Perspectives on Behavior Science

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 591–613 | Cite as

Translating Behavior Analysis: a Spectrum Rather than a Road Map

  • Elizabeth G. E. KyonkaEmail author
  • Shrinidhi Subramaniam


Much has been written about the potential benefits of translational research in behavior analysis, but a lack of consensus about what constitutes “translational” creates a barrier to effective knowledge–practice innovation within the discipline and across other sciences. We propose a tiered system, adapted from a biomedical translational pathway, for classifying behavior analysis research on a basic–applied spectrum. Tier 0 is blue sky basic science in which the subjects, behaviors, stimuli, and settings are selected for convenience. Tier 1 is use-inspired basic science with a socially important end game and research subject. Tier 2 is solution-oriented research that attempts to solve a specific problem in a socially important subject, but 1 or more aspects of the research are selected for purposes of experimental control rather than social importance. Tier 3 is applied behavior analysis research that studies a problem of social significance for the subject and involves behaviors, stimuli, and settings that are socially important. Tier 4 is impact assessment in which behavioral technology is applied with a direct benefit to society. We provide examples of behavior–analytic research in each tier and evaluate the potential benefits of organizing behavior analysis in this way.


Translational research pathway Basic–applied continuum Biomedical model Internal validity Social significance Experimental analysis of behavior Applied behavior analysis Scientific consequences Taxonomy 



The authors wish to thank Michael Perone, Regina Carroll, and Editor Tom Critchfield for their invaluable input. Portions of this article were presented at the Association for Behavior Analysis Australia Inaugural Conference in 2016.

Author Contributions

The authors contributed equally to this work and are listed alphabetically.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


The authors have no relevant funding to declare.


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth G. E. Kyonka
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shrinidhi Subramaniam
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Psychology and Behavioural ScienceUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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