Psy 443

For My Students | Admin/Research | Psychology | WKU 


Identifying Behavior

Operationalizations of "Behavior"

Classification of Verbs as Observable or Not

Types of Behavior


Operationalizations of "Behavior"

Assuming animation is enabled you can see this ballerina moving about. Ballet experts could give a precise label for each movement. I have to say she is twirling, bending her knees and twirling again. ballerina dancing

Here you can see the person's mouth dropping open, his eyes widening, his hair standing on end and his arms straightening with his fingers spreading. Those are observable behaviors.

It is an inference, not a behavior, to say he is "feeling shock or surprise." Surprise is an internal experience that cannot be objectively corroborated and is a label that different individuals impose in various ways. Maybe I paid the little cartoon guy a sum of money to act surprised and he is really quite calm.

Emotional inferences are common because it is easier to take a guess than it is to detail all the component behaviors. Emotion words are summary words. Forgetting that leads to problems in communication and in altering behavior.

boy looking surprised


In this one you can see the persons head and eyes moving from one page to the other (behavior), but you cannot see if he is reading (without clarification is not a behavior).

boy reading a book

Classification of Verbs as Observable or Not

Directly Observable to draw, press a lever, point to, walk, underline, write, color, lift, say, chew, blink, bark,
Not Observable to conclude, feel, want, think, concentrate, be aware, apply, appreciate, wonder, analyze, solve, test, learn, understand, know, like

Require elaboration or clarification to be observable

to measure, play, give, finish, see, demonstrate, find, subtract, make, read, perform, complete, identify, borrow, change

Types of Behavior

This is one way to categorize behaviors. Any particular behavior may have aspects fitting in several categories.

Behavior Description Examples
Appropriate Achieves necessary and desired goals without infringing on the rights and needs of others. Includes appropriate emotional responses. Maintains healthy eating habits; Obtains satisfaction for a service problem without demeaning others.
Deficit Lacks skill or knowledge needed for performing the behavior Ignorant about effects of caffeine on health; Being illiterate or innumerate; passive responding in social situations
Excess Too much of a behavior Drinking until passed out. Overeating. Smoking.
Other Inappropriate The behavior occurs at a time or place that is inappropriate. If it occurred under other circumstances the behavior would be acceptable. Bed-wetting; exhibitionism



Capable of performing but has a stronger than typical autonomic system reaction, most often is fears and anxieties. Shyness; Test Anxiety



These materials were adapted from a variety of sources, including:

Verbs: Alberto, P. & Troutman, A. (1999). Applied Behavior Analysis for Teachers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Types of Behavior: Krumboltz, J. & Thorensen, C. (1976). Counseling Methods. NY: Holt.

Psy 443
For My Students | Admin/Research | Psychology | WKU 

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Website created: June 1996. Page Created: September 7, 1998. Last Modified: August 12, 2014.