Philosophical Assumptions in ABA | A-2 BCBA® Fifth Edition Task List

philosophical assumptions determinism parsimony empiricism philosophical doubt bcba task list

What Are Philosophical Assumptions in Applied Behavior Analysis?

Science is not only about how scientists behave and act, but it is also about the tools and equipment they employ.
Science is the pursuit of knowledge carried out in accordance with a set of overarching methodological principles.
Scientists adhere to a set of principles that direct their work, including determinism, empiricism, experimentation, replication, parsimony, and philosophical uncertainty. These principles are shared by scientists on the nature of phenomena that are the topic of scientific inquiry.


In science, determinism is a fundamental presumption.
Its foundation is the notion that everything happens as a result of other things and that the universe is lawful and organized. Scientists can utilize this to find functional relationships and use them to improve things. It is not uncommon to hear that a behavior “happened for no reason.” Determinism dictates that behavior always happens for a reason. We should constantly be seeking to find that reason.


The basis of scientific knowledge is empiricism.
Scientists acquire knowledge by unbiased observation and measurement of phenomena, free from bias and conviction.
They quantify and describe their observations via systematic measurement over time. As a behavior analyst it is your job to make decisions and write treatment plans based on things you have observed.


The primary method that scientists utilize to comprehend, anticipate, and enhance events is experimentation.
To determine whether there is a functional connection between occurrences, an experiment is run.
Scientists can identify cause and effect correlations by modifying and controlling particular variables and then watching the results. In applied behavior analysis, our primary method of experimentation is single subject design.


Science needs replication because it supports the validity and dependability of findings.
For scientific conclusions to be taken seriously, scientists must be able to reproduce their findings. Replication is tied closely with philosophical doubt. If an experiment cannot be replicated, and the findings cannot be verified, the validity of those findings must come into question.


The concept of parsimony dictates that the most straightforward explanation for a phenomenon be used.
In order to reduce errors and increase understanding, scientists try to explain for their observations using the simplest explanation possible. When determining the function of a behavior, or the reason the behavior is occurring, you should always start by asking yourself simple questions regarding antecedents, consequences, and setting events. Only once the simple explanations are ruled out should you start searching for more complex solutions to the problem.

Philosophical Doubt

Philosophical doubt is a crucial component of science because it enables researchers to remain objective while also challenging their presumptions and beliefs.
Scientists can continue to improve their understanding of the world if they are always willing to challenge their results. No matter how credible the source is, the findings should always be looked at through a skeptical eye. Even your own findings should be treated through the lens of doubt.

In conclusion, the behavior of scientists, who adhere to a set of principles and values that direct their search of knowledge, is what defines science.
The scientific method and the validity and dependability of discoveries are both supported by the determinism, empiricism, experimentation, replication, parsimony, and philosophical doubt principles.

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