Psychology Department, The University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.


Functional analysis methodology is a powerful assessment tool for identifying contingencies that maintain a wide range of behavior disorders and for developing effective treatment programs. Nevertheless, concerns have been raised about the feasibility of conducting functional analyses in typical service settings. In this study, we examined the issue of skill acquisition in implementing functional analyses by evaluating an instructional program designed to establish a basic set of competencies. Eleven undergraduate students enrolled in a laboratory course in applied behavior analysis served as participants. Their performance was assessed during scripted simulations in which they played the roles of “therapists” who conducted functional analyses and trained graduate students played the roles of “clients” who emitted self-injurious and destructive behaviors. To approximate conditions under which an individual might conduct an assessment with limited prior training, participants read a brief set of materials prior to conducting baseline sessions. A multiple baseline design was used to assess the effects of training, which consisted of reading additional materials, watching a videotaped simulation demonstrating correct procedural implementation, passing a written quiz, and receiving feedback on performance during sessions. Results showed that participants scored a relatively high percentage of correct therapist responses during baseline, and that all achieved an accuracy level of 95% or higher following training that lasted about 2 hr. These results suggest that basic skills for conducting functional analyses can be acquired quickly by individuals who have relatively little clinical experience.