So, today you’re thirsty. You walk to a nearby soda machine and put your dollar in. You press the button for “Coke,” but the soda doesn’t come out. You press it again, but still,nothing happens.In a futile attempt, you press the button again with your thumb. Again,nothing.You press the “Sprite” button, and againnothing happens.You even press the iced tea button (which you hate), but still,nothing.
It is at this point that you decide that you aren’t that thirsty and just want your money back. When you press the return change button, the machine keeps your dollar.You begin yelling, cursing, screaming, shaking the machine, etc. You punch the machine. You kick the machine. You tell other people that the machine is a “hunk of junk” and you never go back to that machine for soda again, or you tip the soda machine onto your body, crushing your legs.
On this day, the soda machine put your soda buying behavior on extinction. Simply put, there was a discontinuation of reinforcement for soda buying behavior. The minute the soda machinewithheldany sort of refreshment (and your money), it put your behavior on extinction.When a behavior is put on extinction, nothing changes in the environment.There is NO direct consequence for the behavior.
At a certain point, the behaver (you) will do whatever it takes to get reinforcement. You change the behavior in a desperate attempt to get what you initially wanted. This is called the extinction burst.Essentially, behavior will change in form, duration, intensity, etc. until the end result is either nothing or some reinforcing consequence. For extinction to work, however, reinforcement must be withheld, i.e. NOTHING HAPPENS.
Another example: A friend calls you and tells you to call them back as soon as you can. You call back, and they don’t answer. You text, and there is no response. Your calls become more frequent. Your texts become more frequent. You begin to panic, yell, curse, etc. until finally your friend answers: “I was in the bathroom, dude. Chill.”
It is important to note that this can get quite dangerous at times, especially for individuals with problem behaviors. Ethical considerations have behavior analysts look at the behavior itself and determine whether or not extinction is going to do more harm than good. For example, if a child engages intantrums,extinction is less likely to get to extremely dangerous levels and would probably benefit the learner. If we are talking abouteye-gouging,however, it is likely that an analyst would use a procedure that would not likely increase the intensity, frequency, or duration of the behavior. An extinction burst in eye-gouging behavior could lead to permanent damage or even sight loss.
Additionally, extinction procedures should not be used without specific training and behavior analyst oversight due to the nature of the effects.
But, if you want to see some immediate change in behaviors, refuse to answer a friend’s call for a day or two, just because.
An establishing operation is an event that momentarily alters the reinforcing effectiveness of a stimulus. For example, drinking water after eating salty food. The salty food momentarily increased the reinforcing effectiveness of the water.
Deprivation can also be an establishing operation that momentarily alters the reinforcing effectiveness of a stimuli. For example, when cookies no longer strengthen behavior because of satiation, parents can place the cookies under deprivation by not giving them to the child for a period of time. Placing the cookies under deprivation will increase the reinforcing effectiveness of the cookies.
This is HUGE in communication training.
So, I’ve passed my exam! That doesn’t make up for me not posting on here more. I’ll make it up to you all soon!
I must sincerely apologize for not updating this thing more often (perhaps the EO for studying has acted as an AO for updating?). Tomorrow I’ll be taking my BCBA exam, sooooo I should be back to this thing within a week or so. I’ll make a point of it.
One of the more controversial components of ABA lies within “punishment,” and rightly so for some reasons. For the most part, however, it is a simple issue of connotation that gives punishment such a bad name. All our lives, we are taught that punishment follows an inappropriate behavior. As a matter of fact, two of the most commonly used “punishment” procedures used by parents are the Time-Out and some type of Spanking.
In ABA, punishment simply means the delivery or removal of some stimulus that decreases behavior. As in the previous post about reinforcement, there are two different types of punishment; positive and negative.
Let me begin by saying that this just seems to be an oxymoron. How can punishment be positive? In ABA, this simply means theADDITIONof stimuli that result in aDECREASEin behavior. Basically, something is added to the environment that makes an organism stop doing something. A good example is “pain.”
For example, you walk into a kitchen and touch a red hot stove range. You immediately stop touching the range and the next time you step into the kitchen, you will do what it takes to avoid touching the stove range if it is on. The pain induced by the stove touching behavior decreases that behavior in the future.
Just like you, I read “negative punishment” and immediately begin to think that it sounds redundant. Again, in ABA, this just means theSUBTRACTIONof stimuli that results in aDECREASEin behavior. This just means that something is removed from the environment that makes an organism stop doing something. A good example here is “loss.”
For example, a sibling hits a younger sibling and immediately has his Sega Genesis taken away (Sega is the latest in gaming, yes?). In the future, he will not hit because of the consequence from the previous incident.
The majority of parents are very keen on using punishment for inappropriate behavior, though the majority of the time it is not nearly as effective as reinforcement procedures.
I’ll leave you with two things from this post:
First, one of my favorite quotes came from a poster that my parents used to have hanging in their kitchen when I was a kid, and it is perfect for ABA. “Everyone remembers when I do something bad, but nobody remembers when I do something good.” Keep that in mind.
And second, just a quick disclaimer: this is for information only and does not outright condone the use of punishment procedures without LRC approval, supervision by a BCBA, and without the use of reinforcement procedures prior to their use. Additionally, THIS IS SIMPLY FOR INFORMATION AND IS IN NO WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM A PROCEDURAL SUGGESTION.
And for Zeus’ sake, research this stuff and consult a professional before using any of this!
First, let me start off by issuing an apology for taking so long to update this thing. Life gets in the way sometimes.
Reinforcement and punishment are vital components in ABA treatments. So, what are they? Those of you who are new t0 the science may come in with your own definitions, which is perfectly fine. The following posts are specific to ABA and are simply meant to make you think a bit.I think that starting with reinforcement is as good as any place to begin.
To start, reinforcement is the process on which stimuli is added or subtracted, resulting in an INCREASE in a particular behavior. Getting verbal praise for completing work (positive reinforcement) or taking medication to get rid of a headache (negative reinforcement) are just a couple of examples. So, what is positive reinforcement? Positive reinforcement is the ADDITION of stimuli to INCREASE behavior (this is important). Giving a child MnM’s during toilet training is a commonly used technique that results in independent toilet training later. The key element in this is that stimuli is added and behavior increases.
Negative reinforcement is different, and often I find that people already have a bad taste in their mouth when they hear “negative.” It isn’t as bad as it sounds. Negative reinforcement is the SUBTRACTION of stimuli that INCREASES behavior. Typically, this has to do with pain attenuation, task completion, or avoidant behavior in social settings. For instance, we engage in medication-taking behaviors to get rid of a headache. The REMOVAL of the headache is reinforcing the medication-taking behavior. Procrastination falls in here, as well (I haven’t started my case study on drastic neurological changes in individuals regarding EO’s because ESCAPE from that task is highly reinforcing to me at this moment).
So, the next time you do something, think about why you are doing it and have continued to do it for so long. Is it because you’re getting something out of it (REWARD), or just getting rid of something (RELIEF)?
Whenever we start talking about behavior, there is always one question that comes to mind; why do we do what we do? It’s a common question, especially when working with individuals with bizarre or dangerous behavior.
But for every behavior, there is a reason, and that reason has its foundation in the function of behavior. For a behavior to occur and be maintained over long periods of time, the behavior has to have a history of reinforcement (we’ll discuss reinforcement and punishment later). Anything that is reinforcing, however, is tied to one of four (of five) functions. All human behavior occurs based on four (with a controversial fifth) reasons. Listed below are the functions (or why) behind behavior:
Simply put, this function is clearly explained in its title. Some behavior is reinforced by attention from others. Whether it is good or bad attention is of no consequence. So often, we hear parents say something along the lines of “yelling just doesn’t work anymore” when the reality is that the kid behaves inappropriately because they wanted attention, regardless of its form.
Example: A young lady wears a certain dress more because a romantic interest told her how great she looked in it.
This particular function refers to tangible items or preferred activities. Food is a major part of this function. Access simply means that the individual gets something for the behavior. A toy, food, money, going out to eat, etc. may all fall under this function.
Example: A child throws a tantrum because they weren’t allowed to have candy.
Escape refers to how an individual gets away from something they don’t like or something that is aversive to them. We all procrastinate on work we don’t want to do from time to time. We avoid situations, tasks, or people that make us feel uncomfortable.
Example: I go to a different grocery store because there are employees who are unfriendly at a store I used to go to.
It just feels good. This function refers to behavior we do simply because it feels good to us. Biting our nails, hand-flapping, masturbation, or singing to ourselves all fall under this particular “why” of behavior.
Example: You put lotion on your skin after taking a shower.
Signs of Damage:
Let me preface this entry with this warning; research done on this function is sparse, and this is still yet to be completely confirmed. I do feel, however, that it is important to note for the sake of the present state of ABA.
Signs of damage refers to behavior related to hiring other organisms and/or seeing damage/ destruction after a behavior occurs. From my understanding, the preceding condition of the organism includes some type of pain. Essentially, an organism in pain will engage in signs of damage behavior.
Example: A child is abused at home and goes to school to bully another child.
NOTE: I have little to no experience with signs of damage, do feel free to correct any mistakes I’ve made.
When you read this, think about why you do it. Is it access to information? Or are you procrastinating and this was simply available?
ABA concerns itself with behavior, which is clear in the definition of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis). While it seems like a simple concept, people often have difficulty defining behavior itself. So, what is behavior?
According to Cooper, Heron, and Heward (2007), behavior is any activity an organism does. Radical behaviorism goes on to include thinking and other “private events.”
Now, with this definition, it is easy to fall into the habit of going “well, what about this? Or what about that?” The easiest way to determine a behavior is through the “dead man’s test.” Think about this; Can a dead man do it? If a dead man can, then it doesn’t qualify as a behavior. Laying still? Not a behavior. Non-compliance? Not a behavior.
Thinking? It is a behavior, even if we can’t observe it. Raising my hand? Behavior. Sneezing? Behavior. Blinking? Coughing? Throwing a television into a hotel pool? Behavior, behavior, and completely inappropriate behavior (depending on the event).
So with that, we can account for two separate types of behavior; respondent and operant.
Respondent behavior refers to behavior that we are born with. Blinking, flinching, retraction from painful stimuli, tearing up, smooth muscle movements, and salivating are all behaviors that do not require learning. Each of us are born with this set of behaviors built in. Additionally, these behaviors can be conditioned, which will be discussed in a later segment.
Operant behavior refers to behavior that is learned. Driving, avoiding painful stimuli, putting on clothing, or any behavior that is learned is considered operant behavior. Think about this for a moment: did you learn to read or were you able to read from birth?
Operant behavior is the primary focus of ABA, with treatments based on the consequence of behavior, thus establishing a learning history with specific stimuli. Operant behavior accounts for the majority of behavior we exhibit, so it would only make sense that we teach and train new behavior through the use of operant conditioning.
Keep this in mind as I continue with further posts, because this will essentially be a building block for each additional post.
I have always had an affinity for learning. Whether it had to do with ancient people and their gods, how the ocean sustains itself, or different areas of music, nothing has ever really been as interesting as studying human behavior. Why people do the things they do.
After my divorce, I always wondered why my ex was the way she was. I always attributed it to some past abuse or some unspoken wrong. When I started back to school, that was part of what I wanted to understand about people. A major part of understanding people involved how I would help them once I was able to understand them. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, but I always felt that there was a way to treat people behaviorally, with some way to reduce the amount of medication that was being used in treatments.
So I interned for a bit with our good friend Stacia. And she asked what I wanted to do with the internship. She called my current supervisor, and things began to snowball from there.
Now, as a behavior analyst, I am not anti-medication. I am not “behavior works and nothing else matters” either. But, with behavior analysis, I am able to teach someone new ways to communicate their needs. We are able to work with other professionals to minimize the need for heavy duty medications. We are able to teach someone that there are appropriate ways to get attention from others, access to desired items, or escape from aversive stimuli.
And it doesn’t include lofty explanations like “the id, ego, and super-ego.” We don’t have to delve into an individual’s psyche to figure out why they are sexually hyper-active or addicted to drugs.
Behavior is simple. There’s a beauty in that. With all of the complicated science that is used on people, to me, this seems like the most straight-forward approach. Yes, we are always subject to address medical concerns, but we function on an observable and measurable level. Why complicate that anymore?
The next time you think about something you do, really think about it. And thing about the simplest explanation you can think of that makes you do something. Why do you eat chocolate and not broccoli? Why do you listen to the music you do? It isn’t much more complicated than “it tastes good” or “it makes me feel good.”
It’s (almost) that simple.