Using words that describe observable actions rather than internal mental states or interpretations is the first big step towards the scientific study of behavior. If the behavior is objectively described we can study its occurrence and learn important additional information. Four aspects of the occurrence of behavior can be useful:

Frequency Duration Latency Intensity

Frequency refers to the number of times a behavior occurs during a particular time period.

Duration refers to how long a particular behavior lasts.

Latency refers to how much time passes between a prompt of some kind and the occurrence of the behavior.

Intensity refers to the force with which a behavior occurs.

Let's look at an example at the baseball park. Baseball (and other sports) fans seem to be obsessed with measuring behavior of all types. They measure the frequency of many things including the number of pitches thrown, number of strikes, balls, singles, doubles, home runs, wins, and loses.

Sports fans also measure the duration of the game or even the duration of the "hang time" of a jumper in basketball (length of time in the air).

Latency is measured when we measure how much time elapses since the last goal (soccer) or how much time elapses before the possession of the ball changes (football).

Intensity is measured in the speed of a runner or the height or distance of the jump. Sometimes intensity is estimated or inferred from the results of the behavior like measuring the distance of travel of the baseball off the bat or the speed of the baseball thrown.

In the classroom we can describe behaviors using all of these measures. Pick the example that illustrates frequency:

(C) 2001 J. Tyler Fovel, All Rights Reserved