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Summary and Objectives

Chapter Summary

Behavior analysts study behavior—the activity of living organisms. Although the study of behavior includes single responses, applied behavior analysts are interested in larger sets of socially significant behavior referred to as a response class. A response class consists of topographically similar and dissimilar behaviors all of which have the same effect on the environment. The environment consists of a variety of stimulus events.

Stimulus events can be discussed in terms of their physical, temporal, and functional features, along with their relationship to behavior. A group of stimuli that share common features among these dimensions make up a stimulus class. Stimulus changes occurring both before (antecedent) and after (consequence) have one or two basic effects on behavior: (a) an immediate but temporary increase or decrease in the frequency of behavior, and/or (b) a delayed but relatively permanent effect on the frequency of the behavior in the future.

Behaviors of interest include both respondent and operant behaviors. Respondent behaviors are elicited by antecedent stimuli. Respondent conditioning occurs through stimulus-stimulus pairing procedures. Respondent behaviors include reflexes, such as an eye blink to clean the eye. Respondent behaviors are considered “ready-made” behaviors where no “learning” is required. On the other hand, operant behavior is any behavior whose future frequency is determined by its history of consequences. Operant behaviors are defined by their effects, not by the form of the behavior.

Operant conditioning is an automatic process that refers to the selective effects of consequences on behavior. Operant conditioning includes both reinforcement, the effect of which is a behavior increase; and punishment, the effect of which is a behavior decrease. The term positive refers to the presentation of a stimulus event. The term negative refers to the removal of a stimulus event.

Positive reinforcement occurs when a behavior is followed by the presentation of a stimulus event and the future frequency of the behavior increases under similar environmental conditions. Negative reinforcement occurs when a behavior is followed by the removal of a stimulus event and the future frequency of the behavior increases under similar environmental conditions.

Positive punishment occurs when a behavior is followed by the presentation of a stimulus event and the future frequency of the behavior decreases under similar environmental conditions. Negative punishment occurs when a behavior is followed by the removal of a stimulus event and the future frequency of the behavior decreases under similar environmental conditions.

Consequences—either positive or negative—only affect future behavior. Consequences select response classes, not individual responses. Reinforcing or punishing consequences are most effective when they are immediate. Consequences select any behavior that precedes them whether or not a behavior change tactic is being practiced. Behavior change tactics are the methods derived from one or more basic principles of behavior and utilized by applied behavior analysts. A principle of behavior is a description of the functional relation(s) between a behavior and one or more of its controlling variables that has generality across organisms, species, settings, and behaviors.

The study of human operant behavior is complex and includes the analysis of lengthy response chains, verbal behavior, and motivating operations.

Chapter Objectives

  1. Define behavior, response, and response class.
  2. State examples of behavior, response, and response class.
  3. Define stimulus and stimulus class.
  4. Define and state examples of positive reinforcement.
  5. Define and state examples of negative reinforcement.
  6. Define and provide examples of conditioned and unconditioned reinforcement.
  7. Define and state examples of positive punishment.
  8. Define and state examples of negative punishment.
  9. Define and provide examples of stimulus control.
  10. Define and provide examples of establishing operations.
  11. Describe a behavioral contingency.
  12. Describe the respondent conditioning paradigm.
  13. Provide an example of the respondent conditioning paradigm.
  14. Describe the operant conditioning paradigm.
  15. Provide an example of the operant conditioning paradigm.





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