Ph.D. in Psychology – Behavior Analysis
The mission of the PhD program area in Behavior Analysis at West Virginia University is to produce an individual who can function effectively in various academic or applied settings, advance our understanding of the principles of behavior, and apply those principles to socially significant problems.
The behavior analysis program area trains students in basic research, theory, and applications of behavior principles. Through research, course work, and practica, students develop skills in the experimental and applied analysis of behavior, including a strong conceptual background and methods appropriate for developing behavioral technologies. The basic, conceptual, and applied areas are integrated in the curriculum; however, a student may emphasize either basic or applied research.
The Behavior Analysis program area at West Virginia University was created in 1976. Don Hake was recruited to WVU to be the program area coordinator, a position that he held until his untimely death in 1982.
The founding faculty members of the Behavior Analysis program were Don Hake, Andy Lattal, Kent Parker, and Jim Shafer. Andy Lattal served as area coordinator from 1982-2012. Mike Perone served as area coordinator from 2012-2013. Claire St. Peter now serves in that capacity. Of the present faculty, Andy Lattal arrived in 1972, Mike Perone in 1984, Karen Anderson in 2003, Claire St. Peter in 2006, Regina Carroll in 2012, and Kathryn Kestner in 2015. Since its inception, the program area has awarded nearly a hundred doctoral degrees to students who have come from all parts of the United States and from many other countries.
The Department of Psychology is a recipient of the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis Award for Enduring Programmatic Contributions to Behavior Analysis. This award is given to an agency, department or facility of an organization that contributes to the ongoing and enduring development of behavior analysis. In addition, the behavior analysis program is fully accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International and includes a course sequence approved by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board.
Over the years, our faculty members have been recognized through major teaching and research awards given by both the university and by professional societies. Faculty also further behavior-analytic science by serving on as editors and associate editors of major behavior-analytic journals and receiving and managing extramural research grants.
Behavior Analysis Program Area Requirements
A description of the requirements for a Ph.D. in psychology with a specialization in the area of behavior analysis can be found in the graduate catalog.
The purpose of the qualifying examination, known as prelims, is to evaluate the student’s qualification to pursue a doctoral degree in the Behavior Analysis program area at West Virginia University. Specifically, the prelims are designed to assess the student’s knowledge of behavior analysis and the ability to solve problems in this area.
A secondary purpose of the examination is to provide an opportunity for the student to gain experience in organizing and integrating information from a variety of sources. In this sense, prelims may be regarded as a learning experience; however, they are not intended as a supplement for course work or other training.
Dr. Lattal’s Operant Research Laboratory
Dr. Perone’s Experimental Analysis of Behavior Laboratory
- Dr. St. Peter’s Severe Behavior Laboratory
Facilities and Financial Support
The basic research laboratories in the behavior analysis area of emphasis are located in the Life Sciences Building. Each lab is outfitted with operant-conditioning chambers for pigeons, rats, or mice. Applied researchers also have laboratory spaces within the Life Sciences Building equipped with one-way mirrors from observation bays to therapy rooms and equipment for real-time data collection of behavior. Additionally, applied researchers conduct studies at the Intensive Autism Service Delivery Clinic at the WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities, in homes, and in local public schools.
We provide funding for each student in good standing in our program. Doctoral students gain teaching experience, including opportunities for senior students to design and teach their own courses. Teaching serves as one source of funding for students. Students may also be funded through practicum placements in which they conduct clinical work to support children in the local community. Graduate students may also be hired as research assistants to work on grant-funded studies. In addition to a nine-month stipend, each student in good standing receives a tuition waiver.