Chapter 14: Applying Extinction
Extinction is a basic principle of behavior in which eliminating the reinforcing consequence for a
behavior results in a decrease in the frequency of the behavior.
Read The Case Of Willy pg 303-305
Using Extinction To Decrease A Problem Behavior
• Extinction is one of the first approaches that should be considered for treating a problem
• As long as problem behavior continues, there must be a reinforcing consequence contingent on
the behavior that is maintaining it.
• To decrease the behavior, you must identify the reinforcing consequence and eliminate it.
• When the problem behavior is no longer reinforced, it will extinguish
Steps in Using Extinction
1. Collecting Data To Assess Treatment Effects
• You must record the problem behavior before and after the use of the extinction
procedure to determine whether the behavior decreased when extinction was
• You will need :
o A behavioral definition of the problem behavior to be decreased.
o A reliable data collection method.
o A baseline assessment to determine the level of the problem behavior before the
use of extinction and whether generalization occurred.
o Continued data collection over time to assess the maintenance of behavior
2. Identifying the Reinforcer for the Problem Behavior through Functional Assessment
• In functional assessment, you identify the antecedents and consequences of the problem
• You must identify the specific reinforcer for the problem behavior so that you can
eliminate it in an extinction procedure.
www.notesolution.com • You cannot assume that a particular reinforcer is maintaining a problem behavior.
• The same problem exhibited by different people may be maintained by different
• For example, one child’s aggressive behavior might be reinforced by the parent’s
attentions, whereas another child’s aggressive behavior might be reinforced by getting
toys from siblings.
• Sometimes, the same behavior exhibited by a particular person in different situations
might be maintained by different reinforcers.
• For example, a young child cries when she has trouble tying her shoes and the crying is
reinforced when the parents help tie her shoes. This same child might cry when the
parents make a request and the crying is reinforced when the parents allow her to escape
from the task that was requested.
3. Eliminating the Reinforcer after Each Instance of The Problem Behavior
• Have you Indentified the Reinforcer?
o Failure to eliminate the particular stimulus event that functions as the reinforcer for
the problem behavior is failure to implement the extinction procedure correctly.
o The extinction procedure may be different depending on the reinforcer that is
maintaining the problem behavior (social positive reinforcement, social negative
reinforcement, automatic positive reinforcement, or automatic negative
o For example, when Iwata and his colleagues worked with three children with
developmental disabilities who engaged in self-injurious beahvior (SIB), they found
that the reinforcer for SIB was different for each child.
• Can You Eliminate the Reinforcer?
o You must determine whether the change agent (parent, teacher, staff member etc)
can control the reinforcer.
o If the change agent has no control over the reinforcer, extinction cannot be
o For example, a teenager plays her stereo so loudly that it disturbs the rest of the
family. The reinforcer for this behavior is the loud music.
www.notesolution.com o Unless the parents have installed an electronic device on the stereo that does not
permit the volume to be turned up beyond a certain level, the parents do not have
control over this reinforcer.
• Is Extinction Safe to Use?
o Even if you have identified the reinforcer for the problem behavior and the change
agent has control over the reinforcer, you cannot use extinction until you are certain
that it is safe to eliminate the reinforcer.
o For example, Rupert is a young man with severe mental retardation who works in a
sheltered workshop during