times a behavior is occurring. Behaviors may occur too often or too little and may need to be targeting for intervention.
Definition: A ratio of how often a behavior occurs over an amount of time.
Example in everyday context: You eat 30 potato chips in 15 minutes.
Example in clinical context: A child engages in hand to head self-injury five times in 20 minutes.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A supervisee is completing 10 quiz questions in 11 minutes.
Why it matters: Rate is used when you want to know how fast or slow a behavior is occurring over time. In certain instances, rate may be targeted to increase or decrease depending on the behavior.
Definition: A ratio formed by combining the same dimensional qualities (E.g., time, count).
Example in everyday context: When looking at the nutrition label on the back of food, you can determine how much fat, cholesterol, dietary fiber etc. are in an item by percentage.
Example in clinical context: A behavior analyst measures percent of occurrence in daily intervals.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A supervisor can provide percentage of intervention steps completed correctly during an observation.
Why it matters: Percentage can be useful to determine percentage of correct responses. You cannot use percentage to record fluency or proficiency in a skill.
C-4: Measure temporal dimensions of behavior (e.g., Duration, Latency, Interresponse Time).
Target Terms: Duration, Latency, Interresponse Time (IRT)
Definition: The amount of time that a behavior occurs.
Example in an everyday context: You read every night 45 minutes before you go to bed.
Example in clinical context: A student engages in tantrum behavior for eight minutes during music class.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A supervisor assigns a practice quiz to their supervisee. The supervisee spent 10 minutes working on the quiz before they said, “This is too easy!”
Why it matters: Duration is important when measuring how long a person engages in a target behavior. Longer durations of problematic behavior cause significant problems in a person’s ability to learn and engage with others.
Definition: The time between an opportunity to emit a behavior and when the behavior is initiated.
Example in everyday context: Your phone beeps because you received a text message. You reach over to check your phone 30 seconds later.
Example in clinical context: A client is asked by a staff member to put their shoes on. The client sits in their bed for 15 minutes before they begin to move off their bed to put their shoes on.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A supervisor asks their supervisee “what is the definition of latency?” The supervisee begins to recite the definition 2 seconds after being asked.
Why it matters: Latency is most frequently used to determine how much time occurs between the opportunities to emit and behavior and when the subject emits the behavior, which if too long may have social consequences. Decreasing latency in between opportunities to respond and actually responding can increase a person’s ability to contact reinforcement more quickly.
Interresponse Time (IRT)
Definition: The amount of time that elapses between two consecutive instances of a behavior.
Example in everyday context: You are texting a friend back and forth. The time in between the texts you send to your friend is the interresponse time.
Example in clinical context: A patient is engaging in vocal outbursts which the behavior analyst is tracking. They record the time that elapses between each vocal outburst.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A supervisor is providing a teacher with behavior skills training. The supervisor provides modeling of the intervention steps to the teacher. The time between the supervisor modeling each step for the teacher is the interresponse time.
Why it matters: Interresponse time is a frequent measurement used to examine the effects of schedules of reinforcement as well as determine a rate of response.
C-5: Measure the strength of behavior (E.g., topography, magnitude)
Target Terms: Topography, Magnitude
Definition: What a behavior looks like.
Example in everyday context: You are describing to your friend about a “terrible date” you had the other night! Your friend asks you “Well what did they do that was terrible?” You tell your friend that your date ate with their mouth wide open and did not cover their mouth when they coughed. Your friend can picture the behavior in their head and says, “Yeah, that does sound pretty terrible!”
Example in clinical context: A behavior analyst describes a client’s aggression toward property behavior in the following manner: Tearing items off of walls, knocking over furniture, throwing or swiping items off surfaces.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A supervisor is conducting a training to fellow co-workers. Before the training begins, the supervisor says to their audience “During this training I expect everyone to put their phones away and actively attend to this training and your fellow co-workers”.
Why it matters: Topography tells us what the behavior looks, sounds and feels like. Topographical operational definitions should include objective descriptions of the behavior of interest.
Definition: The force, intensity and severity of a behavior.
Example in everyday context: You are at a concert with your friends. You friend begins screaming and shouting that your ears immediately start hurting.
Example in clinical context: A behavior analyst is writing a behavior plan for a client that includes the operational definitions of their behavior. They describe the client’s self-injury as being of “severe intensity, where the client may put their fist or foot through a wall”.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A supervisor is conducting behavior skills training with a practicum student on a NET lesson. The supervisor models the magnitude needed to produce a response from students was very high, as the students need a lot of frequent attention in the form of verbal praise (the speaker’s voice must very loud), high fives and clapping to participate.
Why it matters: Magnitude indicates to us how intense and severe a behavior can be. The magnitude of a behavior should be described in tandem with the topography of the behavior.
C-6: Measure trials to criterion.
Target Term: Trials to Criterion
Trials to Criterion
Definition: A measure of the number of response opportunities needed to achieve a predetermined level of criteria.
Example in clinical context: A client is learning how to tie their shoes in occupational therapy. The OT collects trials to criterion data on the steps required to complete the shoe tying routine during their daily sessions. It took 11 trials for the client to complete all the steps of shoe tying independently and accurately.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A supervisor is using a trials to criterion measure their supervisee’s ability to accurately define 10 definitions from Chapter 1 in the Cooper text. The supervisor begins each supervision quizzing the supervisee and collects data on whether or not the supervisee answers the definition correctly. It took 15 trials for the supervisee to correctly identify all 10 terms accurately.
Why it matters: Trials to criterion can be used for assessing a learner’s competence in acquiring new skills as well as comparing efficiently of different treatment methods.
C-7: Design and implement sampling procedures (i.e., Interval recording, time sampling).
C-9: Select a measurement system to obtain representative data given the dimensions of behavior and the logistics of observing and recording.
Target Terms: Whole Interval Recording, Partial Interval Recording. Momentary Time Sampling, Planned Activity Check (PLACHECK)
Whole Interval Recording
Definition: An observation time that is divided into smaller series of brief time intervals where at the end of each interval, the observer records whether the target behavior occurred throughout the entire interval.
Example in a clinical context: A BCBA is collecting data on a child’s on task behavior in 10 second intervals. They only circle “yes” if on task behavior occurred in the interval if it occurred for 10 seconds.
Example in a supervision/consultation context: A behavior analyst is consulting for a large company that produces medical technology. The company wants to increase work productivity. The behavior analyst targets on task behavior (e.g., attending to work assignments, not engaging in other non-work activities like checking phones) in one-minute intervals. If
Why it matters: Whole interval recording is best used for measuring behaviors you want to see a behavior increase since it provides a conservative rate of the behavior of interest. Whole interval recording tends to underestimate the rate of a behavior.
Partial Interval Recording
Definition: An observation time that is divided into smaller series of brief time intervals where at the end of each interval, the observer records whether the target behavior occurred at any point during the interval.
Example in clinical context: A behavior analyst is conducting an observation on a client and is collecting partial interval data in five-minute intervals on the target behavior. The client engages in problem behavior two minutes into the interval and not again for the rest of the interval. The behavior analyst records that the target behavior occurred during the interval.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A behavior analyst is consulting for a company that wants to decrease the time employees spend on their phones. The behavior analyst observes the employees and collects partial interval data in 10-minute intervals. If an employee engages with their phone at any point during the 10-minute interval, the behavior analyst records it on their data sheet.
Why it matters: Partial interval data is best used for measuring behaviors that you want to see a decrease in a behavior since it provides a conservative rate of the behavior of interest. Partial interval data tends to overestimate a behavior of interest.
Momentary Time Sampling
Definition: An observation time that is divided into smaller series of brief time intervals where at the end of each interval, the observer records whether the target behavior occurred at the end of the interval only.
Example in clinical context: A behavior analyst is observing a client’s pacing behavior using momentary time sampling with an interval of 10 seconds. The behavior analyst indicates whether pacing behavior occurred only if the client was pacing at the very end of the 10 second intervals (e.g., 9.99-10 seconds).
Example in supervision/consultation context: A supervisor is observing a teacher conducting a lesson to their class. The supervisor collects momentary time sampling data using one-minute intervals on the teacher’s on task (i.e., sticking to the lesson topic and not another topic) behavior. At the very end of each one-minute interval, the supervisor recorded whether or not the teacher was on task with their lesson plan.
Why it matters: Momentary time sampling can overestimate or underestimate the rate of behavior. Since you do not continuously measure throughout the entire interval as you do with partial and whole interval, ensure that you make your intervals short enough to observe the target behavior frequently.
Planned Activity Check (PLACHECK)
Definition: An observation time that is divided into smaller series of brief time intervals where at the end of each interval, the observer records whether the target behavior occurred at the end of the interval only in a group setting.
Example in clinical context: A behavioral consultant is collecting data on classroom of student’s on task behavior during their scheduled activities using PLACHECK intervals of 30 seconds. At the end of the 30 second interval, the behavioral consultant observes if all the students in the classroom where engaged in their scheduled activities. If not all students were engaged in their scheduled activities at the end of the 30 second interval, the behavioral consultant would indicate that the target behavior was not observed.
Example in a supervision/consultation context: A behavioral consultant is recording data on employee performance in 20-minute intervals. At the end of the 20-minute interval, the behavioral consultant looks up and observes if all employees are engaging in their assigned tasks. If all employees are engaging in their assigned tasks, the behavioral consultant records that the target behavior occurred during the interval.
Why it matters: PLACHECK allows the observe to collect data on groups.
C-8: Evaluate the validity and reliability of measurement procedures.
Target Terms: Validity, Reliability
Definition: The extent that data obtained by a measurement procedure are directly relevant to the socially significant target behavior.
Example in everyday context: You are searching for a movie title on your many streaming platforms to watch. When you enter the movie title on Netflix, they bring up “similar results” to the movie. You do not want similar movies you want the movie title you entered! When you check Amazon Prime, they do in fact have the movie you want to watch! This represents validity, because when you searched for your criteria on Amazon Prime it produced exactly what you were looking for. The results are not valid when you search for the movie on Netflix, because it did not provide you with the movie you wanted to watch.
Example in a clinical context: A behavior analyst wants to collect data on how long a behavior of interest lasts. They collect data on duration. This is a valid measure because the behavior analyst wants to determine the duration of the behavior and uses an appropriate measure.
Example in a supervision/consultation context: A supervisee collects frequency data on a target behavior exhibited by a student. When reporting their data to their supervisor, they find out that they were supposed to be collecting data on rate! Therefore, the data they collected is invalid because it does not reflect what the supervisor wanted measured, which was rate.
Why it matters: When data are relevant to the phenomenon of interest, we can begin to use other scientific processes to better understand and intervene on improving socially significant behaviors. To ensure the best outcomes, we must be certain that we are treating the behavior that we want to measure and treat and not some other behavior we do not want to measure or treat.
Definition: The extent that a measurement procedure produces the same value repeatedly.
Example in an everyday context: You get on the scale to see how much you weigh. The first time you step on the scale, it says 140 pounds. You immediately step on the scale again and weigh yourself and the scale says 140 pounds. This is a reliable measure.
Example in a clinical context: Two behavior analyst are conducting a functional analysis on a client who exhibits self-injurious behavior. Each condition lasts for five minutes each and are repeated over the course of four consecutive days. Both behavior analysts use the same measurement tool to collect data during the functional analysis and their results are nearly identical over repeated measures. This measurement was reliable.
Example in a supervision/consultation context: A teacher is conducting a manding session with a student and two behavioral consultants are collecting interobserver agreement (IOA) data on the fidelity of the teaching procedures. Both consultants obtain the same IOA data demonstrating a reliable value.
Why it matters: Highly reliable data means that any degree of accuracy or inaccuracy exists in the measurement system and will be revealed in the data.
C-9: Select a measurement system to obtain representative data given the dimensions of behavior and the logistics of observing and recording.
C-10: Graph data to communicate relevant quantitative relations (e.g., equal-interval graphs, bar graphs, cumulative records).
Target Terms: Equal-interval graph, Bar graph, Cumulative records, Semilogarithmic Chart (Standard Celeration Chart), Scatterplot
Definition: Graphs that the distance between two consecutive points on both the X and Y axis are always the same (e.g., The X axis and Y axis are both intervals of five).
Example of Equal-Interval Graphs: Line graphs, Bar graphs, Cumulative records, and Scatterplots.
Example of Non-Equal-Interval Graphs: Semilogarithmic Charts (Standard Celeration Chart).
Definition: A graph based on the Cartesian plane where a two-dimensional area is formed by the intersection of two or more lines forming a data path.
Example in a clinical context: A behavior analyst creates a line graph that displays baseline data and intervention data on the target behavior of hitting others.
Why it matters: Line graphs should be used when you want your data to communicate quantitative relations such as time or the order of responses in a sequence. Line graphs can include multiple data paths for different behaviors.
Definition: A graph based on the Cartesian plane where there are no distinct data points representing responses through time.
Example in a clinical context: A behavior analyst displays data from a preference assessment that was conducted with a child.
Why it matters: Bar graphs are used to display a set of data that are not related to each other.
Definition: A graph that displays the cumulative number of responses emitted are represented on the vertical axis, where the steeper the slope of the response the greater the response rate.
Example in a clinical context: A teacher is conducting a manding program with a student and uses a cumulative record to display the student’s mastered mands.
Why it matters: Cumulative records demonstrate response rate over a period of time which can help us understand the rate to which a learner is gaining new skills.
Semilogarithmic Charts (Standard Celeration Chart)
Definition: A graph that displays how frequency of behavior changes over time.
Example in supervision/consultation context: A practicum student is practicing their SAFMEDS and record their data in a Standard Celeration Chart.
Definition: A graph that shows the relative distribution of individual measures in a data set (e.g., aggression, sleep, etc.).
Example in clinical context: A behavior analyst creates a scatterplot of a client’s aggressive behavior to determine any temporal patterns between aggression and time of day.
Why it matters: Scatterplots communicates temporal relations of a behavior of interest if one exists.
C-11: Interpret graphed data.
Target Terms: Level, Variability, Trend
Definition: The value of a data point along the x-axis of a graph.
Example in clinical context: A behavior analyst is conducting visual analysis of a client’s target behavior of head to wall self-injury. The behavior analyst determines the level by locating the number along the x-axis to the data points within the graph. The behavior analyst observes that the level of data points are located around the 10% interval along the x-axis.
Why it matters: Examining the level of a data point is a skill in visual analysis that allows the behavior analyst to determine how much or little a behavior has changed.
Definition: The extent to which the data move around on the graph.
Example in clinical context: A behavior analyst is conducting visual analysis of a client’s target behavior of dropping. The data path is scattered all around the graph. This shows a high degree of variability in the client’s dropping behavior.
Why it matters: Variability demonstrates the consistency to which change is taking place. A high variability may demonstrate a low degree of control of an intervention condition, whereas a low variability may demonstrate a high degree of control of an intervention condition.
Definition: The overall direction of the data path.
Example in clinical context: A behavior analyst is conducting visual analysis on a client’s hitting others behavior. They observe that the data path is increasing in trend.
Why it matters: Examining trend provides us with information about what direction (upward, downward, no direction) a change in behavior is headed.