What Is Shaping In ABA?

Are you curious to know what is shaping in ABA? You have come to the right place as I am going to tell you everything about shaping in ABA in a very simple explanation. Without further discussion let’s begin to know what is shaping in ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapeutic approach widely recognized for its effectiveness in addressing various behavioral challenges, especially in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Within the realm of ABA, a powerful and essential technique known as “shaping” plays a key role in facilitating positive behavioral change. In this blog, we will explore what shaping is in ABA, how it works, and its significance in promoting growth and development.

What Is Shaping In ABA?

Shaping is a fundamental concept in ABA that involves the process of gradually and systematically guiding an individual towards achieving a specific target behavior. It is a positive reinforcement technique used to break down complex behaviors into smaller, manageable steps, allowing individuals to learn and develop new skills over time.

Key Components Of Shaping In ABA:

  1. Target Behavior: Shaping begins with identifying a specific target behavior that an individual is expected to learn or improve. This behavior should be well-defined and measurable.
  2. Successive Approximations: Shaping involves creating a series of smaller, successive approximations or steps that gradually move closer to the target behavior. Each step should be more similar to the desired behavior than the previous one.
  3. Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is an integral part of shaping. When an individual successfully demonstrates one of the smaller steps or approximations, they receive positive reinforcement, such as praise, rewards, or tokens.
  4. Prompts and Assistance: In the initial stages of shaping, individuals may require prompts or assistance to perform the initial approximations. These prompts are gradually faded out as the individual becomes more proficient.

How Shaping Works?

Shaping is a systematic and structured process that involves the following steps:

  1. Select the Target Behavior: Define the specific behavior you want to teach or modify. This behavior should be realistic and attainable for the individual.
  2. Identify Successive Approximations: Break down the target behavior into a series of smaller, achievable steps. These steps should move progressively closer to the desired behavior.
  3. Reinforce Approximations: As the individual successfully demonstrates each approximation, provide immediate positive reinforcement. This reinforces the connection between the approximation and the desired behavior.
  4. Fading Prompts: Gradually reduce the level of assistance or prompts as the individual becomes more capable of performing the behavior independently.
  5. Generalization: Encourage the individual to generalize the newly acquired behavior to different situations, settings, and people.

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Significance Of Shaping In ABA

  1. Individualized Learning: Shaping allows for a highly individualized approach to behavior change, tailored to the unique needs and abilities of each person.
  2. Complex Behavior Acquisition: Shaping is effective for teaching complex behaviors that may be challenging to learn all at once. It breaks them down into manageable steps.
  3. Positive Reinforcement: The use of positive reinforcement makes shaping a motivating and rewarding process, increasing the individual’s engagement and willingness to learn.
  4. Promotes Independence: Shaping encourages individuals to become more independent and self-reliant in performing target behaviors.
  5. Behavior Maintenance: Shaped behaviors tend to be more stable and maintained over time, contributing to long-term success.


Shaping in ABA is a powerful tool for promoting positive behavioral change and skill development in individuals with a wide range of needs. By breaking down complex behaviors into achievable steps and providing positive reinforcement, shaping helps individuals grow, learn, and achieve their goals. It is a key component of ABA therapy that empowers individuals to reach their full potential and lead more fulfilling lives.


What Is Shaping In ABA Examples?

An example of shaping is when a baby or a toddler learns to walk. They are reinforced for crawling, then standing, then taking one step, then taking a few steps, and finally for walking. Reinforcement is typically in the form of lots of praise and attention from the child’s parents.

What Is The Shaping Strategy In ABA?

In applied behavior analysis (ABA), we use a simple procedure called shaping, which teaches a new skill one small step at a time. Each step is reinforced before a new step is taught. Learning a new behavior or skill step-by-step allows children with autism to master more complex tasks.

What Is Shaping Vs Chaining?

Shalini Mittal. Assistant Professor at Bennett University (2022–present) 4y. Chaining involves reinforcing a chain of simple behaviours. Shaping involves reinforcing successive approximations of a desired behaviour. Shaping is used for learning more complex behaviours.

What Is Meant By Behaviour Shaping?

Shaping in psychology is defined as a method of increasing a targeted behavior through reinforcement in a process of successive approximation. Once the desired behavior has been clearly defined, and an appropriate reinforcement chosen, the process of shaping can begin.

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