Seven Dimensions of Understanding Behaviour – A Guest Blog for World Behavior Analysis Day 2022 by Chloe Brindley

Published by Jo on 20th March 2022

Chloe Brindley is a behaviour analyst registered with the UK Society for Behaviour Analysis working as part of Green Light’s Positive Behaviour Support Team. 

As natural scientists, behaviour analysts are trained to set aside the prejudices we tend to adopt, and view behaviour objectively.  When behaviour analysts talk to us about behaviour, they don’t just mean undesirable behaviour we might normally think of when hearing the word behaviour.  They mean any actions or event that might be expressed as a verb. 

Literally anything a person (or organism) does.

In this guest blog written as a contribution to World Behavior Analysis Day 2022 Chloe explains the dimensions of interest to her as a behaviour analyst working in services for adults with learning disabilities.  These themes comes from a key paper from Chloe’s field which was published in the Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis back in 1968; ‘Some current dimensions of Applied Behaviour Analysis’ by Baer, Wolf and Risley.


Jo Pyrah

Managing Director


7 dimensions of Applied Behaviour Analysis

Applied Behaviour Analysis is the science of behaviour, concerned with interactions between the individual or organism and their environment.   In helping professions like ours, understanding this relationship can help to determine why people are doing what they are doing.  Understanding the why allows us to appreciate any help that might then be needed by the person.  This is particularly important when working with people who have difficulties communicating their wants, wishes or needs and who may rely on people to interpret what they may be communicating in other ways.  Behaviour Analysts can help move beyond potentially risky assumptions based on what behaviour looks like (the form) to understanding the legitimate need (the function) served by particular behaviours.  This provides a foundation of understanding, upon which effective, ethical, support can be built to meet identified needs. 

Behaviour analysis as a science is based on the seven dimensions of behaviour outlined by Baer, Wolf and Risley (1968) These dimensions provide a framework for all behaviour analytic interventions in all kinds of populations.


Applied: Selecting socially significant behaviours.  Behaviours that are important and meaningful for that individual.  An example of this might be, observing an individual and learning that they are unable to tie their shoe laces independently, but when out in the community seeing they also kick members of the public to get their attention.  Here the more socially significant behaviour would be teaching the individual an alternative way of gaining attention, for example saying “hello, how are you?”.  Reducing kicking behaviour is more socially significant to the person than learning to tie shoelaces.

Behavioural: Working with behaviours that are observable and measurable.  These are behaviours we can see and that can be expressed as verbs.  Jumping and clapping for example.  Although thoughts and feelings are not observable, there may be behaviours that an individual engages in that are associated with these thoughts and feelings, such as nail biting and pacing, which we can observe and take data on.  Focusing on observable behaviour allows us to clearly define the behaviour that we are working with, to determine whether this is a behaviour that we need to increase or decrease when planning an appropriate intervention.

Analytic: Making decisions based on data. This means taking data on the behaviours that you are seeing:

The frequency.  How many times does the behaviour occur?

The duration. How long does the behaviour occur for?

The intensity.  With how much force does the behaviour occur?

Data taken on frequency, duration, intensity can be analysed and then inform decisions on whether certain approaches should be taken, whether those approaches are working or not, whether any changes should be made.  The data taken informs each decision.

Conceptually Systematic: The implementation of interventions that are consistent with the literature.  This means putting interventions in place that are represented in the behaviour analytic literature.  An example of this might be putting in place a communication system for an individual, but first looking into the evidence that supports this particular system for the population, considering the results of past efforts, to determine whether this will be appropriate for a given individual.   

Technological: The procedures suggested for the implementation of the intervention should be described clearly and concisely  Others should be able to look at the intervention described, be able to replicate this, and achieve the same results based on the procedure that you have described.  Correct, clear and concise instructions for making a Victoria sponge cake for example, allows you to make the cake, but also allows others to do so later, using the same measure of ingredients, added in the correct sequence, baked at the same temperature, for the same length of time, etc. 

Effective: The impact that the intervention had on the behaviour is evaluated.  Determining whether the intervention worked.  Whether it was successful.   

On evaluating a communication system introduced so that someone can ask for help, rather than punch themselves, to get their attention your data shows punching has decreased.  It shows asking for help has increased.  This suggests the intervention, at this stage is effective, working towards what has been set out to achieve by those involved. 

Generality: Skills or behaviours that are able to occur in environments or settings other than the ones in which they were originally taught. For example teaching someone to make a cup of coffee in the kitchen at home in a way this skill can be generalised to other kitchens or environments.  Observing the person, it is clear they can make coffee with a coffee machine in a cafe and make coffee in the kitchen at their place of work.  The skill has generalised. 

These dimensions underpin all of the work that behaviour analysts do with the wide variety of populations they now serve.  They continue to serve as a useful guide for my own work with my team providing evidence-based person-centred services for adults with autism here at Green Light PBS Ltd. in Cornwall, UK. 

World Behaviour Analysis Day


Chloe Brindley

Board Certified Behaviour Analyst


If you are interested in applied behaviour analysis take a look at the these sites