ABA and Psychological Warfare (PsyOps)

Source: https://flic.kr/p/4YqpVZ

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21.org

If you live in the UK, a new British Army unit may have the job you have always wanted.  The unit, the 77th Brigade, will utilize Psychological Operations (PsyOps) and cyber-warfare to counter the behavior of ISIS and other groups online and influence public opinion.  Among the desired skills is a familiarity with social media.  

The Brigade “recognizes that the actions of others in a modern battlefield can be affected in ways that are no necessarily violent.” Common actions include influencing discussions in online forums and news sites.

Other countries are also known to have so-called “propaganda units” such as the Israel Defense Force, Iran, and North Korea.  

To read more about propaganda from an Applied Behavior Analysis perspective, Rakos (1993) offers a heuristic model of propaganda in relation to the Gulf War which incorporates rules, establishing operations, and discriminative stimuli.  The ultimate function is, of course, persuasion.  

Let us know your thoughts on Rakos’ model in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox.


Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com.  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at [email protected].

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