Managing Antecedents Chapter: 14
Identifying and Modifying Existing Antecedents:
Identifying Antecedents: To identify the antecedents for a behavior, behavior analysts need to make
systematic observations in functional assessment of behavior. Although it is useful to have hunches
about which stimuli is the antecedent for the target behavior, hunches are not conclusions. The
antecedents for a behavior such as children’s noncompliance are often specific to the individual. We
need to assess the antecedents for each person.
Antecedents for Behavioral Excess:
Antecedents that are over and immediate are usually easy to identify as they occur right before the
target the behavior. But sometimes, it can be a little tricky to identify overt and immediate antecedents
as well. For e.g. Children in a classroom become distracted because they are seated too closely with
each other, although this antecedent is over and immediate we might not notice it at first.
Antecedents that are cover or distance are usually difficult to identify because they are not directly
observable and consist of thoughts, feelings and physiological states. For e.g. a person who bites his
nails explains boredom to be the antecedent for this behavioral excess. Two ways to identify covert and
distant antecedents by direct observations and indirect assessments.
Antecedents for Behavioral Deficits:
The antecedents that are not occurring to provide the desired consequences, for e.g. a student is doing
poorly in her studies because her friends distract her in the dorm so probably changing the place of
study could bring the behavior that is lacking.
Ways to Alter the Antecedent:
Procedure to manage antecedents involve manipulating the target person's physical or social stimuli to
encourage the desired behavior or discourage the undesired behavior. 4 ways to manipulate these
1. Developed or introduces new cues (Discriminative stimuli: SDs)
2. Modify existing cues (SDs)
3. Manipulate motivating operations
4. Manipulate the efforts needed to make responses.
Developing or Introducing New SDs :- involves teaching individuals SDs by using the
discrimination training procedures. This procedure involves providing a consequence such as
reinforcement for a particular behavior when a specific stimulus, the SD, is present but not when some
other stimulus, S^, is present. Modifying Existing SDs: Another way to manage antecedents is to modify the normal cues. There
are two main approaches which involve altering the SDs physically within- stimulus prompt; or adding
another stimuli to it extra- stimulus prompt. Stimulus prompt can involve pictures, sounds, or
environmental alternative behavior.
When dealing with behavior excess 2 types of techniques are useful: eliminating the SDs for the target
behavior and encouraging a desirable behavior. For e.g. if your roommate watches TV too much and the
antecedent includes the time or places that this behavior occurs, you might suggest that he or she
“narrows” the range of these cues—for instance restricting the time to 9-11 p.m. and place to a specific
Manipulating Motivating Operations and Response Effort: MOs can increase or decrease a
punisher's effect on a behavior. By manipulating MOs, we can increase a behavior that occurs too little
or decrease a behavior that occurs too much. We can manage antecedents by making problem
behaviors more difficult to or making desirable behaviors easier to do. For e.g. people might be more
likely to exercise if they can do it at home rather than at gym which is miles away. They chose the
behavior that takes less effort.
Managing Discriminative Stimuli (SDs): 2 approaches for managing SDs eliminating or reducing
existing antecedents for a problem behavior and developing or introducing antecedents for a desirable
Eliminating Existing SDs For A Problem Behavior:
This approach is to deal with a problem behavior by reducing the or eliminating the SDs that encourage
it. For someone who has a drinking problem, staying away from liquor places such as the bar would help
Another way to eliminate an existing SD is to turn it into S^, signaling that the associated behavior won’t
be reinforced. We can do this by presenting SD repeatedly while preventing it from being associated
with rewards, thereby turning it into a S^. For instance, seeing or smelling alcoholic beverages can be a
strong antecedent for drinking. Some research has found that presenting SDs that heavy drinkers of
alcohol associate with drinking and simultaneously preventing reinforcement if the behavior can help
them quit drinking.
Manipulating SDs For a Desirable Behavior:
We can manipulate SDs to promote desirable behavior in 2 ways: Correct a behavioral defict or increase
a competing response or alternative behavior to replace a problem behavioral excess, such as
Case Study- The “Betrayed” Husband:
A 29 year old graduate student suggested his best friend to stay over at his home to keep his wife
company while he went to study in the library overnight The ultimate betrayal was resulted which was very distressing to him because he suggested his best friend to stay. Since then whenever he saw
his wife he would either scream for hours or just be ashamed of himself and spend hours in his room
The antecedents to his behavior were both immediate (seeing his wife) and distant (the betrayal). Part
of his behavior therapy program was modifying the cues by asking him to change the location of sulking
in somewhere else but his rooms and not in front of his wife. The result after a week indicated the
sulking had reduced to half an hour and later it stopped entirely. Individuals who worry chronically can
successfully restrict the worrying to certain times and places.
To correct a behavioral deficit such as increase the use of seat belts research was conducting where the
customers with children who entered a grocery store were offered a cart for the kids. (Baseline – they
measure how many of these customers used the seat belt). Intervention there was a person who
greeted them and offered the cart, later the person used verbal prompt “Don’t forget to buckle up!”
Results indicated the amount of belt use was twice as high than the baseline. To correct a behavioral
deficit physical, verbal prompts can be useful.
Altering Motivating Operations:
Establishing Operations increase the effectiveness of a reinforcer or punisher e.g. deprivation increases
the power of food as a reinforcer.
Abolishing Operations decrease the effectiveness of a reinforcer or punisher- for e.g. someone who
overeats at restaurants or parties can snack on low- fat fo