Applications of Philosophical Underpinnings

Applications of Philosophical Underpinnings

Have you ever wondered why it is relevant to understand the theory and philosophy that underpins the field of behavior analysis? In this week’s Learning Resources, Fryling (2013) discusses some ways behavior analytic theory and philosophy are relevant to the practice of applied behavior analysis. He focuses on its unique features of having a natural science perspective as well as comprehensive, integrated components. The natural science perspective of behavior analysis requires its constructs come from observable, socially significant events, as opposed to hypothetical constructs prevalent in mentalistic, traditional psychology and other helping professions.

Comprehensive, integrated components are a feature in behavior analysis demonstrated by the coordinated interdependence between behavior analytic theory and philosophy, experimental analysis of behavior (EAB), applied behavior analysis (ABA), and delivery of behavioral services.

Attention to the systemic, natural science approach and the coordinated integration of the components of behavior analysis are what distinguish it as a unique field and underpin the rationale for behavior analytic interventions. Because a behavior analyst will typically collaborate with other professionals who adhere to hypothetical constructs that can be anti-behavioral in nature, it is especially important that they be grounded in the theory and philosophy of behavioral analysis in order to effectively represent those ways of thinking about behavior.

In his book, Radical Behaviorism for ABA Practitioners, James M. Johnston provides the following reasons ABA practitioners should understand the philosophical underpinnings of their field (Graff, 2014):

Practitioners work at the interface between science and society and, therefore, must be able to bridge the gap between scientific and everyday understandings of how behavior works.
Most people’s beliefs about how behavior works conflict with established scientific findings.
Practitioners must be able to convince clients and other professionals to support objectives and procedures shown in the ABA literature to be effective.
Understanding radical behaviorism helps ensure consistency between the field’s science and the resulting technology.
Understanding radical behaviorism helps avoid conceptual backsliding that might be encouraged by everyday language. (p. 3)
In this Discussion, you will identify an article you retrieved from the behavior analytic literature (2012 to the present) that describes an intervention to address an applied concern. For the article you select, you will then evaluate how each of the following philosophical underpinnings of behavior analysis are represented: selectionism, determinism, empiricism, parsimony, and pragmatism.


Graff, R. B. (2014). A review of radical behaviorism for ABA practitioners by James M. Johnston [Review of the book Radical behaviorism for ABA practitioners, by J. M. Johnston]. APBA Reporter, 50, 1–3.

Post the title of the article you selected and provide a brief summary of the article. Next, include your evaluation of each philosophical underpinning of behavior analysis for the article, including selectionism, determinism, empiricism, parsimony, and pragmatism. Make sure to include a reference and link to your article. Use proper APA format and style.

Moxley, R. A. (2004). Pragmatic selectionism: The philosophy of behavior analysis Links to an external site.. The Behavior Analyst Today, 5(1), 108–125.

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