Chapter 1 Notes:
The term behaviour typically refers to anything a person does, from raising their hand to answering a
question. There are 2 types of behaviours, external and internal:
1) External/ overt – overt behaviours can be two types, verbal or motor.
Verbal behaviours are actions that involve the use of language.
Motor behaviours are actions that involve body movement without requiring the use of language.
(grasping a door knob)
Some activities such as filling out a cross word puzzle require both verbal and motor components, overt
behaviours have been and continue to be the main focus of applied behaviour analysis.
2) Internal/ covert – these are behaviours that are not viewable or openly shown. (psychological
changes such as increased heart rate, happiness and anger)
A principle reason applied behaviour focuses on overt behaviours is that they can be observed and
measured directly by another person. Covert behaviours can be observed or felt by the person who is
performing the behaviour and must be measured either indirectly, perhaps verbal or written reports or
with special equipment such as a device to measure heart rate.
What are not behaviours?
Therapists make diagnoses on the basis of behaviours that are common to individuals who have autism.
For example, children receiving the diagnosis of autism tend to have several of the following behavioural
Absence of speech or severely impaired speech with unusual patterns such as echoing the
speech of others.
Lack of awareness of salient sounds and objects around them.
Indifference to being liked; little or no affection.
Frequent behaviours that seem to provide only self-stimulation: children rocking back and forth
incessantly for example or fluttering their hands in front of their eyes.
Absence or severe impairment of self-help behaviours such as grooming and dressing
themselves and inability to protect themselves from physical danger.
Frequent and severe self-injurious behaviours such as biting their arms.
Lastly, the outcomes of behaviours are not behaviours. People who apply behaviour change techniques
to produce an outcome of say, helping someone lose weight or get higher grades in school often
misdirect their focus toward the outcome rather than the behaviour change needed to reach the
outcome. (getting higher grades is not a behaviour, it is an outcome of the person’s behaviour)
individuals who often focus their efforts towards the outcome often fail to identify and deal effectively
with the specific behaviours that need to change. How behaviours develop:
Human babies come into the world with only a small number of well-formed, inborn behaviours.
These behaviours are called reflexes. Several reflexes have obvious survival value for infants
because they are useful in feeding, maintaining psychological function and protecting the baby
2 reflexes that are important for feeding are the rooting reflex in which the baby turns its head
toward an object that lightly touches its cheek and the sucking reflex where the baby starts to
suck when its lips are touched with any small rounded object such as a nipple or finger. Inborn
reflexive behaviours are inherited.
Virtually all other behaviours develop after birth and their development depends on two processes,
heredity and experience.
Heredity affects behavioural development in at least two ways, first it charts the course of the person’s
maturation or physical growth of the muscle and nervous systems. Second, hereditary factors provide
the foundation for or tendency toward developing behaviours of certain types. For instance, studies
have found that people’s inheritance influences the likelihood that they will develop a wide variety of
behavioural problems including stuttering, severe anxieties, autism and alcoholism. (experience plays an
important role and is usually the dominant factor in the development of almost all human behaviour,
this role occurs through the process of learning)
How we acquire and change behaviour
What do we mean by the term learning?
Learning is an internal process that applies to such a wide range of behaviours and people don’t always
display what they have learned. Learning can be defined as a durable change in behavioural potential as
a result of experience.
Types of learning:
1) Respondent conditioning
2) Operational conditioning
Eg. Sit back, relax and concentrate on the name of your favourite food. Does the name remind you of
eating that food? If so, fine, you may let your imagine take over. Enjoy how tempting it looks and smells.
Savour the delectable taste and allow it to linger in your mouth ….. are you salivating more now? If so,
this illustrates your learned reaction to the name of the food. The flow of saliva is the result of prior respondent conditioning. This example is a lot like the 1 laboratory demonstrations of respondent
conditioning reported in 1927 by Ivan Pavlov, the Russian nobel prize winning physiologist.
He proposed that this learned relationship was formed through its association with the reflexive or
automatic, connection between food in the mouth and salivation. Pavlov later showed that virtually any
stimulus such as a light or tone regularly associated with this reflexive connection could produce the
Thus food in the mouth is an example of unconditioned stimulus (US) – an event that elicits a specific
response automatically and the automatic response to that stimulus is called the unconditioned
response (UR). Because you learned the name salivation association, the learned stimulus (food’s name)
is called the conditioned stimulus (CS). Before conditioning, this stimulus was neutral, it didn’t produce
that response. And since there was no food in your mouth (no US) in our demonstration, the salivation
elicited by the name of the food is called a conditioned response (CR). Notice that CR and UR are
essentially the same behaviour: salivation. They are called respondent behaviours because they are
elicited involuntarily by stimuli.
Respondent conditioning is a learning process in which a stimulus (the eventual CS) gains the ability to
elicit a response through repeated association with a stimulus (the US) that already produces that
Negative emotions are not always problematic and they can be quite beneficial. For instance, a mild fear
of heights leads to our being cautious when using a ladder. We also learn positive emotions and to like
things through respondent conditioning. As an example by watching comedian Tina Fey tell funny jokes,
you probably learned to like her.
Operant conditioning is the learned process by which behaviour changes because of its consequences.
The responses we acquire through this type of learning are called operant behaviours. The term operant
indicates that these behaviours operate on the environment producing consequences.
Consequences in operant conditioning:
The scientist most prominently associated with operant conditioning is B.F skinner distinguished
between behavioural consequences of two types: reinforcement and punishment. In reinforcement, a
consequence following behaviour strengthens that behaviour, causing performance of the behaviour to
In punishment, a consequence following behaviour leads to a decrease in performance of that
behaviour. If performance of behaviour decreases when it is followed by a particular consequence, we
can conclude that punishment occurred and the consequence served as a punisher. When people try to
apply punishment, they generally use events such as spankings, reprimands or reducing the person’s privileges that they think will work; but their thinking is not always correct. The best way to determine
whether an event punishes behaviour is to observe the behaviour over time: if it decreases when it is
followed by the consequence, punishment has occurred.
Antecedents in Operant conditioning:
Behaviour is influenced not only by the consequences that follow it but also by the events and
circumstances that precede it. These cues are called antecedents because they precede and set the
occasion for your action. Antecedents are the cause of the behaviour.
Operant conditioning can influence virtually any behaviour, regardless of whether the behaviour is
verbal or motor, covert or overt.
EG. A newborn baby named Luisa who was being fed. Her behaviour involved the UR of sucking on a
nipple for the 1 time that provided milk. This was a situation in which respondent conditioning was
likely to occur. That is, when the nipple touched Luisa’s lips, she would begin to suck reflexively. Stimuli
such as the bottle or breast she noticed at the time her lips touched (the US) were potential CS’s, but
the feeding sequence did not stop there. There was an operant component too because a baby’s sucking
behaviour is not just a UR, it’s also an operant motor behaviour. Luisa’s sucking produced a
consequence, milk that reinforced the sucking behaviour.
Another real life example of the two conditioning occurring together has the operant component
preceding the respondent component. Ten-year-old Jim was in his room listening to a song he liked on
the radio which was plugged in a wall outlet. His curiosity led him to stick objects operant motor
behaviour) into the open outlet, which produced a painful shock to his hand (punishment for his
behaviour). For the respondent conditioning part, he was looking at the outlet (initially a neutral
stimulus that will become the CS) when he heard a funny noise and felt the shock (US) which causes him
to scream out in fear and pain (UR). For some months thereafter, Jim felt uneasy (CR) when he looked
at that outlet (CS) or just heard the song (another CS) that had been playing on the radio when he
received the shock (US). Operant and respondent conditioning happen together in real life and its
unlikely that experiences involving one type of conditioning do not include the other.
4 year old Jo watches her father tie his shoelaces and tries to copy his movements. Jo is learning through
the process of modeling, learning a behaviour by watching someone else perform it. Modeling can be
used to teach simple operant behaviours such as preparing scrambles eggs. The term cognition refers to covert behaviours, particularly thinking and reasoning that occus in the
mind and are not observable to others. Thinking uses mental representations of our knowledge, mostly
in the form of language or images; reasoning involves thinking in a logical manner such as to make a
plan or solve a problem. Cognitive processes can influence our learning and behaviour.
EG. Suppose a friend explains to you on the phone how to turn on your new MP3 player; even if you
don’t have the player with you at the time, you’ll know the motor behaviours needed when it is there.
Thoughts can serve as antecedents to our behaviour such as when you promised to call a friend and
then do so.
Applied behaviour analysis
This is a field of practice and study that focuses on using the principles of learning, particularly operant
conditioning to understand and improve people’s socially significant behaviour. People who work in this
field, practicing or studying its methods are called behaviour analysts. The name of the field includes
two words that need clarification; the word applied is included to reflect behaviour analysts’ interest in
discovering and practicing methods to improve people’s lives; the word analysis is there to reflect
behaviour analysts’ emphasis on understanding the functional relations between behaviours and their
antecedents and consequences.
When professionals apply learning principles to change behaviour, they can choose techniques of two
types, behavioural and cognitive methods.
Behavioural methods, are techniques based on operant conditioning and modeling toward
changing overt behaviours (behaviour analysts focuses on this one)
cognitive methods are geared for changing overt and covert behaviours by modifying people’s
thought processes for example, by helping individuals recognize and alter their illogical beliefs.
Some behaviour change techniques make use of elements of both as you would do if you practiced
modeled behaviour in your mind. The process or time period in which efforts are made to change
behaviours are called an intervention.
Behaviour modification: behavioural and cognitive methods are applied mainly by professionals
in a variety of applied settings, including institutions, schools and industry to improve almost
any type of behaviour.
Behaviour therapy: behavioural and cognitive methods are carried out mostly by professionals
in a therapeutic setting to correct seriously maladaptive behaviour, often involving emotional
problems. Self-management: behavioural and cognitive methods are self-administered or carried out
mainly by the person whose behaviour is being changed, often under the supervision of a
Characteristics of applied behaviour analysis
1) Focus on behaviour:
Because applied behaviour analysis focuses on behaviour, behaviour analysts place a strong emphasis
Defining people’s current status and progress in terms of behaviour rather than traits or other
Being able to measure the behaviour in some way
Whenever possible assessing covert behaviours such as fear in terms of overt actions the person
makes so that objective and reliable measurements can be made
The behaviours changed in an intervention are called target behaviours and efforts to change them can
be directed toward increasing or decreasing them depending on whether the problem being addressed
involves a deficit or an excess of the behaviour.
A behavioural deficit refers to a desirable behaviour the person does not perform often enough, long
enough or strongly enough. (eg. Not exercising enough)
A behavioural excess is an undesirable behaviour the person performs too frequently, too strongly for
too long. (eg. Drinking alcohol too often)
2) Importance of learning and the environment:
The application of behaviour change techniques assumes behaviour is generally malleable and can be
modified by providing appropriate new experiences.
The new experiences used in modifying behaviour involve altering aspects of the individual’s
environment mainly by changing the antecedents and consequences of the behaviour. Suppose a
teacher wanted to reduce a behavioural excess, such as students being out of their seats too much. If an
antecedent conditioning leading to the behaviour was the children’s being very far from one another
while working on group projects, for instance, the teacher could rearrange the seating. If the
consequences of students being out of their seats were more attractive than the consequences of being
in their seats, the teacher could introduce rewards for students who stayed in their seats for appropriate
amounts of time. The antecedent and consequences addressed in behaviour change programs are
usually in the person’s external environment. Although providing new learning experiences is highly successful in changing behaviour, certain factors can limit these effects. (behaviour analysis methods
might not be able to change certain pain conditions or brain seizures in epilepsy)
3) Scientific orientation:
The scientific method basically involves conducting research by carefully gathering data empirically (by
direct observation or measurement) or by analyzing and interpreting the data and specifying the precise
methods used to gather and analyze the data so that other researchers will know exactly what was done
and can repeat the procedures.
Applied behaviour analysis takes a pragmatic approach in the methods it uses to change behaviour. The
term pragmatic means ‘practical, rather than theoretical or idealistic’. Behaviour analysts often require
patients be an active participant in the process of modifying their behaviour.
How behaviour analysis developed:
During the 1 half of the 20 century, the dominant theories or systematic explanations of why people
behave the way they do proposed that behaviour resulted from various internal ‘forces’ such as drives,
motives, conflicts and traits.
The well-known psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud for example views a person’s behaviour as ana
expression of his or her personality and its component forces such as drives and conflicts. According to
this theory, each person’s personality develops through a maturationally determined series of stages, is
strongly affected by early experiences and becomes fairly entrenched in childhood.
A different perspective, called behaviourism began to emerge in the early 1900s. psychologists John B
Watson and B. F skinner were two of its main proponents. Behaviourism is the theoretical orientation
that emphasizes the study of observable and measureable behaviour and proposes that nearly all
behaviour is the product of experience. As a result, behaviour can be explained by the principles of
learning (particularly operant and respondent conditioning). This theory developed from two sources:
philosophy and science. Certain philosophical views, which had been proposed more than 200years
earlier had become widely accepted in England and the united states. For instance, the british
philosopher John Locke had proposed that a baby’s mind has no innate ideas and is essentially a blank
tablet (called tabula rasa in latin) on which experience “writes”.
Early behaviourists rejected philosophy’s unobservable concepts such as mind, consciousness and soul.
Instead, they used the scientific method to examine learning principles. Three lines of research were
especially important. First, Edward Thorndike studied how “satisfying” and “annoying” consequences –
reinforcement and punishment – affect learning. Second, Ivan Pavlov demonstrated in dogs the process
of respondent and conditioning. Third, B.F skinner named and defined two types of behaviour, operant
and respondent; designed an apparatus called an operant chamber (skinner box) to study the role of
reinforcement on behaviour; studied in detail the effects of consequences on behaviour and published
these contributions in the behaviour of organisms, which became a highly influential work. Two important studies set the stage for applying learning principles to change behaviour. In one of these
studies, John Watson and Rosalie Rayner conditioned an 11 month old boy they called Little albert to
fear a white rat.
Joseph Wolpe developed highly effective respondent conditioning therapy techniques for reducing
people’s strong fears and anxieties.
(review chapter 3 and 13 diagrams)
An intervention is a program or period of time in which action is taken to alter an existing situation such
as target behaviour.
A baseline has two meanings: it can refer to the data collected before the intervention begins or to the
period of time during which those data were collected. If your intervention worked, the frequency of
pinching during intervention would decline from its baseline level. The main role of baseline data is to
give a reference point for comparison during the intervention phase, by comparing baseline and
intervention data, we can tell how making arithmetic calculations and tables can help. When our data
vary a great deal, we can make the picture clearer by calculating the mean, or average value for a set of
A table is a systematic arrangement of data or other information in rows and columns for east
examination. It organises the data visually allowing us to see patterns and make comparisons in the data
plainly and quickly.
Graphic analysis is where behaviour analysts inspect graphed data to evaluate whether the
behaviour changed substantially when intervention techniques were implemented. Although
there is no widely accepted, specific criterion for deciding whether graphed data do or do not
reflect “substantial” behavioural changes, there is agreement that the standards should be
Judging whether the program is working after a week or so of an intervention involves assessing
two trends or general patterns of change in the behaviour over time. One trend reflects whether
the behaviour improved from baseline to intervention and the second trend reflects whether
the behaviour has continued to improve across time during the intervention.
A trend line is a straight line that ‘best fits’ or represents all of the data points in a time period
through or very near the data point for the corresponding mean.
A few other approaches can clarify the results of a graphic analysis. One way is to check the
amount of overlap in the data points for baseline and intervention: the lower the overlap, the
greater the intervention’s effect. In the ideal condition that there is no overlap:
1) For a behavioural excess, the lowest data point in baseline would have a higher value than the
highest data point in intervention. 2) For a behavioural deficit, the highest data point in baseline would be lower than the lowest data
point in intervention.
Trends in the data from programs to change behaviour can present problems making a graphic
analysis more difficult to interpret. Difficulties in evaluating trends can arise from data problems
of three types: excessive variability, a decreasing baseline trend (for behavioural excess) and an
increasing baseline trend (for a behavioural deficit).
In general, whenever baseline data show excessive variability or an increasing or decreasing
trend in relation to the behavioural goal, we should consider delaying the start of the
intervention and collecting additional baseline data.
If we want to know why the behaviour change occurred, we need to conduct research particularly
an experiment. Research in applied behaviour analysis typically uses single-subject designs which
examine the target behaviour of a person across time while an intervention is either in effect or
absent. In some cases, single-subject designs test more than one participant but the data collected
for the target behaviours are usually evaluated for each participant separately using graphic analysis
In applied behaviour analysis research, the presence or absence of an intervention is the
independent variable and the target behaviour is the dependent variable. When we
examine why a behaviour changed we are seeking a cause-effect answer.
Extraneous variables are factors such as noise and lighting levels in the room that could
affect the dependent variable by holding them constant across baseline and intervention
conditions. When researchers find that a variable such as reinforcement causes a
behavioural change, they demonstrate a functional reaction (the behaviour changes as a
function of the independent variable).
The AB design is the simplest type of single-subject research consisting of one baseline
phase and one intervention phase. We saw earlier an example of an AB design in which
Jeremy’s mother used several techniques to improve his public speaking skills. The AB
design may be useful when the purpose of research is simple to determine the extent to
which the behaviour changed but it is less than ideal when we want to isolate the cause of
the change. For example, AB design was sufficient to show that parent training in
behavioural methods may aid treatment programs for children who are hyperactive.
Reversal designs have a series of phases in which an intervention is alternately absent and
present, usually with 3 or 4 phases. The ABA design has 3 phases: baseline, intervention and
reversal (the last phase withdraws the intervention reinstating the baseline conditions). The
reversal phase allows us to see whether the behavioural changes that occurred during
intervention revert toward baseline levels when the intervention is absent. The ABAB design
contains 4 phases: baseline, intervention, reversal (baseline) and intervention.
Using reversal designs can present 3 problems for researchers:
1) The effect of the intervention may not be fully or substantially reversible. That is, when the
intervention is withdrawn, the behaviour may not revert toward baseline levels, under such conditions, our ability to interpret the results is impaired because we cannot be certain why the
behaviour changed during the 1 intervention phase (tennis players who learn effective
strategies for performing excellent forehand and backhand strokes are not likely to stop using
these strategies just because their trainers stopped reinforcing that behaviour.
2) The researchers must decide what conditions would constitute a reversal of the intervention.
For example, suppose an intervention consisted of reinforcing a behaviour that had not been
reinforced in baseline. To arrange a reversal, we could simply terminate the reinforcement
which is a common method and generally produces a very low level of responding. By
terminating reinforcement, we would eliminate both the reinforcement stimulus and the
contingency (performing the behaviour leads to reward) learned during the intervention.
Because changing the contingency separates the effects of the contingency from presenting the
reinforcing stimulus, it may be the best method for creating a reversal condition in research that
has the goal of demonstrating a functional relationship between reinforcement and changes in
the target behaviour.
3) The 3 problem with reversal designs is that it may be undesirable or unethical to withdraw an
intervention that appears to have produced a beneficial effect. Suppose, for example, an
intervention successfully reduced harmful behaviours in disordered children, it would not be
desirable or ethically appropriate for the researcher to withdraw the treatment to meet the
needs of a research design.
In Multiple baseline designs, more than one AB design is conducted with all baselines starting at
about the same time and proceeding together for a while.
The multiple baseline across behaviours design uses separate AB designs for each of two or
more different behaviours for a single individual in a particular setting. In using this research
design, we would monitor simultaneously two or more different behaviours starting at
baseline(a factory worker’s daily number of items made and amount of time spent at his or her
workstation and time in idle conversation). A multiple baseline across behaviours design was
used to examine the effects of an intervention to help children with asthma learn to use a
device that sprays medication into their airways when an asthma episode has begun.
The multiple baseline across subjects design uses separate AB designs for each of two or more
individual subjects for a particular behaviour in a particular setting. In this design, each
participant receives a baseline phase and an intervention phase for the same target behaviour.
Once the baseline data have stabilized for each subject, the intervention is applied to only one
of these individuals. When graphed data indicate the behaviour has changed for this participant,
we would apply the intervention to the next participant and so on. Assuming that the only
subject whose behaviour changes at any given time is the person newly exposed to the
intervention, we can infer with strong certainty that applying the intervention techniques
caused the change. A study used a multiple baseline across subjects design to examine the
effects of an intervention to prevent HIV infection among hospital nurses. The multiple baseline across design uses separate AB designs for each of two or more different
situations typically for a single individual and a specific behaviour. In this design, the participant
receives a baseline phase and an intervention phase in each of two or more situations (For
example, in different places or with different people present). As with the other multiple
baseline designs, the baselines in all situations begin at much the same time. Once the baseline
data are stable, the intervention is applied in only one of them. When the change is clear in that
situation, the intervention is applied in the next situation and so on. Assuming that the
behaviour only changes at any given time in the situation with the newly presented
intervention, we can conclude that applying the techniques caused the change. A study used a
multiple baseline across situations design to test the effects of an intervention of brief –mild
punishment procedures on a young man’s stuttering.
We hinted earlier at a potential problem in using multiple baseline designs: the target behaviour
may begin to change during a baseline phase before the intervention has been introduced.
Similar problems can arise in other multiple baseline designs. In the multiple baseline across
subjects design, changes in the target behaviour for the person receiving the intervention may
lead to changes in the behaviour of other individuals who are still in baseline. And in the
multiple baseline across situations design, changes in the target person’s behaviour in the
situation where the intervention was introduced may lead to changes when the person is in
other situations still lacking the intervention. These problems are probably not very common;
but if they can be expected, other research designs should be used.
Other single subject research designs that can determine whether an intervention caused
changes in behaviour divide the intervention phased into subphases in which performance
criteria are changed or different treatments are alternated.
A useful approach for demonstrating that intervention techniques caused changes in a
behaviour is called the changing criterion design. As the name implies, the criterion for
successful performance changes over time, usually becoming more rigorous. For instance, when
we start the intervention, we may require a fairly lax level of performance for receiving a
reward. After the behaviour has stabilized at that level, we may raise the criterion to a higher
level and when the behaviour stabilizes again, we may raise the criterion again. Is the behaviour
increases or decreases in accordance with each change in the criterion, we can conclude that
the reward is responsible for the behaviour changes. An example of a changing criterion design
comes from a study of the effects of a token reinforcement system on exercising among 11 yr
old obese and nonobese boys.
Alternating treatment designs (also called simultaneous treatment or multi element designs)
examine the effects of two or more treatments each of which is conducted within the same
intervention phase with the same person. Although both treatments are applied in the same
phase, they are separated in time and alternated. Thus, each treatment might be applied on
different days or at different times during the day throughout the intervention phase. By
examining graphs of the data, we can determine if one treatment is consistently more effective
than another in changing the person’s target behaviour. An example of an alternating treatment
design examined the tutoring behaviours of school children after they were trained in two tutoring procedures to help classmates in spelling. The standard tutoring procedure involved
having the tutor give the student reinforcers for correct spellings and provide corrective
feedback when a word was misspelled. The modified tutoring procedure had the tutor use
praise and other reinforcers for correct spelling and give corrective feedback as soon as a
student gave an incorrect letter in a word.
Professionals commonly evaluate three practical dimensions that relate to the behavioural changes the
intervention produced the changed behaviour’s generalization and durability, the behaviour’s amount
and importance to the person’s everyday life and functioning and the intervention’s costs versus
Generalization and durability of the changes:
For a behaviour change intervention to be viewed as effective and useful, the improved behaviour must
generalize to the target person’s natural environment and must be durable. Thus, people who have
learned how to avoid antecedents that lead to an unwanted behaviour such as smoking or drinking must
continue to use these skills in their usual environment.
The amount of change an intervention produces in the target person’s problem behaviour and
the importance to the changes to the person’s everyday life and functioning are critical
dimensions in evaluating a program’s effectiveness. The concept of clinical significance refers to
the degree to which the change in behaviour is meaningful to the target person’s life and
functioning.; meaningful change is usually defined as large and bringing the behaviour into the
The second outcome of behaviour change that indicates the amount or importance of the
change is its social validity, the utility and adaptiveness of the change for the target person’s
Cost-benefit ratio or the extent to which the costs of providing the treatment are outweighed by
the money saved in the long run.
After an intervention has been completed, the professionals who supervised the project usually write a
report to describe the target behaviours, intervention techniques and outcomes of the program. Often,
these reports are published in professional journals; in other cases, they are kept on file in counseling
offices or institutions.
A functional assessment is a set of procedures by which we can identify connections between a
behaviour and its antecedents and consequences. Some functional assessments are highly
rigorous, detailed and complete in the way they are carried out as they are in carefully
conducted research. Although the antecedents and consequences in functional assessment are usually overt, they can be covert too. Keep in mind that an antecedent is not necessarily a
discreet event such as someone calling your name; it can be a situation such as the time and
place or another person who is present when the target behaviour does or does not occur.
A main purpose of conducting a functional assessment is to identify the consequences of the target
Escape is a form of negative reinforcement: We may learn much behaviour because they end or
postpone aversive circumstances. Escape gets us out of something we don’t want. We all learn
much everyday behaviour that function to get us out of disliked situations. If you dislike a song
you hear on the radio or show you see on TV, you change the channel the station or channel.
When roommates or neighbours are making too much noise, you ask them to tone it down.
Attention as reinforcement/ getting attention from other people is often an effective positive
reinforcer. The type of attention we get that serves as a reinforcer is usually intended to
compliment us or make us feel better. The attention can include a look that says, “wow, you
look great,” for example; or a statement of praise for work we’ve done; or just a hug to soothe
us when we look distressed.
In automatic reinforcement, the behaviour produces a reinforcer directly, such as when we massage an
aching muscle to make it feel better. Automatic reinforcement can be positive or negative types:
In automatic positive reinforcement, the behaviour directly leads to a reinforcing stimulus being
introduced or added. For instance, if you sketch a picture and like what it looks like, you’ve
received automatic positive reinforcement for your sketching.
In automatic negative reinforcement, the behaviour directly leads to the reduction or removal
of an aversive situation. Massaging a sore muscle or taking aspirin to relieve a headache are
In each of these situations, the reinforcement is nor provided by someone else. In fact, to conclude that
reinforcement is automatic, we typically need to rule out all other sources of reinforcement, especially
social sources. For instance, if the behaviour persists even the person is alone, we have evidence that
the reinforcement is automatic.
If receiving a tangible item for performing behaviour strengthens that behaviour, that item is a tangible
reinforcer. Many of our behaviours result in access to tangible reinforcers. For example, we learned in
childhood how to shop for clothing; and for the clothing we now have, we learned how to find a
particular item in a dresser or closet so we can wear it. Sometimes problem behaviours produce
tangible reinforcers. For instance, a child may have a tantrum behaviour he or she wants a toy and cant
find or reach it.
A target behaviour can be one of two types:
1) Behavioural excess – undesirable behaviour the person performs too frequently, too stronyly or
for too long (examples include someone having tantrums or smoking cigarettes) 2) Behavioural deficit – desirable behaviour the person does not perform often enough, long
enough, well enough or strongly enough (examples include someone not talking loudly or not
The approaches for identifying antecedents and consequences are as follows:
indirect methods which use questionnaires and interviews and interviews
direct methods in which instances of the behaviour are carefully observed in their natural settings
experimental methods/ functional analysis in which behaviour analysts manipulate antecedents and
consequences to see their effects on the behaviour.
Indirect methods (interviews and questionnaires):
Notice that the questions ask about conditions related to the person’s performance and non
performance of the target behaviour which means that they can asses antecedents and consequences
for behavioural excesses and deficits.
Direct methods (observation of the behaviour):
When using direct methods of functional assessment, someone has the job of watching for and
describing the actual target behaviour and its antecedent and consequences in its natural environment.
1) Unstructured descriptive assessment, in which observations are done without altering natural
events in the environment in any way.
2) Structured descriptive assessment which involves observations in the natural environment while
specific antecedent events are manipulated systematically but the behaviours consequences are
allowed to happen as usual and are not altered.
A-B-C Log – a chronological record of the target behaviour’s occurrences and nonoccurrences
along of the antecedents and consequences of each instances. This form has been filled out for
a boy’s tantrum behaviours. When we conduct a descriptive assessment, we use an A-B-C Log to
record data regarding the target behaviour. For each instance of the behaviour’s occurrence and