Book Review: The Nurture Effect – Anthony Biglan


new biglan

This was one book I was very keen to read. A lot of people had been talking about it online, and it seemed very much in line with the type of book I like to read.

I think it would be good to go back and re-read, maybe in a few months. Overall, it was a good book to read, mainly about society, and the world at large, very much in line with a behaviourist’s thinking. However I did feel it was very specifically aimed more so at American audiences, than anywhere else in the world, and feel like it could have investigated different things, different countries are doing around the world, to help with social issues, such as poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, education, and health.

In saying that, I think it is a text that can very easily be understood by anyone that picks up the book, and relay the principles of applied behaviour analysis, and how we can use those principles to make positive changes in everyday life.

I particularly like how at the end of each chapter, there were points to help explain what the reader could do, at an individual level, at the local community level, and at the national level. These were pretty straightforward, practical ideas, that anyone could do, to help start the change.

I also like how there were a few chapters related to things I am very fond of. Particularly the chapter on Direct Instruction, and how implementing evidence-based practices in classrooms can make a huge difference in children’s lives.

I did also like the part about the Triple P Positive Parenting Program, which has come out of Queensland, Australia. The way it has been delivered and used by families around the country, and the world, is highly impressive. This dissemination of information (effective, evidence-based information) is what we need to focus on and figure out ways to get the correct information across to people, and teach them how to look beyond the initial flashy introduction, and think critically about what information is being presented to them.

Some other parts of the book which fit into this particular theme include the part about families overthrowing the tobacco industry and its advertising campaigns. Very inspiring read, and gave me lots of ideas about pseudo-science and how we could potentially approach it in a more successful way.

I think it is definitely well worth a read, not just for behaviour analysts, but people who are interested in social welfare.



Biglan, A. (2015). The Nurture Effect


Book Review: The Nurture Effect – Anthony Biglan

Around the world with 80 Behaviour Analysts …

Part 1, Hawaii!

Although that would be quite cool to travel the world, chatting to behaviour analysts and seeing how they work in different parts of the world, I’m not quite sure how manageable that would be. So I’ll start with a short meeting in Hawaii.

I recently spent a few nights in Hawaii, celebrating some milestone birthdays with friends, but because I can’t seem to be able to sit still, I organised to catch up with Behavior Babe – Amanda Kelly!


We chatted over dinner about the way funding is organised in the US vs Australia (and the differences between the states within the US) and just in general about the quality of programs and educational opportunities for Behaviour Analysis at universities and colleges.

It was great to catch up and just gain another perspective on ABA and the whole behaviour certification thing I have been aiming towards for many years.

And I have since come back very motivated and refreshed, and ready to keep going!

So thank you Amanda for meeting with me, and I will hopefully see you again, on future trips to Hawaii … potentially for conferences 😀

Around the world with 80 Behaviour Analysts …

I would lose my head if it weren’t screwed on.

I say this, and “I wish I were an octopus” at least twice a day. The first one, because I can’t believe I remember half the things I need to do. And the second one, because I live up four flights of stairs, and I am only going to make one trip up from my car, so I carry all my bags in one go. And if I had eight arms, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue 🙂

In regards to remembering everything I need to do, I do have a few little tips and tricks that make things easier.

I live with one of my best friends (or at least, I think I still do – we haven’t crossed paths in a few weeks!) and it is always hard to keep track of where each other is and when we will be back. Fortunately 3M Post-It’s have provided us with a solution 😉

Helps keep track of what is happening during the week
Helps keep track of what is happening during the week

This weekly schedule sticks right on the fridge or wall, and can be wiped clean at the end of the week, ready for the next. I can see when my roomie will be home, or when she will be paddling across the Pacific Ocean 😮 , and we can keep track of when the rent is due, or the cleaner is coming. Very easy to use and it can help me know when she will be home so we can catch up!

Another prompt that has been extremely helpful, has been a visual prompt on the door, again, courtesy of 3M Post-It’s 😉

My lovely roomie has been training hard, waking up at 4am most mornings to do ocean paddling training, and not that I ever have been up at 4am, but I would definitely agree that some sort of stimulation would be needed i.e. coffee.

More often than not, I would wake up at a more reasonable hour to make my coffee, only to find a shot of coffee sitting in a cup on the coffee machine. At first I thought my roomie was being very kind and leaving me a pre-made (cold) coffee … and then I realised the more likely conclusion was, my roomie would make her coffee, and then forget to take it with her!

A visual reminder near the keys (needed to leave the apartment) has been successful.
A visual reminder near the keys (needed to leave the apartment) has been successful.

Since this visual has been in place, I haven’t found one cup of coffee left on the machine! I am tempted to withdraw the visual prompt to see if it is now something my roomie can remember without the need of a visual, but she did say it has been helpful (if it were me getting up at 4am, I think I would need two coffees!)

I have many other ways of helping me remember everything I need to do during the day or week.

My calendar on my phone – with reminders – tells me where I need to be and what bills I need to pay. Facebook alerts me to people’s birthdays (and this week it has been going crazy with birthday alerts!) I write post-it note lists and stick them to the back of my door to remind me what to pack, or take take medication.

These slightly unobtrusive, but in my line of sight prompts, help keep me on track. I like to point these things out to the families and workers I am working with to indicate we all use visuals, to varying degrees, to help us get through the day.

Another 3M Post-It product, that I think is rather clever, though I haven’t used it yet, are reminders for your bag, seat belt or steering wheel!

Small, handy reminders that are portable.
Small, handy reminders that are portable.

These would be great for if you need to stop by somewhere on the way home, take something with you or even to make a call. They stand out and remind you that you need to do something.

Visuals can be helpful for us to remember what we need to do, or plan ahead and know what is coming up, as long as they make sense, and are meaningful to us.

Check out 3M Post-It’s Home collection, available at Officeworks in Australia

I would lose my head if it weren’t screwed on.

The 7 Dimensions of ABA

This is one of the first things I came across in my more formal study of ABA, however I didn’t really pay too much attention until I did a little bit more further study for my BCBA.

The entire article is from quite a while ago, and is cited at the bottom of this article, however I have found this link to be quite useful in surmising the information.

In this blog today, I just want to discuss a little bit about each dimension and why I feel it is important in the work that I do. I think this is particularly relevant, and good timing for me to revise, as I am aiming to complete another subject towards my BCBA next month.

Study tip # 1 – I use the mnemonic ‘GET A CAB’ to label the 7 items 😀

Applied – the work we do, needs to be of socially, significant importance. That is, it needs to be relevant to the individual and make a change that will impact and make their life, and the people surrounding them lives, better. This is were person centered planning, family centered planning, quality of life, and individualised programs come into play. Not to mention, ideas related to inclusion and accessing the local community, and in Australia, the NDIS, having an effect. It is a nice aspect of ABA, and provides the underpinning for meaningful services and interventions.

Behavioural – we are concerned with the observable. All behaviour is observable and measurable (until we get to private events, which I am not even going to begin to try and understand on here)! However, if we have clear, objective, observable and measurable behaviour, we can collect meaningful data, create interventions and test to see whether those interventions make a difference, and prove the effectiveness of what we have done.

Analytical – this is the part I feel I have the least experience in. I think, indirectly, I can be quite analytical in the work I do, however, I often struggle to have the time, or correct guidance to implement potential treatment plans and validate their analytical value. It requires manipulating antecedents and consequences to bring about (or decrease) a particular behaviour. I think I do a lot of the manipulating to decrease and then once the behaviour is decreased, we are all pretty happy so it is all good, however I wonder if we were able to control and manipulate further, and produce some sort of experimental design, we may gather further information about the behaviour and what is mantaining it over longer periods of time? Anyway … food for thought for another day.

Generality – this is such an important dimension. What is the point of doing what we do, if it only works in one place? Or with one person? Or with one material? Or only at a certain time of day? We need to ensure that was we do in one particular set up, can be generalised and maintained to another environment, person, object etc. This is definitely an area where I find it is often very hard to generalise and replicate educational based research and interventions from research, to classroom practice. I don’t really have any great ideas for how to go about making this easier, I just want it to be easier 🙂

Conceptual – This dimension focuses on the need for techniques and interventions being related to some sort of theoretical base, and with applied behaviour analysis, that is definitely the case with a lot of the strategies used. In regards to the way this is used in ABA, it makes for more meaningful and effective interventions – they are not just being pulled out of nowhere, there is already some semblance of reasoning there.

Technological – this notion is similar to generality, in the sense of we want things to be expanded on, however it directly relates to specific components of ABA being replicable, particularly with research. If what you have done, has worked so well, then I should be able to a) understand how you did it, through your extremely detailed research and b) replicate your study and achieve similar results. This is something I hope to be able to do one day soon, and I apologise to all those poster presenters at conferences, whom I judged harshly and thought “Pft, I already knew that, do something new!” But this is an important aspect as it builds on research already about there, and provides first time researchers, a starting point 😛

Effective – save the best for last! Of course, why would we do all this, if it wasn’t effective. We constantly take data on what we are doing, and this is something I have stressed to many people I have worked with over the years, so we can see if what we are doing, is working. And if it is not working, then we can review and see what we need to change, and where, so that we can ensure we are not spending time, money and resources on something that is not working. Although, by using strategies and techniques with many, many years research behind them, we should hopefully be on the right track to start with … but as it will be evidenced in my soon to come science post, we need to constantly be checking in on ourselves and evaluating what we are doing.

This was actually a really good refresher for getting back into study!



Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007). Applied Behaviour Analysis Second Edition

Baer, D.M., Wolf, M.M., & Risley, T.R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 91-97.

Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan – Seven Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis

The 7 Dimensions of ABA

The importance of being evidence-based.

Not necessarily earnest though.

Many years ago, when I was studying my Special Ed course, I remember having a very brief discussion with one of my lecturers in regards to “harmful” treatments. We were discussing the fact that there are some promising interventions out there (in regards to Autism interventions) however there just wasn’t as much research to support these treatments as there is in regards to behavioural interventions.

Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely all in favour of behavioural based treatments. There is a long history and evidence base of behavioural interventions being highly effective in many different aspects. However I was just interested to see what the deal was with other interventions, and how could we really discount something, if it hadn’t been tested yet (another relevant blog post coming soon – I’m a Scientist!)

Her response was quite informative and I really learned something about science and research. In my mind, I was only considering ‘harmful’ interventions to be the ones that cause physical harm e.g. Students being rolled up into blankets and then suffocating. However she explained that ‘harmful’ interventions also could be interventions that were taking the time, money and place of proven interventions, and providing ineffective treatments, wasting the time and money that could have been spent on effective, evidenced-based treatments.

It was like a light switch. It made sense to me, and explained to me why some ABA providers were perhaps extremely vocal and adamant about the effectiveness of ABA.

I have been doing this for many, many years, and I am still learning to this day. By continuing my study towards becoming a BCBA, I am actually linking things together and things are falling into place even more. But this particular conversation has always stood out in my mind, and I take it with me in my work.

I wanted families to understand the importance of evidence-based treatments. And understand their rights and the types of questions they should ask when engaging with a service provider e.g. What are our goals? When do you review our goals? What measurement tools do you use to check the effectiveness of what you are doing?

I can completely empathise with families wanting to try anything and everything. And a lot of families have friends who may have tried different interventions, and have anecdotal reports about its effectiveness. I imagine I would be in the same boat as families, and want to try everything, and do everything in my power to help my children. Personally, I just want to be able to support families, and share with them the information I have learned over my time in this field, and hopefully provide them with good information.

I was always happy to be a consultant for families who had recently received a diagnosis, because I wanted to share with them the importance of evidence-based interventions, and the types of questions they should be asking service providers, and how if you aren’t happy with a service, you can move on to a different service (particularly if you are paying for a service).

I feel this type of information will be even more relevant in the future once the National Disability Insurance Scheme comes into play, and hope families can utilise the tools available to help them make informed decisions.

The importance of being evidence-based.