The Role of Applied Behavior Analysis in Evaluating Medication Effects

  • Alan Poling
  • James Cleary
Part of the Applied Clinical Psychology book series (NSSB)


One need look no further than the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA) to see that applied behavior analysts have largely ignored drugs as independent variables. Since the inception of the journal in 1968, less than a dozen studies primarily concerned with drug effects have graced its pages. This perhaps is understandable, for applied behavior analysis traditionally has involved the use of operant (or, less commonly, respondent) conditioning procedures to improve socially significant human behavior. Given this orientation, the majority of independent variables evaluated have consisted of response-consequence (reinforcement or punishment) operations. Pharamacotherapies are not easily conceptualized in terms of operant or respondent conditioning, and seem to imply faith in a medical model of behavioral problems that few behavior analysts share. We are nevertheless of the opinion that the research philosophy and analytical strategies characteristic of applied behavior analysis could serve as the basis for a fruitful science of clinical psycho-pharmacology. To demonstrate this, we will discuss seven dimensions of applied behavior analysis research as they relate to clinical drug evaluations. These characteristics were initially set forth by Baer, Wolf, and Risley (1968) in the inaugural issue of JABA, and serve as a set of goals for research in applied behavior analysis.1


Behavior Analysis Drug Evaluation Applied Behavior Analysis Behavior Analyst Hyperactive Child 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Poling
    • 1
  • James Cleary
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWestern Michigan UniversityKalamazooUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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