Functional Analysis Made Easy

A summary of the Greg Hanley presentation on IISCA 

Research in Behaviour Analysis always offer new evidence that improves our practice, and Dr. Greg Hanley's work is one of them. The take home message in his last presentation in London in 2014 was- always conduct a functional analysis (FA) on target behaviour before intervention. Nevertheless, I soon found out doing a FA is not a popular practice in the field and clients rarely consent to it, no matter how hard I tried to “sell” it. Four years later, Dr. Hanley has re-conceptualised the functions of behaviour and hence a new form of FA- the IISCA (Interview-informed Synthesised Contingency Analysis).


What is new?


1. The concept of ABC

Traditionally in behaviour analysis, we conceptualise the three term contingency as Antecedent-Behaviour-Consequence. Notice how they are all singulars- we assume that there is ONE antecedent triggering ONE behaviour, resulting in ONE consequence. In real life, however, that rarely happens. In fact, it is usually LOTS of antecedents triggering a cluster of behaviours, leading to a combination of consequences. Here is an example:


Child is playing with toys in free flow, the teacher started singing the tidy up song, another child came along, grabbed the toy and put it in a box. (Four antecedents that could have triggered behaviour or all of them combined)


The child shouted “nooo!”, flopped on the floor and cried. (Three behaviours occurred)


A teaching assistant came along and say “it's tidy up time”, gave the child a cuddle then sat the child on their lap and let the child play with their necklace, while other children sat down for carpet time.

(Four Consequences) 


2. The test condition in standard FA

In the example described above, is it usually the combination of antecedents and consequences that has control over the behaviours. The standard FA tries to micro-analyse and separate the real life scenario into isolated conditions such as demand escape, tangible, attention and sensory. The problem is, if the reinforcement is synthesised- meaning they interact together to cause an effect, isolating the conditions will not produce the same result. In other words, escape is only a valuable reinforcer if there is a tangible that comes along to it. Escaping to do nothing in the standard FA is in comparison, a lot less enticing. As a result, there is actually no study that shows the standard FA results leads to an effective behaviour intervention when implemented in the natural environment with the relevant persons.


How can IISCA offer a solution?


1. A single test condition, using synthesised reinforcement

In a nut shell, forget about separate the four functions of behaviour and just directly replicate the real life scenario as your test condition. Not only does it confirms the SDs and reinforcers for treatment, it also provides you with a baseline. 


2. Quick to conduct- only 25 minutes!

Yes, it's no joke. All you will need is two conditions, ran in five sessions with each session lasting for 5 minutes: Control- Test- Control- Test- Test


3. Results in differentiated data paths between test and control conditions

Dr. Hanley's study showed us that 80% of the IISCA result in differentiated data paths, meaning the SDs and reinforcers reliably identified. 


I want to use IISCA but I have not been to the seminar...... 

Don't worry, you can always join a peer support discussion group! Why not start with the facebook group “BCBAs using the IISCA”? There are resources available and you can always ask questions if you run into problems. Dr. Hanley was actively promoting this idea of peer support and he would love to see us helping each other out! For more information and resources on IISCA, check out the official website:

What do you think of this new concept of synthesised reinforcement? Share if you think it's a good idea and comment below to tell us your thoughts.

Do you work with/ have a child who displays problem behaviours and you have no idea why? HeadStart can help you! Contact us atinfo@headstartaba.orgfor a free initial consultation.

Written by Danthy Lo Leça, a Behaviour Analyst who is passionate about training, working with schools and being creativity in her practice

Sian Vermaut