On Terms — Record Floor, Celeration Period, and Multiply-Divide Scale

April 10, 2018

Precision Teaching Terminology

On Terms

The Standard Celeration Chart (SCC; pronounced ess-see-see) has been key component of Precision Teaching (PT; I capitalize the name of the field, rendering it into a proper noun). The chart has always posed some challenges when it comes to teaching people about it and how to use it and why. So, here are some chart terms that sometimes may serve as fluency-blockers when teaching the chart, or if you’re a student, when trying to learn the chart.

Record Floor. This term is also known as the Counting Floor, Counting Time, Time Bar, Counting Period, and more. Based on my own 11 years of teaching the SCC to graduate students, the time bar has been the biggest fluency-blocker when students are learning the chart, but it’s also probably the most important term and concept; one that certainly sets the SCC apart from mainstream graphs and charts.

The record floor designates the time that you spent recording behavior. On the SCC it’s a small dashed horizontal line that you draw connecting a Tuesday to Thursday line. In that sense, it’s a record; short for recording. In the olden days of the analysis of behavior, Skinner and his students and associates actually recorded behavior as it occurred on event recorders and later cumulative response recorders. These devices fed out paper continuously from a spool of paper. The feed-out ran at a constant speed, and this speed was calibrated by gear settings that varied by species. A moveable pen would mark directly onto the paper as it rolled underneath. Each time an organism made a response (e.g., pressed a lever; pecked a key), the pen would move up the paper slightly (across the top of the recorder itself, right to left). The angle or slope of the line produced then was proportional to the rate of the responding: The higher that rate, became the steeper the recorded line. When the SCC was developed, this old concept of recording persisted in the form of the record floor.

The record floor also designates the lowest frequency that could be counted during that time spent recording. The lowest count is 1, so if you counted only 1 behavior during the time span, then that’s your lowest frequency for that time span. On an SCC, for a frequency count of 1, the dot gets placed right on the record floor.

If you did not count so much as even 1 behavior during the designated time span, then you have a 0. But notice! That 0 is with respect only to that time spent recording! That’s all that 0 means. It does not mean 0 for an entire day unless you recorded for an entire day. So, if you ran a 10-minute session, on an SCC the record floor is drawn on the 0.1 per minute line, which technically is one-tenth of a response per minute. But, that’s meaningless. What 0.1 per minute really means is 1 response in 10 minutes (1/10 = 0.1). The record floor thus, not only indicates how long a recording session lasted, but also provides a means for indicating a one (a dot right on the record floor) and a zero (but, again, a 0 only for the session time, nothing further). I’ll revisit the “0 problem” at some later time.

Celeration Period. The celeration period is the third dimension in the definition of celeration. Celeration has three “dimensions”: (1) count, (2) per time, (3) per time. On a daily per minute SCC, what most people think of as being “the chart,” celeration is defined as responses per minute per week: r/min/wk. A week is the celeration period. That’s the time across which the celeration is computed and assigned a quantitative value.

The celeration period is critical to understanding celeration itself. In fact, since celeration is a dimensional, measure, the proper way of speaking of a particular celeration is to include both the number (the count) and the two standard international units (the minute and the week). To report a celeration you need all three, as well as the sign, which will be a x (multiply by) symbol or a / (divide by symbol; aka “slash”). An example might be x2 per minute per week. Another example might be x4/min/wk. A deceleration could be /1.4/min/week. Any variation works, just so long as you have and mention all three parts. A nonexample would be to report a celeration value as x2, or as x4. Those would be non-examples because they exclude the units

Multiply-Divide Scale. Some persons refer to the y-axis of the SCC as a “logarithmic” scale. Technically, it’s not, because a logarithmic scale would run 0, 1, 2, 3, and be equal interval add-subtract. Look up logarithms. The scale on the y-axis of the SCC is based on logarithms, which explains the weird pattern of the lines getting closer and closer together when you go up the scale from 1 to 10, and again from 10 to 100, and so on.

Calling the scale multiply-divide is possibly less foreboding than calling it logarithmic. And it is more accurate: the term multiply-divide indicates the mathematical operation used to move up (multiply) and down (divide) the scale. Such is what Lindsley called the “multiply world.” On an SCC, the vertical distance between a 2 and a 4 is exactly the same as between a 3 and a 6,, and between a 4 and an 8, and between a 5 and a 10, and between a 20 and a 40 and a 150 and a 300. In all those cases, the same exact distance refers to the operation of multiplying by factor of x2. Doubling, in other words! Tripling works the same way. From 1 to 3 runs the same distance from 2 to 6, and 9 to 27. True, there’s no 27 per minute line on the SCC, but if you know the distance meant by x3 (“times three”), then starting at 9, multiplying that by 3 (9 x 3), you can find where the 27 per minute line would go. This feature is one way of finding rates that are not printed on the vertical axis! — JE  9 April 2018




Rebooting this Site

April 10, 2018

About a dozen years have passed since I first started this website under its older name “Standard Celeration Charting.”  The standard celeration chart (SCC) still finds a home here, as it will forever, but in rebooting this site I’ve added “Precision Teaching” to the title, and also “Behaviorology.”

Much can happen in a dozen years.  In that time I got hired as a full-time faculty person at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) in Chicago, IL.  I’ve taught graduate-level courses there for the past 11 years. Of course, the best way to learn something always is to teach it, and I think I’ve learned rather quite a bit over the past decade plus.  For that I thank the hundreds of students who have taken my courses: They’ve taught me how to communicate better what I think a science of behavior-environment relations is and ought to be.  Humbly, I agree that I still have a long way to go, and will never arrive at any semblance of perfection — not that that is or ever has been a goal. But, as you teach a subject matter, and see what works and what does not in terms of teaching methods and content your perspective may well change, and I think that mine has. In fact, I know it has.

In the past dozen years I have been a professional Behavior Analyst, too. In the middle of the previous decade I obtained a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification, which I ramped up to a BCBA-D, the “D” standing for Doctoral, a few years ago when that designation became available.  So, professionally, I am a BCBA-D.  That’s what I do.  I practice that profession by teaching graduate students primarily, though I have from time to time done “field work” in the form of consulting as well.

Yet, other changes have unfolded, too, in that 12-year time span.  It is those changes, described below, that have led me to “reboot” this otherwise moribund site.

Some changes to the fields and scientific disciplines:

  1. A half dozen years ago or slightly more, the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB), the certifying entity that developed the BCBA Exam and Certification, removed the “use the Standard Celeration Chart” from its Task List. The Task List is a set of loosely-defined objectives (but which read more like loose goals) that describe what a competent Behavior Analyst is supposed to know.  Removing the SCC, which is only a tool, but which also is an extremely powerful tool for monitoring and analyzing change in behavior over time, seemed particularly short-sighted.  This would be akin, if you can believe it, to some Carpenter’s Certifying Board deciding to remove measuring tapes from the repertoire of tools that a carpenter is expected to use and apply in their job settings!  I will have more to say about this tragic decision and the way it was arrived at in a later posting.  In the meantime, I’ve adapted as the Task List keeps changing.
  2. The Task Lists keep changing, and adapting is becoming more difficult, simply because how SOME people in Behavior Analysis decide to define Behavior Analysis is not exactly how I would define it.  The BACB is moving toward a 5th Edition of the Task List.  Preliminary versions have deleted the remaining Precision Teaching and Direct Instruction objectives, and have excised out much of the “behavioral acquisition” tasks that earlier Editions carried.  At one point even “use shaping” had been removed, though I have been re-assured by a close friend and colleague that, well, shucks and gee, shaping’s been put back in!  Pursuing our Carpenter’s metaphor a bit, this act would be akin to a Carpenter’s Certifying Board removing “use a hammer” from the Tasks that a competent carpenter should have in their skill set!  It also would appear that Behavior Analysis is devolving toward being primarily about behavior reduction.  To put this into that same metaphorical framework, if real-life carpenters need to know both how to build buildings and to tear down existing buildings, then this movement to mainly behavior reduction would be like our fictional Carpentry certifying body deciding that Carpentry should be about only tearing down structures not building them in the first place!
  3. I’ve been a member of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) since 1977.  Back in 1977 it was known as “MABA” (the Midwestern Association of Behavior Analysis).  MABA changed its name to ABAI about 1979.  I’ve always had mixed feelings about ABAI, but I have kept my membership across the decades because, even though as my doctoral advisor and dissertation chairperson Dr. Ernest A. Vargas often pointed out, “Behavior Analysis” was never clearly defined quite as a scientific discipline, it sort of seemed like one.  People could “assume” that it was one (bear in mind that one of the original meanings of “to assume” is “to pretend,” and the situation may become somewhat more clarified).  Behavior Analysis was thus sort of a name for a kind of a science but also a name for an emerging profession.  The profession is defined by the Task Lists as promulgated by the BACB, as noted above.  But what about the science and about ABAI in particular?  Well, at the start of 2018 ABAI, without consulting its membership whatsoever, decided to rename and repurpose its flagship journal, The Behavior Analyst to Perspectives on Behavior Science.  The new journal would not be bound up with or even necessarily tied to Behavior Analysis, which has become the name solely of a profession.  The science is evidently to be named “Behavior Science.” Well, there are many salient but also concerning issues related to that name.  I will talk about these issues more coming up in a new posting later on, but suffice to say, there already IS a name for the basic science and its related natural philosophy — Behaviorology. Behaviorology was a name before its time, coined and advanced by both Dr. E. A. Vargas and Dr. Julie S. Vargas as well as some other individuals who expressed concern about what Behavior Analysis meant. Their concern arose in the mid-1980s, so it has been a while. Behaviorology refers to a scientific discipline (not a field) based on the scientific research and natural philosophy of radical behaviorism as initiated and developed primarily in the work and contributions of B. F. Skinner and Skinner’s colleagues, associates, students, and for the lack of a better term, grand-students (like grandchildren).  That’s been a very clear and direct meaning from the start of Behaviorology.  “Behavior Science,” on the other hand, has no such natural or specific a connection to what I also sometimes refer to as “Skinner’s Science.” Moreover, Behavior Science will have to compete with Behavioral Science, which is an ambiguous term related to and referring to many differing scientific and sort of scientific fields and disciplines, most of them entirely unrelated to any kind of science that B. F. Skinner developed.  That one little -al suffix:  As of March 2018 when I type Behavior Science into search engines such as Google and Bing, these engines “autocorrect” the search to Behavioral Science. Then under Behavioral Science you can see that this term encompasses many fields and disciplines, including psychology (in general), sociology, anthropology, and even political science, among many more.  It will be a tight discrimination for people to make, to distinguish between Behavior Science and Behavioral Science. Likely, that will not happen, but if it does, it will take a lot of work and effort and will be an uphill struggle! So, why not go with a crystal clear existing name?  That’s my strategy.  So, having been trained and educated in Behaviorology by both of the aforementioned Dr. Vargas’ in a “Behavior Analysis in Human Resources”  (BAHR) program located within an Educational Psychology Department which itself was within a College of Education and Human Resources, I’m comfortable wearing both a Behavior Analysis professional hat and adopting, or re-adopting Behaviorology as the name of the science and its related natural philosophy of radical behaviorism that informs my scientific thinking on what it means to have a science of behavior and behavior change.

I will have future updates, including re-posting here some articles/messages that I recently put on the History of Behavior Analysis listserv about the above issues.

Anyway, welcome back.

As usual, I invite cogent, thoughtful and peaceful commentary.  I will update my blog’s rules too. I’m not here to argue or debate, though I will listen to and read thoughtful responses even if they are not in agreement or alignment with what I know or think. Spam messages will be deleted ASAP.

— John W. Eshleman, EdD, BCBA-D, 26 March 2018


Charting versus “Junk Behaviorism”

November 2, 2008

Part One

After having gotten back into academia and having taught graduate-level courses in Behavior Analysis for over a year now, some signs pertaining to the health and state of Applied Behavior Analysis have become clear to me.  Painfully clear.

I seem to be engaged in a perhaps losing battle against what I term “junk behaviorism.”  Let me elaborate.

“Junk behaviorism” is a term I’ve come up with to describe a set of beliefs and practices that seem rampant in applied behavior analysis, but which are beliefs and practices that are not based on science and not based on B.F. Skinner’s experimental analysis of behavior science so far as I can tell.

Some preamble: Not long ago I was listening to the late, great George Carlin’s “A Modern Man” routine. Carlin had keen insights on our language.  His “A Modern Man” routine had him speaking just about every modern cliche’d word or phrase that now infests our language.  At one point in the routine he said  “I read junk mail, I eat junk food, I buy junk bonds and I watch trash sports!”  (You can find many copies of his entire routine on YouTube and other sites, including transcripts.) Carlin’s routine served as an sD to prompt me to think about other kinds of “junk” that we indulge in, including, alas, “junk behaviorism.”

Of course, in recent years some commentators have discussed what they term as “junk science.” Wikipedia defines “junk science”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junk_science

So, what’s “junk behaviorism”:

1. It’s saying that you “reinforce the person,” when you discuss positive reinforcement.  “I reinforced Joe the Plumber,” for instance.  Well, how?  By giving him a wall to lean against?  From Skinner’s science we know that behaviorally all you can do is reinforce behavior. You don’t reinforce the person.

2. It’s calling an event or thing a “reinforcer” despite the absence of any evidence that it has functioned as a reinforcer or that it is currently functioning as a reinforcer.  “Verbal praise is the reinforcer for Jill the Plumber.”  Or, “we will use tokens as the reinforcer for Janet the Student.”  What?  How do we know that verbal praise “is” the reinforcer, or that the tokens “will” reinforce anything (let alone reinforce Janet the Student)?  We don’t.  This is extreme faulty use of language.  Careless. Disregarding. Even intellectually arrogant.  But above all, conceptually unsound.  The term reinforcer ought to be used only for events that have demonstrated a functional relationship with respect to behavior.  Well, in response to that, what other term should we use? More about that in a bit.

3. Lack of clarity about what a reinforcer does.  Sometimes some students arrive to grad school after having worked for a year or two or even several years out in some agency/clinic that provides “behavioral” services of various kinds to individuals “diagnosed” with various behavioral problems.  In some cases they’ve learned that “reinforcement” “increases behavior.” Well, no it doesn’t.  The phrase “increases behavior” is way too ambiguous.  Case in point: In discussing the definition of behavior, some individuals wanted to defend “behaviors” that do not pass Lindsley’s “Dead Man’s Test.”  A kid saying seated in his seat is therefore construed as behavior, even though a dead person could do better at this “behavior” than a live person ever could do.  That’s a bad pinpoint, when you apply the “Dead Man’s Test.”  So, what’s “increasing behavior” in this example? It’d be the kid staying in his seat for a longer period of time!  Egads!  Talk about turning Skinner’s science on its head?  How many rotations per minute is Skinner spinning in his afterlife? (Said as an update to the common metaphor.)

A variation of this misconception is that “reinforcement” “increases the probability of behavior,” or that it “increases the likelihood of behavior.”  While slightly better than the even more ambiguous “increases behavior,” these still qualify as bad phrases; phrases that obscure more than they clarify.  In contrast, Skinner was very clear:  a reinforcer affects the RATE OF RESPONSE.  More specifically, a reinforcer increases the frequency of behavior over time, where frequency refers to, and means the exact same thing as, rate of response.  

To get a rate of response you have to COUNT instances of behavior and determine how many there are per unit of time.  You need to determine the frequency of behavior and then see whether that frequency changes over time. If it does, and if it increases, then you begin to have some evidence that the event, or thing, functioned as a reinforcer.

In terms of probability and changes to probability, Skinner was always very clear:  Probability referred to rate of response. This type of probability addresses the “how often?” question, not the “what are the odds?” question.  If we loosely say that the “probability of the behavior increases,” in Skinner’s science we really mean that the response rate increased over time.  The count per minute went from one level up to another level.  For example, if we start “reinforcing” behavior, it’s frequency might increase from 5 per minute up to 20 per minute. Or, perhaps behavior increases from .1 responses per minute up to .5 responses per minute. If, but only if, those sorts of increases in response rate occur, do we begin to have evidence that we have reinforcement.

4. Treating nonbehavior as though it is behavior. I have already alluded to how nonbehavior, such as remaining seated, is now thought of and construed as being “behavior.”  Well, only in the junk behaviorism world can this be so!  Nonbehaviors represent a failure to pinpoint actions such that when one instance of an action occurs, it can be counted.  Nonbehaviors also confuse goals, outcomes, or results with behavior. “Remains seated” might well represent a desired goal (for the classroom teacher, perhaps).  I won’t comment here on the desirability of this as a goal; we’ll deal with that at another time. Right now, suffice to say that it’s a goal, and moreover, a state of being, not a behavior.  There’s no action in it.  This is one reason why Lindsley came up with the “Dead Man’s Test.”  Well, the “Dead Man’s Test” cuts against the grain of what appears to be modern-day junk behavioral practices in school or agency settings.  Their definitions of behavior are sometimes so dysfunctional that goals and states of being are confused with movement and action.  That represents a severe and profound failure to conceptualize behavior. In the long run, it will lead to failure of “behavioral” practices, and perhaps ultimately to the dissolution of behavior analysis as a science, to the extent that it really still is a science.

5. Confusing “near-behaviors” with actual behavior.  I got the term “near-behavior” from Jamie Daniels when I worked for Aubrey Daniels & Associates.  I don’t know off-hand if Jamie published it, but let me give him credit. Words such as “use,” “try,” “get,” “give” and so on are “near-behaviors.” They sort of sound behaviorish, and sort of seem to imply that there’s some action.  Yet, they remain very ambiguous.  They do not refer to actual actions or movements.  Ironically, words such as “do,” “respond,” and “behave” are themselves “near-behaviors”!  Well, how does one “respond,” you should ask.  Seek clarification. In junk behaviorism these terms are all used, and seem to be used rather thoughtlessly, as if precision and clarification don’t really matter.  

6. “ABC.” In the field of behavior analysis the “three-term contingency” has become iconic. Moreover, it’s become declarified into the term “ABC,” which stands for “Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence.” This aligns well with Discrete Trial Training (DTT), which almost seems to have become a standard way of viewing behavior one the one hand and the procedure of choice on the other hand.  In DTT there is a learner who is probably just sitting there, waiting.  The learner, so to speak, sits across a table from a teacher or therapist, so-called.  The teacher or therapist, so-called, conducts a “session” with the client learner.  During a “session,” the client is presented with “stimuli.” These are the “antecedents.”  The teacher or therapist, so-called, will present, one at a time, some item to the client.  The item could be a flashcard with a picture on it, for example. This item is shown to the learner. The learner then is supposed to give some response — the “behavior” part of the “ABC” model acronym.  Let’s say that the learner does do this behavior.  Then the teacher or therapist, so-called, will “deliver” a “consequence” or perform a “correction” routine, depending on how the client responded. Once that’s accomplished, the item is put aside and the teacher or therapist, so-called, picks up the next item and presents it and the same routine is conducted.  This takes place until the session completes, which is usually a fairly short period of time. (I say that the person presenting these stimuli is a teacher or therapist, “so-called,” because a real teacher or therapist would understand that DTT represents but one procedure out of many to change behavior, and not always the best!)

Some people have the audacity to refer to the behavior in DTT as “operant” behavior.  But, if you observe such DTT, the kid is mainly just sitting there, passively, awaiting environmental events to happen to him or to her.  The response given is entirely reactionary, not “operating on one’s environment” in any significant sense.  The learner, to the extent that he or she is learning anything at all, may simply be learning to be passive; that events are to be presented to him or her.  “Stimuli” are presented.”  Later on, after some response is given, “reinforcement” or “corrections” are likewise presented.  Then one waits for the next “stimulus” to be presented.

This turns Skinner’s model on its head, too.  One can imagine his spin rate accelerating (though, not due to any reinforcement, since you can’t reinforce the dead!).  I will concede that the actions of the teacher or therapist, so-called, represents operant behavior:  That individual is clearly operating on his or her environment!

The “ABC” model has become reified, I contend, as being the model of “operant” behavior.  It’s taken the so-called “three-term contingency” and morphed it into something different from what it was and taken it to what it never should have been.  

In actual fact, the three term contingency might be somewhat better expressed as Stimulus: (Movement –> Consequence).  The discriminative stimulus, sD, doesn’t “cause” the response to occur, though that seems implied in the “ABC” model.  The sD occurs in relation to the the (MC –> Consequence) contingency pair.  In the presence of the sD, MC –> Consequence relation entails a particular type of consequence, such as one that functions as a positive reinforcer. In an “sDelta,” which is just a different type of sD, the MC –> Consequence relation differs.  Perhaps the consequence isn’t a positive reinforcer.  

Let’s parse this out a little, since I’ve introduced some terms (“MC”) without defining them.  You start with a two-term contingency relation, MC –> Consequence, where MC stands for “Movement Cycle.”  A Movement Cycle is an instance of behavior. If it has a known function, you may call it a response. An MC has a beginning point and an ending point, and the organism can do another of the same type of MC once the current one finishes.  Informally, we may say that an MC has a “start time,” a “do time,” and a “stop time.”  Those are the boundaries of a single instance of an MC.  In other words, an MC also represents some action or movement by the organism that you can count (which, in turn, enables us to compute the rate of response).  The “consequence” in this relation may be understood better as simply the “effect” produced by the action.  We can substitute action for MC and effect for the consequence to add clarification.

This “Action” –> “Effect” pair forms a two-term contingency. This two-term contingency can come under stimulus control. But it does not necessarily have to do so, or certainly does not have to do so in the “ABC” model sense. 

In actual operant behavior, the organism moves around, and acts upon its environment. It changes and alters the environment. If nothing else it captures and engulfs some nutritious substance that functions to sustain animal life, since the organisms we’re talking about, including human organisms, are animal life. The organism doesn’t sit there awaiting stimuli to come down at it.  It moves. It operates on its environment.  It changes things around.  The environment differs somewhat after it has been operated upon. Moreover, the organism itself gets changed in some way, perhaps a small way, as a result of its acting upon its environment.  There is reciprocity in operant behavior in its relation to organism and environment.  

All of this seems to be obscured by the “ABC” model.  First, the “ABC” model ignores conditions of deprivation and aversive stimulation, which some behaviorists dub the “establishing operation” (though the term “potentiation” may work better).  The “EO,” as the establishing operation is also called, is not an “antecedent event.”  It doesn’t fit into that term. So, right away we’re faced with a fourth term.  

Next, the “ABC” model leads us back into the old, and rightfully discredited, “S-R” model of behavior.  Some people in ABA seem to think that the “A” causes” the “B” to occur, and why should they think otherwise, given that the very model implies that? Moreover, the “A” gets put into an equivalent status with the “C,” the consequence!  But, in actuality, the “B –> C” relation is far more important in the operant behavior equation than the “A –> B” relation ever would be.  

Unseen and unnoted, what also gets obliterated by the dysfunctional “ABC” model is the CONTINGENCY relation!  This we can denote with another term to identify the relation between the “behavior” and the consequence.”  The contingency, in fact, is far more important than the “B” or the “C” themselves.  

But note that in the “ABC” model, the question of what the contingency relation is will become quite limited. How does one factor in a schedule of reinforcement into that paradigm? Can you imagine doing a VR50 schedule in a DTT paradigm? I can’t either.  The model suggests, rather strongly, that EACH “behavior” will be consequated. And typically, each one is.

In applying the “ABC” model with a DTT procedure, the question of measurement then arises.  What does one measure?  Well, the “behavior” that the client performs is deemed to be “correct” or incorrect.”  One knows the total number of presentations. So, it’s fairly easy to calculate the percent of behaviors that were correct. Percent correct becomes the measure of choice. It’s easy to do. The data needed to compute it are easy to “take.”

The model ignores time as a fundamental parameter of behavior, however.  In principle, it would be possible to measure the LATENCY between when such a “stimulus” is presented to a client and when that client makes a response.  Latencies could be directly charted onto a Standard Celeration Chart, because latencies really are frequencies. (Don’t think so?  A latency is the count of 1 response per however much time elapsed between when the “stimulus” was first presented and the point in time when the behavior began.)  The chart can handle latencies down to .006 seconds, which would indeed be an incredibly short latency. Of course, in the typical DTT situation, latency isn’t recorded, and some might object that it be recorded, because the logistics of carrying out “trials” is already cumbersome enough as things stand. However, scientifically, that’s no excuse.  If the science is to be advanced further, then perhaps some enterprising individual will invent some measurement technology that makes the recording of such latencies as easy and convenient as the current percent correct recording is. Of course, that won’t address the other lingering problems with the underlying paradigm implied by the “ABC” model.

7. Lack of clarity about the terms we use.  I have put words such as “stimulus” in double quotes above, because, again, unless there exists some evidence that a thing or event FUNCTIONS to exert stimulus control over a two-term Action –> Effect relation, the event or thing should not be called a stimulus. The same goes for “reinforcer,” “consequence,” “contingency” and “response.”  All of these terms should be used only when we have demonstrated evidence that they functioned in some way.  Otherwise, we end up with the “junk behaviorism” nonsense statement that “I tried the reinforcer, but it didn’t work.”  Well, sorry to report that EVERY single reinforcer in the 5 billion year history of this planet has worked — each and every time!

So, how do we get past the “junk behaviorism” tendency to use function words when we do not have evidence of function?

Dr. Og Lindsley supplied the answer back in the mid-1960s, by suggesting we use two sets of terms, one to simply describe events as they are, and then a second set to identify terms when we have evidence that they functioned in some way. He named this the IS-DOES operant behavioral equation.  

On the IS side of the equation, the term “antecedent event” would never be used to denote a thing or event that has demonstrated stimulus control over an action–> effect pair.  Antecedent Event, abbreviated AE, would simply refer to events that happened before some behavior occurred. That’s all we know about them, that they took place before behavior, and nothing else. They may be functionally related, or may not be, but when discussing what they ARE, we don’t know what they DO.  We don’t assume that they have a stimulus function, either. (Alas, because the term “antecedent” has become so deeply embedded now in the junk behavioral culture as meaning the exact same thing as “stimulus,” it may be too late to revive “antecedent event” in the same sense that Lindsley meant! This does not negate the point. It rather suggests we need to keep working at terminology.)

Likewise, use “response” only when a Movement Cycle has a functional relationship to other events.  Use Movement Cycle (MC) to simply describe an instance of behavior.  Likewise, relegate “consequence” only to those events that have had a demonstrated effect on the response rate of a response. If the function of an event that follows behavior in time is unknown, then use Subsequent Event (abbreviated SE).  It makes perfect sense to say, “I tried the SE, but the frequency of behavior didn’t increase!”  Well, try another SE to see if it will increase the response rate!

Likwise further, use “arrangement” to denote descriptively the number or time or other relation between an MC and an SE.  But, once you have a clearly evident functional relationship between a response and consequence, then, but only then, use the term contingency.  

The IS side of the equation is thus written:

Program: (Antececent Event: Movement Cycle — Arrangement –> Subsequent Event)

Using abbreviations:

P: (AE: MC — Arr –> SE)

The DOES side of the operant behavioral equation then becomes:

Disposition: (Stimulus: Response — Contingency –> Consequence)

Using abbreviations:

D: (sD: R — K –> C).

Note the use of parentheses and colons.  A single instance of an MC (IS side), or R (DOES side) gets enclosed in the parentheses.  Colons are used to signify that the item in question might be either a discrete event or a more sustained condition (e.g., in a MULT schedule, responding on a VR schedule when the green light is ON — the light being on before, during, and after any given response).  The time arrow, –>, gets used only to signify the temporal relation between the events where we need to indicate it. In other words, if we had put an arrow between the AE and MC, we risk reintroducing the junk behavioral “S-R” mindset.  To avoid that possibility, don’t put an arrow there. It doesn’t fit anyway.

I must note that the operant behavioral equation was conceptualized by Dr. Ogden R. Lindsley in 1964 in a published paper, “Direct Measurement and Prosthesis of Retarded Behavior,” published in the Journal of Education. It morphed a couple of times, with his earlier acronyms and terms changing slightly. Then it became defunct when it appeared to be too difficult to engage would-be behavior analysts in learning the IS-DOES equation.  Let me suggest that now we must reintroduce it. Moreover, I have tweaked the equation somewhat through the use of those parentheses and colons, for the aforementioned reasons.  Will it work? Maybe, but we won’t know if we don’t try, try again!

Well, there’s a lot more “junk behaviorism” that afflicts the field of behavior analysis, and I’ll discuss that in Part Two of this article, and include the relevant references then.

  — JE

Frequency Jumps and Celeration Turns

August 20, 2007

One of the neat things about the Standard Celeration Chart resides in its ability to clearly show two basic types of changes to behavior that can occur when you change an independent variable.  We refer to the point in time when you make a change as a “phase change.”  A phase change takes place, for instance, between a baseline period of behavior recording and an intervention period.  In an intervention you change the values of at least one independent variable, and then monitor its effects to determine whether it changes behavior over time.

As noted, two basic changes to behavior can occur (there are more, but for now we will restrict the discussion to these two basic changes): 

 1. The frequency of the behavior can change abruptly.

 2. The celeration of the behavior can change over time.  We consider the celeration changes to consist of more “gradual” changes, though if the celeration runs steep enough, the change over time may seem anything but gradual.

We call the abrupt changes to frequency “jumps.”  For example, if you make a phase change and the frequency goes from 10 per minute on Monday to 20 per minute on Tuesday, we would say that that change describes a “frequency jump up.”  In this example, the jump up would have a value of x2 (“times two”) on the Standard Celeration Chart.  In charting terminology mathematicians used the older term “step function” for jumps.   The Precision Teaching term “jumps” runs more in line with the plain English emphasis of this field.

We call the more gradual changes to frequency over time “celeration turns.”  On the Standard Celeration Chart we depict frequency with a dot and celeration with a line of best fit drawn through a set of daily frequencies.  You can draw a celeration line for a baseline phase, and then draw a separate celeration line for the subsequent intervention phase.  If the angle of the celeration line changes across phases, then we say that the celeration has “turned.”  For example, if the celeration preceding a phase change ran at x1.0 (“times one”) and then after the intervention it shifted to a x2.0 per minute per week slope, then we would describe the celeration turn as a x2 (“times two”) change.

To recap, the frequency can “jump” and the celeration can “turn” when you put into effect some change to some independent variable.

There are many combinations of frequency jumps and celeration turns.  Note that “no jump” and “no turn” also represent possible outcomes of making an intervention.  Moreover, note that any jump or turn on the Standard Celeration Chart can be up or down.  If the frequency or celeration increases, then the change, as shown on the chart, is “up.”  Likewise, if the frequency or celeration decreases, then the change is “down.”

The basic jump and turn combination, therefore are:

* Frequency jump up, celeration turn up.

* Frequency jump up, celeration no turn.

* Frequency jump up, celeration turn down. (A counter-turn).

* Frequency no jump, celeration turn up.

* Frequency no jump, celeration no turn.

* Frequency no jump, celeration turn down.

* Frequency jump down, celeration turn up (A counter-turn).

* Frequency jump down, celeration no turn.

* Frequency jump down, celeration turn down.

Lindsley and his students identified two cases of “counter-turns.”  A counter turn occurs when you find a frequency jump in one direction followed by a celeration turn in the opposite direction. The two cases are frequency jump up followed by a celeration turn down, and a frequency jump down followed by a celeration turn up.  In both cases, the celeration trend will take the frequencies back to their starting point, suggesting that the changes made to the behavior by the manipulation of the independent variables produced only a temporary effect at best.  Lindsley and his students discovered that a fairly substantial proportion of the published behavior analysis literature contained such counter-turns.  Moreover, they found that the charts and graphs used in the published literature tended to obscure the illustration that counter-turns occurred.  You can make a counter-turn seemingly go away by using stretch-to-fill and fill-the-frame charts.  Of course, in the real life of the student or research participant, the counter-turn has not gone away.

The Figure associated with this essay illustrates the 9 basic frequency jump and celeration turn combinations.  However, you should know that many more combinations are possible.  For instance, while the Figure has the baseline phases running flat across the little charts, you could find situations where the baseline frequencies were already accelerating or decelerating.  Given that, the potential number of jump and turn combinations rises dramatically.  Of course, the total possible number of combinations becomes infinite when you consider all of the possible values that jumps and turns can take.

We use x2 (“times two”) as a useful rule-of-thumb to mark when we have a jump or a turn.  Any change having a value of x2 will clearly show up.  Any change having a value greater than x2 will show even more clearly.  Changes less than x2 can occur, but their distinction becomes somewhat harder to discern. For instance, a frequency change of x1.1 would not show up very clearly no matter what type of chart you used.

You can use a frequency finder and/or a celeration finder to determine the actual, precise values of the change to behavior over time.

  — John Eshleman, Ed.D., BCBA  (August 20, 2007)


 Click on the Figure below to bring up a readable copy:

Basic Combinations of Frequency Jumps and Celeration Turns

Counting Unknowns

August 6, 2007

Lindsley (1997) states:

 “There are measurement experts who say you must objectively define a thing before you can count it.  Wrong again.  You can even count unknowns.  You can keep track of the time and chart the frequency of unknown things you encounter each day.  The daily frequency of unknowns is very high when you are in a foreign place and very low when you are in a familiar place.” (p. 529)


Lindsley, O.R. (1997). Performance is easy to monitor and hard to measure.  In R. Kaufman, S. Thiagarajan, & P. MacGillis (eds.), The Guidebook for Performance Improvement: Working with Individuals and Organizations.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.  Chapter 26, pp. 519-559.

Successive Minutes Chart – Doing a Timing Every Other Minute

April 3, 2006

John Eshleman's 1984 SAFMEDS ("Flashcards") data on Merbitz & Layng Chart

On the chart shown you can consider several things. (To view the chart, click on the thumbnail image. Use the back arrow on your browser to return to this page.)

 The attached chart shows data from March 29, 1984 that I had originally charted on a "converted" daily Standard Celeration Chart (DC-9EN). I was 28 at the time. Back then I was testing out how to obtain a Learning Picture in a half hour or so. 

 There were no "timings charts" back then, so I had used a daily chart, crossing out the word "Days" on the x-axis label and replacing it with minutes.  (That original chart is not shown here).

The chart shown here represents an example application of the Merbitz & Layng (1996) V010396 Sprint #19 "Successive Minutes" chart.  Across the bottom axis are successive real-time minutes, not days, not sessions, and not successive timings.  I found the old chart from 1984 today and recharted its data onto the Merbitz & Layng today.  It took only a few minutes to do so.

To read the chart, up the left scale is Responses per Minute.  Across the bottom scale is Successive Minutes.  The y-axis up the left is a multiply-divide scale.  The x-axis across the bottom is an add-subtract scale.

What this is a chart of is of me doing one-minute timings of SAFMEDS (Say All Fast a Minute Every Day Shuffled; in this case, a Minute Every Other Minute Shuffled). I ran the timings every other minute. In some cases, two minutes elapsed between timings.  But, these data were charted in real time, so when one minute elapses between timings, the time line is blank, and when two minutes elapsed between timings, two time lines in succession are blank.  During the minute in between timings I would count the corrects and incorrects, chart them quickly, and then reshuffle the cards. The round dots are corrects per minute and the x's are incorrects per minute. I drew in Record Floors down at the 1 line.

The topic was Apple II Machine Language terms, which I had made into SAFMEDS.  At the time I was learning how to program computers, and I was thinking about learning machine language.  I was not doing this for any class, job, or formal project.  Just learning it on my own.

On the chart are a couple of event manipulations.  About 20 minutes into the study session, I decided to study the errors during the one minute between timings, because there were four to eight errors that still persisted (cards that seemed difficult to learn).  And about 38 minutes into the session, I set an aim goal of 40 per minute (but not an actual aim-star, which would include not only the frequency level, but also the time line. I put the aim over onto the y-axis).

Overall, the chart shows a "jaws" learning picture across a 70 minute period of time. Over that period I did 34 one-minute timings.  There was a slight crossover picture at the start, but only two times when errors were above corrects, so to me this LP looks more like a "jaws" than a "crossover jaws" picture.

Some implications:

Last year I discussed on the Standard Celeration listserve the question of charting data in real time, but did not have the ability at the time to put up successive minutes real-time charted data to illustrate the point.  While the attached data are from an old chart, they illustrate HOW the Merbitz & Layng real-time Successive Minutes chart could be used to work with minute-by-minute types of recording.

You can do more than the "traditional" four or five timings within a day (since when did that become an actual tradition? Why? On what basis?).  When doing timings within a daily session of time, it could be, as this chart illustrates, possible to do many timings.

There are limits. On the chart I noted that at about 67 to 68 minutes into doing this session that I was fatiguing.  So, I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing such an extensive session with yourself or with a learner for that and possibly for other reasons.  On the other hand, you might try doing 10 to 15 to maybe 20 timings within a day if that is logistically feasible, and record them in real time.

The Merbitz & Layng chart is calibrated, I found out by using a BRCo CFM-4 Celeration Finder, to the proper x2 34 degree angle.  I wrote in some celeration values covering some periods of the session (e.g., an initial x2.3 celeration of corrects, followed by a x1.3 midway through and a x1.1 during the fatiguing). The celeration period of this chart is a 10-minute period of time, so technically the first celeration would be stated as x2.3 per minute per 10 minutes (celeration = count per time per time).

The image is slightly angled.  I tried relining up the page in the scanner a couple of times, but still it was angled off a tad.  Then, I measured the margins of the paper, and the distance from edge of paper to the frame was not the same going across.  The copies of the Merbitz & Layng chart that I have seem to have been xeroxed. That goes to another point that Dr. Og Lindsley made in his last-ever talk at the 2003 IPTC about chart standards, that one of the standards is the margins.  Og was very precise and adamant about this.  Margins had to be exact in order to function towards exact overlays, but this slight-angledness now also seems to be another reason why margin standards need to be actual standards as he said.  

— JE


Lindsley, O.R. (2003). Precision Teaching's eyes and ears: Standard Celeration Charts and terms.  Invited Address presented at the International Precision Teaching Conference, Columbus, OH 6 Nov 2003.

Posting Charts to the SCC Blog

March 31, 2006

 John Eshleman's first Standard Celeration Chart from 1975

Just testing how charts and graphics can be uploaded to the blog.

To view a larger version of the chart, click on the thumbnail.  To return to this page after viewing the chart, click the back arrow on your web browser. 

The chart shown here is one that I uploaded to the Standard Celeration Listserve a few days ago.  It's a chart from 1975, and, in fact, is the first Standard Celeration Chart that I did. It's a chart of my reading my class notes, day by day, for the course named Applied Reinforcement Theory, which was taught by Dr. Steve Graf, and which was the course that first introduced me to Precision Teaching and to the Standard Celeration Chart.  The Movement Cycle is "reads page."  The y-axis up the left is Pages Read per Minute.  Those were pages in my notebook. –JE

BRCo Standard Celeration Charting Resources

March 27, 2006

A centralized site for both of the Standard Celeration Charting books I mentioned in the previous post, and a source of the charts themselves, is the Behavior Research Company (BRCo) family of websites.  BRCo was founded by Dr. Ogden R. Lindsley.

To order either the Graf & Lindsley (2002) or the Pennypacker, Gutierrez, Jr., and Lindsley (2003) book from BRCo you can go to BRCo's site at:


and click on the link to its online store.

To go to its store directly, you can click on:


and browse amongst its catalogs of products.

To go to the page where you can order the two aforementioned charting books, the direct webpage link is:


where you can also view their front covers. — JE


Standard Celeration Chart References

March 26, 2006

Here are a couple of primary references that pertain to the Standard Celeration Chart:

Graf, S.A., & Lindsley, O.R. (2002). Standard Celeration Charting 2002. Poland: OH: Graf Implements.  Available at: http://www.behaviordevelopmentsolutions.com/products_celeration.html

Pennypacker, H.S., Gutierrez, Jr., A., & Lindsley, O.R. (2003). Handbook of the Standard Celeration Chart. Concord, MA: The Cambridge Center. Available at: http://www.behavior.org

I encourage all "chart people," Precision Teaching people, Behavior Analysts, and interested other persons to obtain copies of these valuable books.  They explain the chart in detail and cover how to use it. — JE


Og on “Standard Celeration Charting System Standards”

March 25, 2006

Back in November of 2003 Dr. Ogden Lindsley delivered what would be his last Invited Address to the International Precision Teaching Conference (IPTC).  The IPTC was held in Columbus, Ohio, USA that year.

The title of Og’s talk was “Precision Teaching’s Eyes and Ears: Standard Celeration Charts and Terms.” (Lindsley, 2003) To my knowledge at this point in time, Og’s Invited Address has not been published anywhere. Nor has his presentation’s two-page handout even been published.  Both should be published.  We need to have the handout published, and also we need to have the talk transcribed and also published.

Anyway, Lindsley proposed a whole set of charting standards, divided into three categories:  (1) Standard Chart Standards, (2) Standard Charting Conventions, and (3) Standard Reading Terms.  Without attempting to copy or replicate his entire presentation here, I think that it’s ok to list the 13 items in that first category, Standard Chart Standards. 

In the past we heard things like “the only thing standard on the chart is the x2 celeration angle.”  That was the sort of thing you’d hear at conventions and so on.  I think even Og said that.  But by the time of this presentation, he had clearly identified a whole lot more standards than just the x2 celeration angle!

Herewith, without further ado, are the 13 Standard Chart Standards:

1. Family of four (daily, weekly, monthly and yearly charts).

2. Celeration angle x2 = 34 degrees (what I told you about above).

3. Vertical axis 6 x10 multiply cycles (full range of human behavior frequencies).

4. Horizontal axis of 20 celeration periods.

5. Horizontal axis of 7 day weeks, and 5 week months.

6. Frame size of 8 inches Wide, 5 4/16 inches High.

7. Margin size of 1 11/16 inches Left, 1 5/16 inches Right, 1 7/16 inches Top, and 1 13/16 inches Bottom.

8. Axis values (e.g. .001, .01, .1, 1, 10, 100, 1000, etc.).

9. Axis labels (e.g., Count per Minute; Successive Calendar Days, etc.).

10. Grid lines (day lines up, frequency lines on multiply-divide scale across).

11. Team location (blanks down at the bottom of the chart).

12. Light blue ink (empirically found to facilitate charting speed and charting accuracy).

13. WOGR paper (the original paper that was durable, and water, oil, and grease resistant, and also translucent — you could stack charts one on another and view several of them at the same time).

From what I recall of Og’s talk, to be a Standard Celeration Chart a chart would need to have all of the above 13 standard features. If it did not have them all, then it would not be a standard chart.  It might be a useful-for-some-purposes chart. It might be an aesthetic chart. It might be a politically correct and hence job or career-enhancing chart. It might be a chart that JABA or JEAB might publish. But if it lacks any or all of those 13 features, it isn’t a standard chart.  That’s the whole point:  As Dr. Dennis Edinger reminds people on the SC listserve every now and then, Dr. Lindsley was very keen on developing and setting standards. In his final talk, he itemized these Standard Celeration Chart standards for us.


Lindsley, O.R. (2003). Precision Teaching’s Eyes and Ears: Standard Celeration Charts and Terms. Invited Address presented at the International Precision Teaching Conference, Columbus, Ohio (November 6).

— JE