Mentalisms in Applied Behavior Analysis

bcba exam mentalisms

Mentalisms in Applied Behavior Analysis

The BCBA exam will test your knowledge on the different types of mentalisms associated with ABA. As a BCBA, we always want to target behavior that is observable and measurable. Mentalisms are subjective attitudes, feelings, and other constructs that attempt to use internal factors to explain behaviors. To pass the big ABA exam you will need to identify what is and isn’t a mentalism. Below we will review hypothetical constructs, explanatory fictions, and circular reasoning.

Hypothetical Constructs

The first mentalism we will review is hypothetical constructs. Hypothetical constructs are things that we assume exist, but are not observable. Hypothetical constructs include things like self-control, free will, cognitive load and processing, and other terms often associated with psychology. These things may actually exist, but for BCBAs we need to focus on what we can measure and observe.

Explanatory Fictions

The second construct to learn for the BCBA exam is explanatory fictions. Explanatory fictions attempt to explain behavior by reclassifying behavior through naming mechanisms. Common explanatory fictions include “knows,” “feels,” and “wants.” These terms do not help identify the environmental variables that are maintaining behavior. Additionally. they are not observable and measurable.

Example: Billy will refuse to do his homework because he knows his mom will do it for him.

Circular Reasoning

The final construct is circular reasoning. Circular reasoning attempts to use the cause to explain the effect, and the effect to circle back to the cause. Another way to think about it is you are arguing that A = B and B = A without adding any additional proof or evidence.

Example: “John can’t read because of his learning disability. Because of John’s learning disability, he can’t read” This does not explain anything except John can’t read and that he has a learning disability.

Preparing for the BCBA exam

If you want to pass the big ABA exam you will also need to know the 7 compound schedules of reinforcement. The BCBA exam is challenging but by putting in the time and effort you can pass. We recommend using a BCBA study guide and taking a BCBA practice exam before taking your real exam. We offer both in our shop. Follow the link below for more. Also be sure to check out our BCBA task list study guide on Youtube.

Purchase BCBA Study Materials: BCBA Mock Exams

BCBA YouTube: