Topic Tuesday: Topography

A BCBA constantly examines behaviors from multiple angles to determine the function of these behaviors as well as the events and situations in which these behaviors are more likely to occur.  One of the first things a behavior analyst does after identifying a target behavior is to define this behavior in measurable and objective terms.  One aspect of the behavior that one might look at is topography. 

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Just as a topographical map shows the shape of the land, when describing the topography of a behavior one is talking about the shape or form that the behavior takes.  What does the behavior look like?

When teaching new skills it is important to identify the topography of the behavior you want to teach.  For example, if you are teaching children how to play catch one would want to decide whether to first teach them an underhand throw, overhand throw or a bounce pass. All three of types of throws will get the ball to the other person, but they all look different or have different topographies!


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