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ABC Analysis

 

Explanations > Conditioning > ABC Analysis

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

  

Description

ABC stands for Antecedent-Behavior-Consequent. ABC analysis involves understanding the stimuli for behavior and the subsequent events that may act as reinforcement.

Analyze a behavior not just by looking at what happened but also at what happened beforehand to trigger the behavior and what happened afterwards to reinforce it, encouraging the pattern to repeat again in the future.

Then change the behavior by changing the reinforcement, stimulus or both.

Example

The ABC patterns of couple who are disagreeing is analyzed using a table, as below.

 

Antecedent Behavior Consequent
Small niggly complaints Explosion into argument The pleasure of making up
Person arrives late Other person complains Discomfort for the rest of the evening

 

This is used to help find ways to break the overall pattern and hence help them live together more harmoniously.

Discussion

ABC is the 'complete package' of a behavior including not only its cause but also the reinforcement that leads to it being embedded as a repeating pattern.

ABC provides a useful method that is easy to explain and consequently may be accepted in situations where you want to help people change.

ABC can be a whole string of cause and effect, more like ABABABAC. It can be helpful to break the pattern down into this sequence to better understand critical points and root causes.

ABC analysis could be called SBR analysis, for Stimulus-Behavior-Reinforcement -- it is just that ABC is more likely to be remembered and can be more client-friendly (behaviorist terms can be a bit too reminiscent of Pavlovian conditioning).

So what?

Use this method to help analyze patterns of dysfunctional behavior (yours and others) and hence find ways of breaking the pattern and hence improving the situation.

See also

Reinforcement

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