Ethical Guidelines


Ethical guidelines are the cornerstone of professional practice. APBA is committed to promoting the highest standard of ethical conduct for applied behavior analysts who provide services. The Board of Directors of APBA has adopted the BACB® Guidelines, for all of its members. To underscore the importance of these ethical guidelines, they are reproduced below in their entirety.

For Behavior Analysts
(August 2004)

Revised June 2010 in accordance with the 4th Edition Task List for behavior analysts

Portions of the BACB certification examinations relating to ethical and professional practices are based on the following Guidelines. The Guidelines address ethical and professional concerns particular to BACB certificants, as well as concerns that are salient to the interactions between behavior analysts, the people they serve, and society, in general. The Guidelines are provided for general reference to practitioners, employers and consumers of applied behavior analysis services. For concerns about specific practices by a BACB certificant, please refer to the BACB Professional Disciplinary and Ethical Standards. The Guidelines may be referenced in complaints alleging violation of Section 6 of the BACB’s Disciplinary and Ethical Standards; these Guidelines, however, are not separately enforced by the BACB.


The behavior analyst maintains the high standards of professional behavior of the professional organization.

1.01 Reliance on Scientific Knowledge.

Behavior analysts rely on scientifically and professionally derived knowledge when making scientific or professional judgments in human service provision, or when engaging in scholarly or professional endeavors.

1.02 Competence.

(a) Behavior analysts provide services, teach, and conduct research only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, or appropriate professional experience.

(b) Behavior analysts provide services, teach, or conduct research in new areas or involving new techniques only after first undertaking appropriate study, training, supervision, and/or consultation from persons who are competent in those areas or techniques.

1.03 Professional Development.

Behavior analysts who engage in assessment, therapy, teaching, research, organizational consulting, or other professional activities maintain a reasonable level of awareness of current scientific and professional information in their fields of activity, and undertake ongoing efforts to maintain competence in the skills they use by reading the appropriate literature, attending conferences and conventions, participating in workshops, and/or obtaining Behavior Analyst Certification Board certification.

1.04 Integrity.

(a) Behavior analysts are truthful and honest. The behavior analyst follows through on obligations and professional commitments with high quality work and refrains from making professional commitments that he/she cannot keep.

(b) The behavior analyst’s behavior conforms to the legal and moral codes of the social and professional community of which the behavior analyst is a member.

(c) The activity of a behavior analyst falls under these Guidelines only if the activity is part of his or her workrelated functions or the activity is behavior analytic in nature.

(d) If behavior analysts’ ethical responsibilities conflict with law, behavior analysts make known their commitment to these Guidelines and take steps to resolve the conflict in a responsible manner in accordance with law.

1.05 Professional and Scientific Relationships.

(a) Behavior analysts provide behavioral diagnostic, therapeutic, teaching, research, supervisory, consultative, or other behavior analytic services only in the context of a defined, remunerated professional or scientific relationship or role.

(b) When behavior analysts provide assessment, evaluation, treatment, counseling, supervision, teaching, consultation, research, or other behavior analytic services to an individual, a group, or an organization, they use language that is fully understandable to the recipient of those services. They provide appropriate information prior to service delivery about the nature of such services and appropriate information later about results and conclusions.

(c) Where differences of age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic status significantly affect behavior analysts’ work concerning particular individuals or groups, behavior analysts obtain the training, experience, consultation, or supervision necessary to ensure the competence of their services, or they make appropriate referrals.

(d) In their work-related activities, behavior analysts do not engage in discrimination against individuals or groups based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or any basis proscribed by law.

(e) Behavior analysts do not knowingly engage in behavior that is harassing or demeaning to persons with whom they interact in their work based on factors such as those persons’ age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic status, in accordance with law.

(f) Behavior analysts recognize that their personal problems and conflicts may interfere with their effectiveness. Behavior analysts refrain from providing services when their personal circumstances may compromise delivering services to the best of their abilities.

1.06 Dual Relationships and Conflicts of Interest.

(a) In many communities and situations, it may not be feasible or reasonable for behavior analysts to avoid social or other nonprofessional contacts with persons such as clients, students, supervisees, or research participants. Behavior analysts must always be sensitive to the potential harmful effects of other contacts on their work and on those persons with whom they deal.

(b) A behavior analyst refrains from entering into or promising a personal, scientific, professional, financial, or other relationship with any such person if it appears likely that such a relationship reasonably might impair the behavior analyst’s objectivity or otherwise interfere with the behavior analyst’s ability to effectively perform his or her functions as a behavior analyst, or might harm or exploit the other party.

(c) If a behavior analyst finds that, due to unforeseen factors, a potentially harmful multiple relationship has arisen (i.e., one in which the reasonable possibility of conflict of interest or undue influence is present), the behavior analyst attempts to resolve it with due regard for the best interests of the affected person and maximal compliance with these Guidelines.

1.07 Exploitative Relationships.

(a) Behavior analysts do not exploit persons over whom they have supervisory, evaluative, or other authority such as students, supervisees, employees, research participants, and clients.

(b) Behavior analysts do not engage in sexual relationships with clients, students, or supervisees in training over whom the behavior analyst has evaluative or direct authority, because such relationships easily impair judgment or become exploitative.

(c) Behavior analysts are cautioned against bartering with clients because it is often (1) clinically contraindicated, and (2) prone to formation of an exploitative relationship.


The behavior analyst has a responsibility to operate in the best interest of clients.

2.01 Definition of Client.

The term client as used here is broadly applicable to whomever the behavior analyst provides services whether an individual person (service recipient), parent or guardian of a service recipient, an institutional representative, a public or private agency, a firm or corporation.

2.02 Accepting Clients.

The behavior analyst accepts as clients only those individuals or entities (agencies, firms, etc.) whose behavior problems or requested service are commensurate with the behavior analyst’s education, training, and experience. In lieu of these conditions, the behavior analyst must function under the supervision of or in consultation with a behavior analyst whose credentials permit working with such behavior problems or services.

2.03 Responsibility.

The behavior analyst’s responsibility is to all parties affected by behavioral services.

2.04 Consultation.

(a) Behavior analysts arrange for appropriate consultations and referrals based principally on the best interests of their clients, with appropriate consent, and subject to other relevant considerations, including applicable law and contractual obligations.

(b) When indicated and professionally appropriate, behavior analysts cooperate with other professionals in order to serve their clients effectively and appropriately. Behavior analysts recognize that other professions have ethical codes that may differ in their specific requirements from these Guidelines.

2.05 Third-Party Requests for Services.

(a) When a behavior analyst agrees to provide services to a person or entity at the request of a third party, the behavior analyst clarifies to the extent feasible, at the outset of the service, the nature of the relationship with each party. This clarification includes the role of the behavior analyst (such as therapist, organizational consultant, or expert witness), the probable uses of the services provided or the information obtained, and the fact that there may be limits to confidentiality.

(b) If there is a foreseeable risk of the behavior analyst being called upon to perform conflicting roles because of the involvement of a third party, the behavior analyst clarifies the nature and direction of his or her responsibilities, keeps all parties appropriately informed as matters develop, and resolves the situation in accordance with these Guidelines.

2.06 Rights and Prerogatives of Clients.

(a) The behavior analyst supports individual rights under the law.

(b) The client must be provided on request an accurate, current set of the behavior analyst’s credentials.

(c) Permission for electronic recording of interviews and service delivery sessions is secured from clients and relevant staff of all other settings. Consent for different uses must be obtained specifically and separately.

(d) Clients must be informed of their rights, and about procedures to complain about professional practices of the behavior analyst.

(e) The behavior analyst complies with all requirements for criminal background checks.

2.07 Maintaining Confidentiality.

(a) Behavior analysts have a primary obligation and take reasonable precautions to respect the confidentiality of those with whom they work or consult, recognizing that confidentiality may be established by law, institutional rules, or professional or scientific relationships.

(b) Clients have a right to confidentiality. Unless it is not feasible or is contraindicated, the discussion of confidentiality occurs at the outset of the relationship and thereafter as new circumstances may warrant.

(c) In order to minimize intrusions on privacy, behavior analysts include only information germane to the purpose for which the communication is made in written and oral reports, consultations, and the like.

(d) Behavior analysts discuss confidential information obtained in clinical or consulting relationships, or evaluative data concerning patients, individual or organizational clients, students, research participants, supervisees, and employees, only for appropriate scientific or professional purposes and only with persons clearly concerned with such matters.

2.08 Maintaining Records.

Behavior analysts maintain appropriate confidentiality in creating, storing, accessing, transferring, and disposing of records under their control, whether these are written, automated, or in any other medium.

Behavior analysts maintain and dispose of records in accordance with applicable law or regulation, and corporate policy, and in a manner that permits compliance with the requirements of these Guidelines.

2.09 Disclosures.

(a) Behavior analysts disclose confidential information without the consent of the individual only as mandated by law, or where permitted by law for a valid purpose, such as (1) to provide needed professional services to the individual or organizational client, (2) to obtain appropriate professional consultations, (3) to protect the client or others from harm, or (4) to obtain payment for services, in which instance disclosure is limited to the minimum that is necessary to achieve the purpose.

(b) Behavior analysts also may disclose confidential information with the appropriate consent of the individual or organizational client (or of another legally authorized person on behalf of the client), unless prohibited by law.

2.10 Treatment Efficacy.

(a) The behavior analyst always has the responsibility to recommend scientifically supported most effective treatment procedures. Effective treatment procedures have been validated as having both long-term and short-term benefits to clients and society.

(b) Clients have a right to effective treatment (i.e., based on the research literature and adapted to the individual client).

(c) Behavior analysts are responsible for review and appraisal of likely effects of all alternative treatments, including those provided by other disciplines and no intervention.

(d) In those instances where more than one scientifically supported treatment has been established, additional factors may be considered in selecting interventions, including, but not limited to, efficiency and cost-effectiveness, risks and side-effects of the interventions, client preference, and practitioner experience and training.

2.11 Documenting Professional and Scientific Work.

(a) Behavior analysts appropriately document their professional and scientific work in order to facilitate provision of services later by them or by other professionals, to ensure accountability, and to meet other requirements of institutions or the law.

(b) When behavior analysts have reason to believe that records of their professional services will be used in legal proceedings involving recipients of or participants in their work, they have a responsibility to create and maintain documentation in the kind of detail and quality that would be consistent with reasonable scrutiny in an adjudicative forum.

(c) Behavior analysts obtain and document: (1) Institutional Review Board (IRB), and/or local Human Research Committee approval; and/or (2) confirmation of compliance with institutional requirements when data gathered during their professional services will be submitted to professional conferences and peer reviewed journals.

2.12 Records and Data.

Behavior analysts create, maintain, disseminate, store, retain, and dispose of records and data relating to their research, practice, and other work in accordance with applicable laws or regulations and corporate policy and in a manner that permits compliance with the requirements of these Guidelines.

2.13 Fees, Financial Arrangements and Terms of Consultation.

(a) As early as is feasible in a professional or scientific relationship, the behavior analyst and the client or other appropriate recipient of behavior analytic services reach an agreement specifying compensation and billing arrangements.

(b) Behavior analysts’ fee practices are consistent with law and behavior analysts do not misrepresent their fees. If limitations to services can be anticipated because of limitations in financing, this is discussed with the patient, client, or other appropriate recipient of services as early as is feasible.

(c) Prior to the implementation of services the behavior analyst will provide in writing the terms of consultation with regard to specific requirements for providing services and the responsibilities of all parties (a contract or Declaration of Professional Services).

2.14 Accuracy in Reports to Those Who Pay for Services.

In their reports to those who pay for services or sources of research, project, or program funding, behavior analysts accurately state the nature of the research or service provided, the fees or charges, and where applicable, the identity of the provider, the findings, and other required descriptive data.

2.15 Referrals and Fees.

When a behavior analyst pays, receives payment from, or divides fees with another professional other than in an employer-employee relationship, the referral shall be disclosed to the client.

2.16 Interrupting or Terminating Services.

(a) Behavior analysts make reasonable efforts to plan for facilitating care in the event that behavior analytic services are interrupted by factors such as the behavior analyst’s illness, impending death, unavailability, or relocation or by the client’s relocation or financial limitations.

(b) When entering into employment or contractual relationships, behavior analysts provide for orderly and appropriate resolution of responsibility for client care in the event that the employment or contractual relationship ends, with paramount consideration given to the welfare of the client.

(c) Behavior analysts do not abandon clients. Behavior analysts terminate a professional relationship when it becomes reasonably clear that the client no longer needs the service, is not benefiting, or is being harmed by continued service.

(d) Prior to termination for whatever reason, except where precluded by the client’s conduct, the behavior analyst discusses the client’s views and needs, provides appropriate pre-termination services, suggests alternative service providers as appropriate, and takes other reasonable steps to facilitate transfer of responsibility to another provider if the client needs one immediately.


Behavior analysts who use behavioral assessment techniques do so for purposes that are appropriate in light of research. Behavior analysts recommend seeking a medical consultation if there is any reasonable possibility that a referred behavior is a result of a medication side effect or some biological cause.

3.01 Behavioral Assessment Approval.

The behavior analyst must obtain the client’s or client-surrogate’s approval in writing of the behavior assessment procedures before implementing them. As used here, client-surrogate refers to someone legally empowered to make decisions for the person(s) whose behavior the program is intended to change; examples of client-surrogates include parents of minors, guardians, and legally designated representatives

3.02 Functional Assessment.

(a) The behavior analyst conducts a functional assessment, as defined below, to provide the necessary data to develop an effective behavior change program.

(b) Functional assessment includes a variety of systematic information-gathering activities regarding factors influencing the occurrence of a behavior (e.g., antecedents, consequences, setting events, or motivating operations) including interview, direct observation, and experimental analysis.

3.03 Explaining Assessment Results.

Unless the nature of the relationship is clearly explained to the person being assessed in advance and precludes provision of an explanation of results (such as in some organizational consultation, some screenings, and forensic evaluations), behavior analysts ensure that an explanation of the results is provided using language that is reasonably understandable to the person assessed or to another legally authorized person on behalf of the client. Regardless of whether the interpretation is done by the behavior analyst, by assistants, or others, behavior analysts take reasonable steps to ensure that appropriate explanations of results are given.

3.04 Consent-Client Records.

The behavior analyst obtains the written consent of the client or client-surrogate before obtaining or disclosing client records from or to other sources, including clinical supervisor. 3.05 Describing Program Objectives. The behavior analyst describes, in writing, the objectives of the behavior change program to the client or client-surrogate (see below) before attempting to implement the program. And to the extent possible, a riskbenefit analysis should be conducted on the procedures to be implemented to reach the objective.


The behavior analyst (a) designs programs that are based on behavior analytic principles, including assessments of effects of other intervention methods, (b) involves the client or the client-surrogate in the planning of such programs, (c) obtains the consent of the client, and (d) respects the right of the client to terminate services at any time.

4.01 Describing Conditions for Program Success.

The behavior analyst describes to the client or client-surrogate the environmental conditions that are necessary for the program to be effective.

4.02 Environmental Conditions that Preclude Implementation.

If environmental conditions preclude implementation of a behavior analytic program, the behavior analyst recommends that other professional assistance (i.e., assessment, consultation or therapeutic intervention by other professionals) be sought.

4.03 Environmental Conditions that Hamper Implementation.

If environmental conditions hamper implementation of the behavior analytic program, the behavior analyst seeks to eliminate the environmental constraints, or identifies in writing the obstacles to doing so.

4.04 Approving Interventions.

The behavior analyst must obtain the client’s or client-surrogate’s approval in writing of the behavior intervention procedures before implementing them.

4.05 Reinforcement/Punishment.

The behavior analyst recommends reinforcement rather than punishment whenever possible. If punishment procedures are necessary, the behavior analyst always includes reinforcement procedures for alternative behavior in the program.

4.06 Avoiding Harmful Reinforcers.

The behavior analyst minimizes the use of items as potential reinforcers that maybe harmful to the long-term health of the client or participant (e.g., cigarettes, sugar or fat-laden food), or that may require undesirably marked deprivation procedures as motivating operations.

4.07 On-Going Data Collection.

The behavior analyst collects data, or asks the client, client-surrogate, or designated others to collect data needed to assess progress within the program.

4.08 Program Modifications.

The behavior analyst modifies the program on the basis of data.

4.09 Program Modifications Consent.

The behavior analyst explains program modifications and the reasons for the modifications to the client or client-surrogate and obtains consent to implement the modifications.

4.10 Least Restrictive Procedures.

The behavior analyst reviews and appraises the restrictiveness of alternative interventions and always recommends the least restrictive procedures likely to be effective in dealing with a behavior problem.

4.11 Termination Criteria.

The behavior analyst establishes understandable and objective (i.e., measurable) criteria for the termination of the program and describes them to the client or client-surrogate.

4.12 Terminating Clients.

The behavior analyst terminates the relationship with the client when the established criteria for termination are attained, as in when a series of planned or revised intervention goals has been completed.


Behavior analysts delegate to their employees, supervisees, and research assistants only those responsibilities that such persons can reasonably be expected to perform competently.

5.01 Designing Competent Training Programs and Supervised Work Experiences.

Behavior analysts who are responsible for education and training programs and supervisory activities seek to ensure that the programs and supervisory activities:

  • are competently designed
  • provide the proper experiences
  • and meet the requirements for licensure, certification, or other goals for which claims are made by the program or supervisor.

5.02 Limitations on Training.

Behavior analysts do not teach the use of techniques or procedures that require specialized training, licensure, or expertise in other disciplines to individuals who lack the prerequisite training, legal scope of practice, or expertise, except as these techniques may be used in behavioral evaluation of the effects of various treatments, interventions, therapies, or educational methods.

5.03 Providing Course or Supervision Objectives.

The behavior analyst provides a clear description of the objectives of a course or supervision, preferably in writing, at the beginning of the course or supervisory relationship.

5.04 Describing Course Requirements.

The behavior analyst provides a clear description of the demands of the supervisory relationship or course (e.g., papers, exams, projects, reports, intervention plans, graphic displays and face to face meetings) preferably in writing ) at the beginning of the supervisory relationship or course.

5.05 Describing Evaluation Requirements.

The behavior analyst provides a clear description of the requirements for the evaluation of student/supervisee performance at the beginning of the supervisory relationship or course.

5.06 Providing Feedback to Students/Supervisees.

The behavior analyst provides feedback regarding the performance of a student or supervisee at least once per two weeks or consistent with BACB requirements.

5.07 Feedback to Student/Supervisees.

The behavior analyst provides feedback to the student/supervisee in a way that increases the probability that the student/supervisee will benefit from the feedback.

5.08 Reinforcing Student/Supervisee Behavior.

The behavior analyst uses positive reinforcement as frequently as the behavior of the student/supervisee and the environmental conditions allow.

5.09 Utilizing Behavior Analysis Principles in Teaching.

The behavior analyst utilizes as many principles of behavior analysis in teaching a course as the material, conditions, and academic policies allow.

5.10 Requirements of Supervisees.

The behavior analyst’s behavioral requirements of a supervisee must be in the behavioral repertoire of the supervisee. If the behavior required is not in the supervisee’s repertoire, the behavior analyst attempts to provide the conditions for the acquisition of the required behavior, and refers the supervisee for remedial skill development services, or provides them with such services, permitting them to meet at least minimal behavioral performance requirements.

5.11 Training, Supervision, and Safety.

Behavior analysts provide proper training, supervision, and safety precautions to their employees or supervisees and take reasonable steps to see that such persons perform services responsibly, competently, and ethically. If institutional policies, procedures, or practices prevent fulfillment of this obligation, behavior analysts attempt to modify their role or to correct the situation to the extent feasible.


The behavior analyst adheres to job commitments, assesses employee interactions before intervention, works within his/her scope of training, develops interventions that benefit employees, and resolves conflicts within these Guidelines.

6.01 Job Commitments.

The behavior analyst adheres to job commitments made to the employing organization.

6.02 Assessing Employee Interactions.

The behavior analyst assesses the behavior-environment interactions of the employees before designing behavior analytic programs.

6.03 Preparing for Consultation.

The behavior analyst implements or consults on behavior management programs for which the behavior analyst has been adequately prepared.

6.04 Employees’ Interventions.

The behavior analyst develops interventions that benefit the employees as well as management.

6.05 Employee Health and Well Being.

The behavior analyst develops interventions that enhance the health and well being of the employees.

6.06 Conflicts with Organizations.

If the demands of an organization with which behavior analysts are affiliated conflict with these Guidelines, behavior analysts clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to these Guidelines, and to the extent feasible, seek to resolve the conflict in a way that permits the fullest adherence to these Guidelines.


The behavior analyst has a responsibility to support the values of the field, to disseminate knowledge to the public, to be familiar with these guidelines, and to discourage misrepresentation by non-certified individuals.

7.01 Affirming Principles.

The behavior analyst upholds and advances the values, ethics, principles, and mission of the field of behavior analysis. Participation in both state and national or international behavior analysis organizations is strongly encouraged.

7.02 Disseminating Behavior Analysis.

The behavior analyst assists the profession in making behavior analysis methodology available to the general public.

7.03 Being Familiar with These Guidelines.

Behavior analysts have an obligation to be familiar with these Guidelines, other applicable ethics codes, and their application to behavior analysts’ work. Lack of awareness or misunderstanding of a conduct standard is not itself a defense to a charge of unethical conduct.

7.04 Discouraging Misrepresentation by Non-Certified Individuals.

Behavior analysts discourage non-certified practitioners from misrepresenting that they are certified.


Behavior analysts have an obligation to bring attention to and resolve ethical violations by colleagues.

8.01 Ethical Violations by Behavioral and Non-behavioral Colleagues.

When behavior analysts believe that there may have been an ethical violation by another behavior analyst, or non behavioral colleague, they attempt to resolve the issue by bringing it to the attention of that individual if an informal resolution appears appropriate and the intervention does not violate any confidentiality rights that may be involved. If resolution is not obtained, and the behavior analyst believes a client’s rights are being violated, the behavior analyst may take additional steps as necessary for the protection of the client.


The behavior analyst promotes the general welfare of society through the application of the principles of behavior.

9.01 Promotion in Society.

The behavior analyst should promote the application of behavior principles in society by presenting a behavioral alternative to other procedures or methods.

9.02 Scientific Inquiry.

The behavior analyst should promote the analysis of behavior as a legitimate field of scientific inquiry.

9.03 Public Statements.

(a) Behavior analysts comply with these Guidelines in public statements relating to their professional services, products, or publications or to the field of behavior analysis.

(b) Public statements include but are not limited to paid or unpaid advertising, brochures, printed matter, directory listings, personal resumes or curriculum vitae, interviews or comments for use in media, statements in legal proceedings, lectures and public oral presentations, and published materials.

9.04 Statements by Others.

(a) Behavior analysts who engage others to create or place public statements that promote their professional practice, products, or activities retain professional responsibility for such statements.

(b) Behavior analysts make reasonable efforts to prevent others whom they do not control (such as employers, publishers, sponsors, organizational clients, and representatives of the print or broadcast media) from making deceptive statements concerning behavior analysts’ practices or professional or scientific activities.

(c) If behavior analysts learn of deceptive statements about their work made by others, behavior analysts make reasonable efforts to correct such statements. (d) A paid advertisement relating to the behavior analyst’s activities must be identified as such, unless it is already apparent from the context.

9.05 Avoiding False or Deceptive Statements.

Behavior analysts do not make public statements that are false, deceptive, misleading, or fraudulent, either because of what they state, convey, or suggest or because of what they omit, concerning their research, practice, or other work activities or those of persons or organizations with which they are affiliated. Behavior analysts claim as credentials for their behavioral work, only degrees that were primarily or exclusively behavior analytic in content.

9.06 Media Presentations and Emerging Media-Based Services.

(a) When behavior analysts provide advice or comment by means of public lectures, demonstrations, radio or television programs, prerecorded tapes, printed articles, mailed material, or other media, they take reasonable precautions to ensure that (1) the statements are based on appropriate behavior analytic literature and practice, (2) the statements are otherwise consistent with these Guidelines, and (3) the recipients of the information are not encouraged to infer that a relationship has been established with them personally.

(b) When behavior analysts deliver services, teach or conduct research using existing or emerging media (e.g. Internet, e-learning, interactive multi-media), they consider any ethical challenges presented by media-based delivery (e.g. privacy, confidentiality, evidence-based interventions, ongoing data collection and program modifications) and make every effort possible to adhere to the ethical standards described herein.

9.07 Testimonials.

Behavior analysts do not solicit testimonials from current clients or patients or other persons who because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence.

9.08 In-Person Solicitation.

Behavior analysts do not engage, directly or through agents, in uninvited in-person solicitation of business from actual or potential users of services who, because of their particular circumstances, are vulnerable to undue influence, except that organizational behavior management or performance management services may be marketed to corporate entities regardless of their projected financial position.


Behavior analysts design, conduct, and report research in accordance with recognized standards of scientific competence and ethical research. Behavior analysts conduct research with human and nonhuman research participants according to the proposal approved by a local Human Research Committee, and/or Institutional Review Board.

(a) Behavior analysts plan their research so as to minimize the possibility that results will be misleading.

(b) Behavior analysts conduct research competently and with due concern for the dignity and welfare of the participants. Researchers and assistants are permitted to perform only those tasks for which they are appropriately trained and prepared.

(c) Behavior analysts are responsible for the ethical conduct of research conducted by them or by others under their supervision or control.

(d) Behavior analysts conducting applied research conjointly with provision of clinical or human services obtain required external reviews of proposed clinical research and observe requirements for both intervention and research involvement by client-participants.

(e) In planning research, behavior analysts consider its ethical acceptability under these Guidelines. If an ethical issue is unclear, behavior analysts seek to resolve the issue through consultation with institutional review boards, animal care and use committees, peer consultations, or other proper mechanisms.

10.01 Scholarship and Research.

(a) The behavior analyst engaged in study and research is guided by the conventions of the science of behavior including the emphasis on the analysis of individual behavior and strives to model appropriate applications in professional life.

(b) Behavior analysts take reasonable steps to avoid harming their clients, research participants, students, and others with whom they work, and to minimize harm where it is foreseeable and unavoidable. Harm is defined here as negative effects or side effects of behavior analysis that outweigh positive effects in the particular instance, and that are behavioral or physical and directly observable.

(c) Because behavior analysts’ scientific and professional judgments and actions affect the lives of others, they are alert to and guard against personal, financial, social, organizational, or political factors that might lead to misuse of their influence.

(d) Behavior analysts do not participate in activities in which it appears likely that their skills or data will be misused by others, unless corrective mechanisms, e.g., peer or external professional or independent review, are available.

(e) Behavior analysts do not exaggerate claims for effectiveness of particular procedures or of behavior analysis in general.

(f) If behavior analysts learn of misuse or misrepresentation of their individual work products, they take reasonable and feasible steps to correct or minimize the misuse or misrepresentation.

10.02 Using Confidential Information for Didactic or Instructive Purposes.

(a) Behavior analysts do not disclose in their writings, lectures, or other public media, confidential, personally identifiable information concerning their individual or organizational clients, students, research participants, or other recipients of their services that they obtained during the course of their work, unless the person or organization has consented in writing or unless there is other ethical or legal authorization for doing so.

(b) Ordinarily, in such scientific and professional presentations, behavior analysts disguise confidential information concerning such persons or organizations so that they are not individually identifiable to others and so that discussions do not cause harm to identifiable participants.

10.03 Conforming with Laws and Regulations.

Behavior analysts plan and conduct research in a manner consistent with all applicable laws and regulations, as well as professional standards governing the conduct of research, and particularly those standards governing research with human participants and animal subjects. Behavior analysts also comply with other applicable laws and regulations relating to mandated reporting requirements.

10.04 Informed Consent.

(a) Using language that is reasonably understandable to participants, behavior analysts inform participants of the nature of the research; they inform participants that they are free to participate or to decline to participate or to withdraw from the research; they explain the foreseeable consequences of declining or withdrawing; they inform participants of significant factors that may be expected to influence their willingness to participate (such as risks, discomfort, adverse effects, or limitations on confidentiality, except as provided in Standard 10.05 below); and they explain other aspects about which the prospective participants inquire.

(b) For persons who are legally incapable of giving informed consent, behavior analysts nevertheless (1) provide an appropriate explanation, (2) discontinue research if the person gives clear signs of unwillingness to continue participation, and (3) obtain appropriate permission from a legally authorized person, if such substitute consent is permitted by law.

10.05 Deception in Research.

(a) Behavior analysts do not conduct a study involving deception unless they have determined that the use of deceptive techniques is justified by the study’s prospective scientific, educational, or applied value and that equally effective alternative procedures that do not use deception are not feasible.

(b) Behavior analysts never deceive research participants about significant aspects that would affect their willingness to participate, such as physical risks, discomfort, or unpleasant emotional experiences.

(c) Any other deception that is an integral feature of the design and conduct of an experiment must be explained to participants as early as is feasible, preferably at the conclusion of their participation, but no later than at the conclusion of the research.

10.06 Informing of Future Use.

Behavior analysts inform research participants of their anticipated sharing or further use of personally identifiable research data and of the possibility of unanticipated future uses.

10.07 Minimizing Interference.

In conducting research, behavior analysts interfere with the participants or environment from which data are collected only in a manner that is warranted by an appropriate research design and that is consistent with behavior analysts’ roles as scientific investigators.

10.08 Commitments to Research Participants.

Behavior analysts take reasonable measures to honor all commitments they have made to research participants.

10.09 Ensuring Participant Anonymity.

In presenting research, the behavior analyst ensures participant anonymity unless specifically waived by the participant or surrogate.

10.10 Informing of Withdrawal.

The behavior analyst informs the participant that withdrawal from the research may occur at any time without penalty except as stipulated in advance, as in fees contingent upon completing a project.

10.11 Debriefing.

The behavior analyst informs the participant that debriefing will occur at the conclusion of the participant’s involvement in the research.

10.12 Answering Research Questions.

The behavior analyst answers all questions of the participant about the research that are consistent with being able to conduct the research.

10.13 Written Consent.

The behavior analyst must obtain the written consent of the participant or surrogate before beginning the research.

10.14 Extra Credit.

If the behavior analyst recruits participants from classes and the participants are provided additional credit for participating in the research, nonparticipating students must be provided alternative activities that generate comparable credit.

10.15 Paying Participants.

The behavior analyst who pays participants for research involvement or uses money as a reinforcer must obtain Institutional Review Board or Human Rights Committee approval of this practice and conform to any special requirements that may be established in the process of approval.

10.16 Withholding Payment.

The behavior analyst who withholds part of the money earned by the participant until the participant has completed their research involvement must inform the participant of this condition prior to beginning the experiment.

10.17 Grant Reviews.

The behavior analyst who serves on grant review panels avoids conducting any research described in grant proposals that the behavior analyst reviewed, except as replications fully crediting the prior researchers.

10.18 Animal Research.

Behavior analysts who conduct research involving animals treat them humanely and are in compliance with applicable animal welfare laws in their country.

10.19 Accuracy of Data.

Behavior analysts do not fabricate data or falsify results in their publications. If behavior analysts discover significant errors in their published data, they take reasonable steps to correct such errors in a correction, retraction, erratum, or other appropriate publication means.

10.20 Authorship and Findings.

Behavior analysts do not present portions or elements of another’s work or data as their own, even if the other work or data source is cited occasionally, nor do they omit findings that might alter others’ interpretations of their work or behavior analysis in general.

10.21 Acknowledging Contributions.

In presenting research, the behavior analyst acknowledges the contributions of others to the conduct of the research by including them as co-authors or footnoting their contributions.

10.22 Principal Authorship and Other Publication Credits.

Principal authorship and other publication credits accurately reflect the relative scientific or professional contributions of the individuals involved, regardless of their relative status. Mere possession of an institutional position, such as Department Chair, does not justify authorship credit. Minor contributions to the research or to the writing for publications are appropriately acknowledged, such as in footnotes or in an introductory statement. Further, these Guidelines recognize and support the ethical requirements for authorship and publication practices contained in the ethical code of the American Psychological Association.

10.23 Publishing Data.

Behavior analysts do not publish, as original data, data that have been previously published. This does not preclude republishing data when they are accompanied by proper acknowledgment.

10.24 Withholding Data.

After research results are published, behavior analysts do not withhold the data on which their conclusions are based from other competent professionals who seek to verify the substantive claims through reanalysis and who intend to use such data only for that purpose, provided that the confidentiality of the participants can be protected and unless legal rights concerning proprietary data preclude their release.

Copyright © 2001-2010 by the BACB® All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission. Minor revisions made to the Guidelines August 2004 and June 2010.

Contact Us

3443 Camino del Rio South, Suite 210
San Diego, CA 92108