Chapter 7: Stimulus Control: Discrimination and Generalization
•These basic principles of behavior – reinforcement, extinction, and punishment – explain why
behaviors increase and continue to occur or decrease and stop occurring.
•This chapter expands the analysis of operant behavior and discusses the importance of
antecedents, stimulus events that precede an operant response.
•The antecedents of a behavior are the stimulus events, situations, or circumstances that are present
when it occurs or were present before the behavior.
•It is important to understand the antecedents of operant behavior, we have information on the
circumstances in which the behavior was reinforced and the circumstances in which the behavior
was not reinforced.
•The effects of reinforcement, extinction, and punishment are situation-specific.
Examples of Stimulus Control
•Whenever Jake wants some extra cash to spend, he asks his mom and she usually gives him some
•When he asks his dad, his dad refuses and tells him to get a job.
•As a result, he usually asks his mom for money instead of his dad.
•The behavior of asking for money was reinforced in one situation (with his mom) but not
reinforced in another situation (with his dad).
•His mom’s presence is an antecedent (stimulus control) for Jake’s behavior of asking for cash.
Defining Stimulus Control
•A behavior is said to be under stimulus control when there is an increased probability that the
behavior will occur in the presence of a specific antecedent stimulus or a stimulus from a specific
stimulus class. (Red strawberries are a stimulus class. Any one particular red strawberry is a
member of this stimulus class)
•For example, Ginny only eats red strawberries. The presence of red strawberries has stimulus
control over Ginny’s behavior of picking and eating the strawberries.
Developing Stimulus Control: Stimulus Discrimination Training
•The antecedent stimulus that is present when a behavior is reinforced is known as the
discriminative stimulus (SD)