Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Jack L. Michael

Second Advisor

Dr. James Carr

Third Advisor

Dr. Ruth Ervin

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Michael Laird


The advent of the experimental functional analysis has had a significant effect on the field of behavior analysis in shifting the focus from topography-based interventions for aberrant behavior to treatment based on function. The original method developed by Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, and Richman in 1982 utilized attention, demand, alone, and play conditions in a multielement design. Its effectiveness in determining the function of aberrant behavior using both antecedents and corresponding contingencies of reinforcement is well established, and it is the most prevalent method of functional assessment used today.

However, an alternative to the Iwata et al. (1982) procedure exists. This is the experimental functional analysis developed by Carr and Durand (1985), in which the experimental conditions (easy 33, difficult 100, and easy 100) are designed to generate aberrant behavior by utilizing varying levels of attention and demand as establishing operations (EOs). No consequences are provided for any aberrant behavior in this method, making this procedure conceptually different from the Iwata et al. procedure, and laying the groundwork for a comparison of the two methods in terms of effectiveness in identifying the function of aberrant behavior.

The results of this comparison indicate that the Iwata method is significantly more effective in identifying behavioral function than the Carr and Durand (1985) method (100% differentiation versus 20%, respectively). This is probably most likely due to the different rationales upon which each method is based; recent research has found that EO manipulations alone are much less reliable in the identification of behavioral function than the combination of EO/consequence manipulations. An interesting finding is that the Carr and Durand method seemed less effective in situations of aberrant behavior maintained by escape from demands; it may be the case that participants are unable to discriminate between easy and difficult tasks in this procedure (any demand serves as an EO for aberrant behavior, regardless of the difficulty of the task).

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access