CHAPTER 5: Decreasing a Behaviour with Extinction
Extinction : If in a situation, an individual emits a previously reinforced response and that
response is not followed by a reinforcing consequences then b) that person is less likely
to do the same thing again when he/she encounters a similar situation.
*If a response has been increased in frequency through positive reinforcement, then
completely ceasing to reinforce the response will cause it to decrease in frequency*.
(SEE EXAMPLE on page 61 2 paragraph).
It can take a few times for the repetition of the behaviour before the frequency of the
This is important because if humans keep on performing useless behaviours than our
species will disappear.
*Extinction is just one of the methods of decreasing behaviour. For example if a child
is persistent in swearing and the parents decide to implement a program that decreases
the number of swearing if the child swears once, the parents will say stop that! in
this case, swearing decreased because it was followed by a punisher (a reprimand). or
by saying You just lost 25 cents from your allowance this kind of method is
called response-cost punishment.
Extinction differs from these methods in that behaviour is weakened as a result of
being emitted without being reinforced.
Factors Influencing the Effectiveness of Extinction
1. Controlling reinforcers for the behaviour that is to be decreased.
Example from the book (important) Reinforcers represented by other people or
by the physical environment can undo your good efforts at applying extinction.
Unfortunately, it is often difficult to convince others of this if they are not familiar
with the principles of positive reinforcement and extinction.
For example: if several nursery school staff are ignoring a childs tantrumming
behaviour and another staff member enters and says Oh, I can get this child to stop
crying.- here, Tommy, have a candy, then Tommy is likely to stop crying at that
moment. But in the long run his crying may increase in frequency because of that
In such cases its necessary either to control the behaviour of individuals who might
sabotage an extinction procedure or to carry out the procedure in their absence.