What Is Applied Behavioral Science and Why Is It Important?
Understanding the human psyche and its desires, needs, and other everyday feelings and attitudes has long been the goal of psychologists, sociologists, ethnologists, and other professionals studying human behavior. Among the methods of study is behavioral science, which relies on observing and analyzing human responses to stimuli to learn why humans act and react the way they do.
What Is Applied Behavioral Science?
The American Psychological Association defines behavioral science as a discipline that uses systematic observation and experimentation in the scientific study of human and nonhuman animal actions and reactions. Applied behavioral science is a constantly evolving field with numerous applications in such areas as education, sociology, and public health.
One method of practicing behavioral science is through the discipline of applied behavior analysis, or ABA, which involves applying behavioral principles in practical settings. For example, ABA can be used in a clinical setting for behavior modification or behavior therapy, or as a treatment for abnormal or problematic behaviors. Effective ABA methods focus closely on behaviors related to learning and motivation.
ABA involves identifying and improving specific behaviors, such as social interactions, academic performance, and job competencies. Behavior analysts may work in schools, community mental health clinics, private clinics, and many other settings. ABA can help both adults and children manage behaviors that affect many aspects of life, such as interactions with authority figures, peers, and family members. ABA is often used to replace problematic behaviors with alternative, appropriate behaviors, so clients may experience improved functioning within their environment.
Benefits of ABA Therapy
Learning what applied behavioral analysis is and how it can be applied opens the door to a variety of beneficial outcomes. For example, ABA can improve an individual’s abilities in areas such as social skills, communication, reading, and academics. Through ABA, individuals also can develop better fine motor skills, hygiene, punctuality, and job competence. The improvements individuals can derive from ABA can even decrease their need for special services. Clearly, the benefits of behavioral science are broad and encompassing.
ABA-based approaches have been used to treat many mental health disorders and conditions. Most notably, ABA is used to evaluate and assist individuals diagnosed with autism and other intellectual disabilities.