PSYB45: Behaviour Modification Textbook Notes
Chapter 2: Observing and Recording Behaviour
¾ One fundamental aspect of behaviour modification is measuring the behaviour that is targeted
for change. Measurement of the target behaviour (or behaviours) in behaviour modification is
called behavioural assessment. Behavioural assessment is important for a number of reasons:
o Measuring the behaviour before treatment provides information that can help you
determine whether treatment is necessary.
o Behavioural assessment can provide information that helps you choose the best
o Measuring the target behaviour before and after treatment allows you to determine
whether the behaviour changed after the treatment was implemented.
Direct and Indirect Assessment
¾ There are two types of behavioural assessment: direct and indirect.
¾ Indirect assessment involves using interviews, questionnaires, and rating scales to obtain
information on the target behaviour from the person exhibiting the behaviour or from others.
¾ With direct assessment, a person observes and records the target behaviour as it occurs. To
observe the target behaviour, the observer must be in close proximity to the person exhibiting
¾ In addition, the observer must have a precise definition of the target behaviour so that its
occurrence can be distinguished from occurrences of other behaviours.
¾ Direct assessment usually is more accurate than indirect assessment. Usually because the
¾ Direct assessment methods for observing and recording the target behaviour in a behaviour
modification program include the following steps:
o Defining the target behaviour
o Determining the logistics of recording
o Choosing a recording method
o Choosing a recording instrument
Defining the Target Behaviour
¾ The first step is to define the target behaviour. You must identify exactly what the person says
of does that constitutes the behavioural excess or deficit targeted for change.
¾ The behavioural definition uses active verbs, it is objective and unambiguous.
¾ It does not refer to an internal state (e.g. angry, happy, sad, etc) because such internal states
cannot be observed and recorded by another person.
¾ Labels are not used. They are ambiguous; they can mean different things to different people.
¾ When two people independently observe the same behaviour and both record that the
behaviour occurred, this is called interobserver reliability (IOR) or interobserver agreement.
PSYB45: Behaviour Modification Textbook Notes
¾ The behaviours that are described could be observed and agreed on by two independent
The Logistics of Recording
¾ The next step is to identify who will observe and record the behaviour. In a behaviour
modification program, the target behaviour typically is observed and recorded by a person other
than the one exhibiting the target behaviour.
¾ The observer must have proximity to the client to observe the target behaviour when it occurs
(one exception may be if the target behaviour is observed via video).
¾ He or she must have the time to observe and record the behaviour and must be willing to
function as an observer.
¾ In some cases, the observer is the person exhibiting the target behaviour. This is called self-
monitoring. Self-monitoring is valuable when it is not possible for another observer to record
the target behaviour (as when the behaviour occurs infrequently or when no one else is
present). The person must be trained to do this.
¾ Self-monitoring may also be combined with direct observation by another observer.
When and Where to Record
¾ The observer records the target behaviour in a specific period called the observation period.
¾ It is important to choose an observation period at the time when the target behaviour is likely to
¾ The timing of the observation periods is also determined on when the observer is available.
~E}ZZo]v}Zo]v[vor guardian must give consent before you can
observe and record his or her behaviour.
¾ Observation and recording of behaviour take place in natural settings or in contrived settings.
¾ A natural setting consists of the places in which the target behaviour typically occurs.
¾ Observing the target behaviour in a clinic playroom is a contrived setting because being in the
¾ However, there are benefits of observing in a contrived setting: It is more controlled than a
natural setting, and the variables that influence behaviour are easier to manipulate.
¾ Observation of the target behaviour can be structured or unstructured.
¾ When observations are structured, the observer arranges for specific events or activities to
occur during the observation period.
¾ During unstructured observations, no specific events, activities, or instructions are given during
the observation period.
Choosing a Recording Method