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What Is an ABA Design?

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Definition:

An ABA design is a type of experimental design in which participants are first introduced to a baseline condition (A). In the baseline condition, no treatment or experimental variable is introduced. Next, participants receive the experimental condition or treatment (B), after which they return to the baseline condition (A). The ABA design allows experimenters to observe behavior before treatment, during treatment and after treatment.

ABA designs are a type of single-subject design. The purpose of this type of experimental design is to observe changes individual may exhibit as a result of the treatment. By establishing the baseline, researchers are able to observe how the participant performs with no treatment. After the treatment is applied, the participants are then retested. Finally, the participants once again return to the baseline condition. As a result, researchers are able to see what effect, if any, the treatment had.

For example, let's imagine that we are conducting an experiment to determine the impact of illustrations on reading comprehension among third-graders. First, our participants start by reading a text-only paragraph that is not accompanied by a picture. They then answer several questions to assess their reading comprehension of the material. Next, the same group of kids reads a second paragraph that includes and illustration. The students are then tested again. Finally, students read another text-only paragraph and are tested. We can then analyze our results to determine if text with illustrations improved scores on reading comprehension.

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