Chapter 13 - Establishing a Desirable Behavior by Using Escape and Avoidance Conditioning
x Definition: Removal of aversive stimuli after response occurs which increases the likelihood of response
x Similar to aversive punishment in that both involve the use of an aversive stimulus (or punisher).
o In escape conditioning, an aversive stimulus must be present prior to an escape response.
o In punishment, the aversive stimulus is not present prior to a response that is punished.
x Likelihood of the target response is increased.
x Another name for Negative Reinforcement
o Strengthens the response Æ leads to the removal (taking away) of an aversive stimulus.
x Preparatory training for Avoidance Conditioning
x Examples: Escaping the intensity of the light by closing our eyes, Escaping the cold by putting on a
x A behavior will increase in frequency if it prevents an aversive stimulus from occurring.
x Differentiation between Escape and Avoidance Conditioning
o In Escape Conditioning, there is a removal of an aversive stimulus that has already been presented.
o In Avoidance Conditioning, there is the prevention of an aversive stimulus from occurring at all.
x Discriminated Avoidance Conditioning
o Includes a warning stimulus/conditioned aversive stimulus
o The aversive stimulus becomes the conditioned punisher after warning.
Pitfalls of Escape and Avoidance Conditioning
x Undesirable behaviors are strengthened.
o Ex: problem behaviors by persons with developmental disabilities frequently enable them to
escape teaching situations Æ pleading behavior is strengthened but the undesirable behavior the
parent is meant to decrease may have been affected little or none at all.
o ([&ULPLQDOVDSRORJL]LQJFRQIHVVLQJWKHµJXLOW\ORRN¶DOOVKRZQLQIURQWRIWKHMXGJHÆ lying or
misrepresenting the facts to avoid punishment. Moreover, the verbal behavior is modified but little
is known about their antisocial behaviors.
x Inadvertent establishment of conditioned aversive stimuli
o Where the individual responds by avoiding or escaping them
o Ex: Coach hollers at, criticizes and ridicules players Æ may lead to improved skills primarily to
avoid or escape the wrath of the coach, but also likely to avoid the coach. If the coach is too harsh,
it may lead to quitting of the team.
x Maintains undesirable behaviors of the teacher and caregivers.
Guidelines for the Effective Application of Escape and Avoidance Conditioning
x Avoidance procedures are preferable over escape procedures
o Backup aversive stimulus occurs only when the target response fails to occur.
o Responding decreases very slowly when the backup aversive stimulus may no longer be
o <RXGRQRWZDQWWRSXQLVKSHRSOHLI\RXGRQ¶W have to.
x Target behavior should be established by escape conditioning before it is put on an avoidance procedure
o The avoidance procedure must happen at least once in order for learning to be possible.
x Use warning signal to signal impending aversive stimulus during avoidance conditioning
o Enhances conditioning.
x Use escape and avoidance conditioning cautiously
o Can result in harmful side effects such as aggression, fearfulness and a tendency to avoid or
escape any person or thing associated with the procedure
x Use positive reinforcement in conjunction with escape and avoidance conditioning
o Strengthens the desired behavior
o Counteract any undesirable side effects