Degree Name

Master of Science

Department or Program

Behavior Analysis and Therapy


Nicole A. Heal


Experimental functional analysis has been successful in identifying environmental factors maintaining challenging behaviors and indicating effective interventions. However, an analysis for multiple topographies of behavior may yield imprecise hypotheses if those topographies are combined within the same contingency within the analysis and aggregated for analysis on a single graph. The current study explored the utility of separate graphing and independent analysis strategies during the assessment for two topographies of licking, “self” and “other.” A series of three analyses were conducted. Contingencies in the first analysis were programmed for both topographies. An analysis of each topography on separate graphs indicated separate functions; however, strong conclusions were not possible due to the presence of undifferentiated data. Next, contingencies for the second analysis were programmed only for self licking, and then contingencies for the third analysis were programmed only for other licking. Results strengthened the hypotheses that “other” licking was maintained by tangible reinforcement and “self” licking was maintained by automatic reinforcement. This study showed how independent analysis and separate graphing strategies may improve the precision of a functional analysis targeting multiple topographies, and demonstrated how very similar topographies may serve separate functions.