Read & Reflect: Two Articles on the Assessment of Social Validity

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The ABAI Task Force for the Promotion of Quality & Values-Based ABA recommends thoughtful reading and reflection upon another influential article in the evolution of applied behavior analysis as well as a more recent article exemplifying the contents of this influential article.

“Whether or not the program is helpful can be evaluated only by the consumer” (Wolf, 1978, p. 210). Wolf (1978) contended that behavior analysts should assess acceptability of ABA-based procedures, the goals of those procedures, and the outcomes of those procedures. Collectively, Wolf referred to this assessment as social validity. Wolf’s seminal article illustrates the importance of the inclusion consumers in the selection of procedures and goals.

While reading (or hopefully revisiting) this influential work, we encourage behavior analysts to consider:

  • How well is behavior analysis “finding its heart” (Wolf’s alternative title) through the assessment of social validity?
  • How do Hanley’s recommendations expand upon Wolf’s?
  • In which ways could behavior analytic research improve with respect to the assessment of social validity?
  • What article(s) are exemplars of Wolf’s and Hanley’s vision for the assessment of social validity?
  • How might you include consumers better in the assessment of the acceptability of your procedures, the goals of those procedures, and the outcomes of those procedures?

Hanley, G. P. (2010). Toward effective and preferred programming: a case for the objective measurement of social validity with recipients of behavior-change programs. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 3(1), 13 – 21. 

Wolf, M. M. (1978). Social validity: the case for subjective measurement or how applied behavior analysis is finding its heart. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 11(2), 203 – 214.

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