Functional Analysis: The Sexy Side of ABC

Functional (ABC) assessment allows us to hypothesize the relationships between environmental variables (antecedents and consequences) as well as the behavior being assessed. Functional analysis is the formal test of those hypotheses.

Most often, assessing the ABCs of problem behaviors tells us what we need to know to replace the problem behavior and teach new skills. However, when a behavior is complex or high-stakes, i.e., dangerous to the learner or the caregivers, functional analysis may be necessary. Conducting a functional analysis requires training and research skills, because the strategy is defined by arranging situations to produce the problem behavior.

Functional analysis is the most precise, rigorous, and controlled method for demonstrating unambiguously the functional relationship between behavior and environment. That’s sexy!

Susan G. Friedman, PhD

Susan G. Friedman, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology at Utah State University. Susan has co-authored chapters on behavior change in four veterinary texts, and her popular articles have been translated into 14 languages. She teaches courses and seminars on animal learning and consults with zoos around the world. Susan was appointed to the F&WS Condor Recovery Team from 2002 - 2010, after which time the team was retired due to the success of the birds in the wild. 

She is the Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Committee of American Humane Association (AHA) Film and TV Unit, and a member in good standing of ABAI, ABMA, and IAABC.