Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Stephanie Peterson

Second Advisor

Dr. Jessica Frieder

Third Advisor

Dr. Jonathan Baker

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Linda LeBlanc


Escape-maintained behavior, behavior analysis, treatment selection, protocol analysis, decision-making, contextual variables


The advent of functional analysis procedures has helped identify reinforcers for problem behavior; however, the behavior analyst is then faced with the task of selecting an appropriate treatment for problem behavior. When selecting treatments, in addition to behavioral function, behavior analysts also need to consider contextual variables, such as current client repertoires, setting conditions, time and resources of current caregivers, as well as client and caregiver goals (Benazzi, Horner, & Good, 2006). Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) must consider these factors when developing treatment according to their ethical code (Behavior Analyst Certification Board [BACB]’s Professional and Ethical Compliance Code [PECC], 2015). However, it is unclear how behavior analysts approach selecting among these treatment variables when designing treatment plans. In recent years, researchers (Geiger, Carr, & LeBlanc, 2010) have developed tools, specifically decision trees, to guide practitioners in considering treatment variables (i.e., context) when designing function-based treatments. However, the effects of these decision trees on treatment selection are unknown. The present study examined how junior behavior analysts approach treatment selection for problem behavior through three separate but related studies. Specifically, this study evaluated the topography of “think-aloud” verbal behavior displayed by novice behavior analysts when designing a behavior intervention plan, as well as the effects of providing a decision tree on their verbal behavior and the appropriateness of treatment selection behavior in novice behavior analysts. Results could not confirm a clear effect of the decision tree on treatment selection behavior, although the content of the vignettes and participant learning histories may have affected behavior more than the presence or absence of the decision tree. Limitations and future implications are discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access