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Chapter 9
An Example of Shaping: Teaching a Child to Talk
Shaping happens naturally with children everywhere
First, child babbles; parents pay attention to babbling this attention
reinforces the babbling behavior
As a result, child babbles more, eventually making few sounds that
resemble words; parents pay attention again
Child puts sounds together; parents pay attention
Throughout the process of developing language, over the course of
many months, the parents reinforce closer and closer approximations
to real words
The shaping process starts when the parents reinforce babbling
Each time the child makes a sound that is a closer approximation to a
word, the child gets more attention from the parent, and the child gets
less attention for the previous approximations
*Through shaping, child learns to say words; through discrimination
training, child learns to say the correct words, that is, words that are
appropriate to the situation
Defining Shaping
Shaping is used to develop a target behavior that a person does not
currently exhibit
Shaping is defined as differential reinforcement of successive
approximations of a target behavior until the person exhibits the
target behavior
Differential reinforcement involves the basic principles of
reinforcement and extinction occurs when one particular behavior is
reinforced and all other behaviors are not reinforced in a particular
When shaping is used to develop language, the successive
approximations or shaping steps include babbling, word sounds, part
words, whole words, etc.
To begin shaping, you identify an existing behavior that is an
approximation of the target behavior starting behavior
You reinforce this behavior and the person starts to exhibit this
behavior more often
You then stop reinforcing the behavior and novel behaviors begin to
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