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Dead Person Test checks if what your asking is a replacement behaviour!

You see a behaviour and respond. This should include a description of the behaviour so they know what needs to change. An effective method to modify behaviour is offering them another option of how to behaviour. This little test can help you make sure you are giving them a replacement behaviour option.
Kaplan and Carter (1995) give a great tool to do this which I have renamed to 'the dead person test' (DPT). This is simply asking the following question: is a dead person able to do this behaviour? Lets say someone pushes another person. If you respond with "don't push others" then this would fail the DPT as a dead person can do this type of behaviour: not push others. "When someone needs to move, you need to ask them to move rather than pushing them." This is something a dead person cannot do. It clarifies what behaviour is inappropriate and offers an alternative solution to achieve their need.

Another example is using foul language or swearing at others. The target behaviour is "not to swear at others" however we could also observe a dead person not swearing at others. "Communicates to peers without swearing", "speaks to others without swearing" and "expresses anger to others without using foul language" are examples that pass the DPT.

At the end of the day this is about clearly defining what behaviour needs to change. By accurately expressing the behaviour anyone who was not present can readily understand the situation that occurred and what needs to change. The extra benefit from this is that it also gives the person clues as to what is acceptable and how they can change their behaviour. Using the dead person test on our intended statements about the behaviour helps make sure we communicate clearly what is required.

Kaplan, Joseph. S. and Carter, Jane. (1995) Beyond Behaviour Modification: A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach to Behavior Management in the School 3 ed.

(Note: Kaplan & Carter and other behaviour management texts call the test the dead man test.)
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