What is ABA and ABAB Design in Applied Behavior Analysis?

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In Applied Behavior Analysis ABAB is the most common design for treatment. In this method, students are taught one or two behaviors at a time and then reinforced in order to build on their skills over time. While there are many different ways of designing behavior therapy programs with varying levels of efficiency, ABAB has been shown to be effective across all ages.

ABA is an approach to autism that uses positive reinforcement and a series of discrete trials to shape behavior. The ABAB design is a type of ABA, but it focuses on teaching children how to use two-word phrases in order to communicate their needs.

For many years, psychology has been condemned as an imprecise science. Its flaw, according to critics, is that it doesn’t depend on actual facts. Different ABA study design styles have greatly contributed to dispelling such notion. The ABA and ABAB Concepts are particularly helpful in applied behavioral analysis (ABA) because they assist therapists in identifying and focusing on effective treatments. Therapists may save time by avoiding techniques that have minimal effect on changing behavior.

Top 20 Online applied behavior analysis Bachelor’s Degree and BCaBA Coursework Programs is a related site.


This paradigm is a kind of Single Subject Experimental Design research technique (SSED). Single subject research designs are used in clinical and special education settings. The person acts as their own control in an SSED. Their performance is not evaluated in relation to that of a team or another person.

ABAB and ABA are not acronyms per se; instead, they stand for the model’s phases.

  • The dependent variable is “A.” It depicts the original, unmodified behavior, which serves as the study’s baseline.
  • The treatment phase or independent variable “B”

The following reasons are given for single-subject designs:

  • Prediction
  • Verification
  • Replication

Despite the fact that an SSED suggests there is only one subject, a research study sometimes uses several individuals with the same design. The person is still seen as the sole topic as they are in control of the situation.

AB Design

A baseline (A) and an intervention (B) are included in a straightforward AB design psychological experiment (B). If A changes after B is put into practice, a researcher can draw the Conclusion that B caused A to change. Unfortunately, this is simplistic thinking, and it is difficult to draw a firm Conclusion. Threats to internal validity are not well controlled by the AB design.

Design by ABA

So, in an ABA research design, the initial behavior is altered by the intervention and then the intervention is withdrawn to see if the behavior returns to the baseline level.  This is also known as a reversal design.  If the dependent variable changes when the intervention takes place and then returns to baseline, there is further evidence of a treatment effect.   Since the Design by ABA has a high degree of experimental control, there is confidence that treatment effects are actually the result of the treatment and not something else.

ABAB Concept

The ABAB Concept is the reintroduction of the intervention after the return to the baseline to judge the strength of the intervention and determine if there is a functional relationship between A and B. The ABAB Concept Definition includes:

  • A- Data collection and the baseline period
  • B. Intervening
  • A- End of the intervention, return to the initial situation
  • B- Resuming the intervention’s introduction

As the subject of the study becomes habituated to the intervention, certain interventions may get stronger over time while others may become weaker.

The ABAB Concept can be considered a type of time-series design.  This means researchers can use the same statistical procedures with ABAB that they do with a time series analysis.

Understanding the Difference Between an ABA therapist and a BCBA is a Related Resource

How to Apply the ABA Model

Additionally, therapists use these research techniques to identify therapies for patients whose goal behavior interferes with their daily activities. Working with people who have intellectual and developmental impairments benefits greatly from it. Due to the fact that it focuses therapy on a single behavior, it is also utilized to treat people with autism spectrum disorders.

An example cited in one article is that of children asked to read a paragraph that included text only. The children were tested on their understanding of the information. Then, another paragraph including an illustration was given to the children to read. Again, they were tested to see if their level of understanding increased. Finally, they were given another paragraph that contained only text and retested to see if their grasp of the information returned to the initial test results.  Using the Design by ABA, the therapist can evaluate the effects of treatment related to baseline responding.

The capacity of the researcher to reproduce the findings is the main condition for evaluating the efficacy of this model, according to an article in the US National Library of Medicine. The same findings should emerge from a study of the same behavior in many individuals. This replication serves as the foundation for designating the intervention as an all-inclusive treatment strategy.

How to Use the ABAB Model

When attempting an intervention to assist in reducing self-injurious behavior, an ABAB reversal design may also be effective. The person bites and pulls his or her hair. The therapist begins the intervention program after the first baseline phase. The therapist is still gathering information about the self-harming behavior. The intervention phase is then stopped, but the therapist is continuing gathering information on the same behavior. The therapist concludes their statistical study before reintroducing the intervention. It is simple to confirm treatment effects on behavior if the behavior improves with the intervention and returns to the original baseline values when the intervention is withdrawn. It’s more likely to reinforce the desired behavior alteration. Additionally, experiments of this kind may be utilized to treat eating and anxiety issues.


The Design by ABA psychology experiment allows researchers to isolate one behavior for study and intervention. That decreases the chances of other variables influencing the results. It is also a simple way to assess an intervention.  If only one thing is changing at a time, it is easy to decipher if an intervention is working.  If the behavior doesn’t after the intervention is removed, then something else must be causing the change in behavior.  The design is pretty straightforward.  The model allows therapists to identify successful interventions quickly.

The main advantage of the ABAB model is that it ends “on a positive note” with the intervention in place instead of with its withdrawal.  Another advantage is that the ABAB Concept psychology experiment has an additional piece of experimental control with the reintroduction of the intervention at the end of the study.  Some researchers believe ABAB is a stronger design since it has multiple reversals.



What if the behavior does not change with the intervention? raises one of the main issues with this concept. Similar findings among many persons in the Randomized Control Trials would corroborate that Conclusion, but the absence of results renders a study of one person worthless. For instance, the researcher would not be aware of the addition of additional variables.

The other major disadvantage is the ethical problem of identifying a successful intervention and then withdrawing it.  The ABA and ABAB Concept can’t be used with variables that could cause irreversible effects.  It also can’t be used when it would be unethical or unsafe for an individual to revert back to their baseline condition.   It can also be hard to rule out a history effect if the dependent variable doesn’t return to its original state when the treatment or therapy is removed.

Fortunately, there are options when an ABA or ABAB Concept isn’t feasible.  A multiple baseline design can be used when there is more than one individual or behavior in need of treatment.  This design can also be used if the effects of the independent variable can’t be reversed.  The alternating treatments design can be used when you want to determine the effectiveness of more than one treatment.  The changing conditions design can be used to study the effect of two or more treatments on the behavior of an individual.


A treatment called behavioral analysis is utilized with patients of various ages and cognitive capacities. Therapists often spend a lot of time with a patient trying to identify an intervention that will successfully change a problematic habit. For patients of mental health professionals, the application of the ABA and ABAB models may reduce the length of therapy and enhance the likelihood of a successful result.

The “ABAB design in Applied Behavior Analysis” is a technique that uses the ABAB model to help children learn. This technique is used by psychologists and therapists to help children with autism, ADHD, and other disorders. Reference: abab design psychology.

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