behavior analysis

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A natural science of behavior that seeks the development of an organized system of empirically-based verbal concepts and rules that allow behavioral phenomena to be predicted and influenced with precision, scope, and depth.

By studying the current and historical context in which behavior evolves, behavior analysts strive to develop analytic concepts and rules that are useful for predicting and changing behavior in a variety of settings. The most well-established behavioral principles of this sort are those related to classical and operant conditioning, such as B. F. Skinner's principles of reinforcement. The core analytic unit of behavior analysis is the operant (or multiterm contingency). An operant analysis defines behavior in terms of its relation to antecedent events and consequences, and learning is understood to be a function of the inherent interdependence between these features.

This contextual approach to studying behavior has resulted in a robust science with many powerful applications in nearly every area of human endeavor. Behavior analysis is supported by a philosophy of science known as functional contextualism.

See the Association for Behavior Analysis ( and the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies ( for more information.