2020 Ambassador

Sally Warnock

This blog post is intended to supplement a recently published video on ABA with the individual experiences of students in the field (click video below). 

Sally is a student of the Sage Colleges Master of Science Applied Behavior Analysis Program.

Lesson of the Day:

Motivating operations (MOs) refers to antecedent variables that alter the value of consequences and the rate of behavior related to those variables. MOs that increase value are said to be “establishing” (e.g., deprivation of a preferred snack), whereas those that decrease value are said to be abolishing (e.g., satiation of a preferred snack).  

Applied behavior analysis is the science in which methods are derived from the principles of behavior and applied to improve socially significant behavior. Behavior is defined as anything a person does. As Ryan Sain states in the corresponding video, “if it’s a verb it can be considered a behavior.” Since behavior is anything that a person does, ABA can be applied to everything we do. When we think about behavior, people tend to think of maladaptive or negative behavior, but behavior can be both good and bad. ABA focuses on what the behavior is, how the behavior occurs, and why the behavior occurs.


When we talk about applied behavior analysis, a lot of times the first thing that comes to mind is autism. ABA has been used for many years to make socially significant behavior changes for individuals with autism, but this is not the only context in which ABA can be of use. ABA therapy has also been used to help individuals with conditions such as: obsessive compulsive disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, fears and phobias, ADHD, and anger management. In addition, ABA can be used in everyday life for anyone because we all engage in behavior.


Since I started studying the principles and applications of behavior analysis, I’ve started incorporating some methods into my everyday life. In ABA we use prompting, token systems, first/then statements, schedules, ABC data (antecedent, behavior, consequence), and reinforcement to increase desired behaviors and to decrease undesired behaviors. These are several ABA strategies that I use everyday. I say that I used first/then statements in my day-to-day life and some people may find that odd, but this is something everyone does. First/then is often a rule synonymous with the Premack Principle. I would say at least once a day I think to myself or say to someone, “before I can do ___, I need to ___.” For example, if a friend asks me to meet them for coffee but I’m in the middle of completing an assignment for a class, I would say “First I need to finish this assignment, then I can meet you.” This is something people do on a regular basis and


In ABA, we discuss four general functions of behavior a lot, which are access to attention, access to tangibles, escape/avoidance, and automatic reinforcement. Why are the functions of behavior so important? Because this can help explain why someone engages in a specific behavior and, therefore, improve treatment outcomes. This relates to ABA being everywhere because again, everything we do is a behavior. The functions of behavior ask the question of “why am I engaging in this behavior?” In my day-to-day life, I engage in behaviors that will most likely fit each of these functions with, more often than not, serving multiple functions at one time. One example could be when I procrastinate doing a tedious chore, such as putting laundry away. I avoid this task by finding a different activity to occupy my time that is more enjoyable. This could be considered an escape/avoidance maintained behavior and access to other tangible activities.


Applied behavior analysis can be used in anyone’s everyday life and can be applied to any behavior. Whether we realize it or not, there are behaviors we engage in because there are motivating operations that evoke our responses and consequences that can be said to reinforce those responses. Similarly, we often avoid or try to escape activities we don’t enjoy by finding other behaviors to engage in to postpone the unenjoyable activity. Awareness of these contingencies are not required but it sure

helps my studies to know!


The New York State Association for Behavior Analysis Inc. (NYSABA) is the state chapter of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), an international organization devoted to the study of the experimental analysis of behavior.



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The New York State Association for Behavior Analysis is proud to be an Affiliate Chapter of the Association for Behavior Analysis International and the Association for Professional Behavior Analysts