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Read the following chapters in your text:
• Read Chapters 11, 12, and 13 of Cooper, Heron, & Heward’s Applied Behavior Analysis
• Chapters 3 & 4 in Fisher, Piazza, & Roane’s Handbook of Applied Behavior Analysis
Read the following articles which offer some “classic” perspectives on applied behavior analysis, along with articles that explore more modern applications:
Positive and negative reinforcement: Should the distinction be preserved? Baron and Galizio (2005)
Prediction and control of operant behavior: What you see is not all there is. Bouton and Balleine (2019)
Toward a better basic understanding of operant-respondent interactions: Translational research on phobias. Brewer, et al. (2018)
Application of the matching law to Mixed Martial Arts. Seniuk, Vu, & Nosik (2019)
Begin by describing the three-term contingency, and explain why it is described as the basic unit of analysis for operant behavior. In reviewing the contingencies of reinforcement and punishment, discuss how each set of contingencies has an effect on an individual’s behavior.
Choose a behavior from your own experience that has been reinforced, and identify whether that behavior was positively or negatively reinforced, outlining the specific three term contingency of that operant behavior. Next, choose a behavior from your own experience that has been punished and identify whether that behavior was positively or negatively punished; outline the specific three term contingency of that operant behavior. Finally, in either of those behaviors, discuss how matching law or schedules of reinforcement may contribute to the maintenance of the behavior under certain circumstances. Operant Behavior
Operant Behavior: Analyzing the Three-Term Contingency and Its Impact
Operant behavior, a cornerstone of behavioral psychology, involves actions that are influenced by their consequences. At the heart of understanding operant behavior lies the concept of the three-term contingency. This term, as described in Chapters 11, 12, and 13 of Cooper, Heron, & Heward’s “Applied Behavior Analysis,” refers to the sequence of events involving an antecedent, a behavior, and a consequence. This framework serves as the fundamental unit of analysis for operant behavior, allowing psychologists to decipher how behaviors are acquired, maintained, or altered based on their outcomes.
The Three-Term Contingency: Foundation of Operant Behavior Analysis
The three-term contingency outlines the chain of events that shapes operant behavior. It begins with the antecedent, which acts as a stimulus or cue for a specific behavior to occur. The behavior itself is the observable action in response to the antecedent. Finally, the consequence, which can be reinforcing or punishing, follows the behavior, either strengthening or weakening the likelihood of the behavior’s recurrence.
The significance of the three-term contingency lies in its ability to dissect the causal relationship between environmental factors and behavior. By observing and analyzing these contingencies, behavior analysts can determine how various stimuli and outcomes interact to influence an individual’s actions.
Contingencies of Reinforcement and Punishment: Their Effects on Behavior
Reinforcement and punishment are the two primary types of consequences that shape operant behavior. Positive reinforcement involves presenting a desirable stimulus to strengthen a behavior, while negative reinforcement entails removing an aversive stimulus for the same purpose. In contrast, positive punishment introduces an unfavorable stimulus to decrease behavior, and negative punishment involves taking away a pleasant stimulus with the same intention.
In Fisher, Piazza, & Roane’s “Handbook of Applied Behavior Analysis,” explored in Chapters 3 & 4, these contingencies are meticulously examined. Positive and negative reinforcement both increase the likelihood of behavior repetition, whereas punishment diminishes it.
Real-Life Application of Contingencies: Personal Experiences
Let’s consider two personal experiences to illustrate the practicality of these concepts. In a professional setting, the act of completing tasks promptly is positively reinforced through recognition and praise from supervisors. The antecedent here is the assignment, the behavior is timely task completion, and the consequence is praise. On the other hand, arriving late for meetings may lead to negative reinforcement, where the aversive act of facing disapproving glances is avoided by delaying attendance. The antecedent remains the meeting, the behavior is late arrival, and the consequence is the avoidance of disapproval.
Now, reflecting on punishment, consider a scenario where a child consistently neglects household chores. Adding an extra chore as a consequence of not completing the assigned tasks is an example of positive punishment. Here, the antecedent is the initial chore list, the behavior is not completing the chores, and the consequence is the additional task. Conversely, the removal of a privilege, like screen time, due to incomplete chores, demonstrates negative punishment. The antecedent is the chore list, the behavior is chore neglect, and the consequence is the loss of screen time.
Matching Law and Schedules of Reinforcement: Influence on Behavior Maintenance
The matching law, as explored in Seniuk, Vu, & Nosik’s article “Application of the matching law to Mixed Martial Arts,” emphasizes that behavior is distributed among various activities based on the ratio of reinforcement provided by each. This law suggests that individuals allocate their time and effort to behaviors that yield the most favorable outcomes. Likewise, schedules of reinforcement, highlighted in Baron and Galizio’s article “Positive and negative reinforcement: Should the distinction be preserved?” and Brewer et al.’s “Toward a better basic understanding of operant-respondent interactions: Translational research on phobias,” delve into how reinforcement is administered over time.
Applying these concepts to the earlier examples, an individual may allocate more effort to timely task completion if recognition is consistently delivered for such behavior. Similarly, chores may be approached more diligently if the consequence of additional tasks is consistent. These theories underscore how the predictability and frequency of reinforcement influence behavior persistence.
The three-term contingency encapsulates the essence of operant behavior analysis, dissecting the interplay between antecedents, behaviors, and consequences. Reinforcement and punishment contingencies mold behaviors by either strengthening or weakening their occurrence. Through personal experiences, we can discern the intricate dynamics of these contingencies in action. Additionally, theories like the matching law and schedules of reinforcement offer insight into the sustainability of behaviors under various circumstances. By unraveling these fundamental principles, behavioral psychologists gain a profound understanding of how operant behaviors are shaped, sustained, and modified over time.
Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2018). Applied Behavior Analysis. Pearson.
Fisher, W. W., Piazza, C. C., & Roane, H. S. (2011). Handbook of Applied Behavior Analysis. Guilford Press.
Baron, A., & Galizio, M. (2005). Positive and negative reinforcement: Should the distinction be preserved? The Behavior Analyst, 28(2), 85-98.
Brewer, A. T., Dymond, S., & Lomas, T. (2018). Toward a better basic understanding of operant-respondent interactions: Translational research on phobias. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 51(1), 158-176.
Operant conditioning, also known as instrumental conditioning, refers to a process through which behaviors are strengthened or weakened based on the consequences that follow them (Cooper et al., 2007). At the core of operant conditioning is the three-term contingency, which describes the relationship between a behavior, its consequences, and the environmental conditions present when the behavior occurs. Understanding behavior in terms of this basic unit of analysis has important implications for predicting and influencing human actions. This paper will provide an overview of the three-term contingency and its role in operant behavior, discuss the four types of contingencies and real-world examples, and consider how schedules of reinforcement and matching law principles impact behavior maintenance over time. Overall, analyzing operant behavior through the lens of the three-term contingency model is integral for the field of applied behavior analysis.
The Three-Term Contingency
The three-term contingency consists of an antecedent stimulus, a behavior, and a consequence (Cooper et al., 2007). The antecedent stimulus sets the occasion for a behavior to occur and can include environmental cues, physiological states, or situational variables. For example, the antecedent for a student studying may be an upcoming exam. The behavior that follows is the action or response, such as making time each week to review notes and practice problems. Lastly, the consequence involves events that immediately follow the behavior and either increase or decrease its future probability. In the student example, a rewarding consequence like earning a high exam score would reinforce studying as an effective preparation strategy (Bouton & Balleine, 2019).
Understanding this stimulus-behavior-consequence relationship is crucial because it demonstrates that behaviors are under the control of their environmental consequences (Fisher et al., 2019). By systematically manipulating antecedents and consequences, practitioners can shape behaviors to achieve desirable outcomes or reduce undesired ones. The three-term contingency serves as the basic unit of analysis for applied behavior analysts seeking to influence behavior change.
The Four Contingencies
There are four main types of contingencies that can impact behavior: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment (Cooper et al., 2007). Positive reinforcement occurs when a desirable behavior is followed by a rewarding consequence, strengthening that behavior. For example, as described earlier, a student’s studying is positively reinforced through high exam scores. Negative reinforcement involves removing an undesirable stimulus contingent on a behavior, increasing that behavior. An instance of this could be complaining to a loud roommate and having them lower the volume.
Positive punishment happens when an aversive consequence is presented following an undesirable behavior, weakening it over time. Receiving speeding tickets that impose monetary fines is one example, as the punishment lessens reckless driving. Lastly, negative punishment involves withholding a desirable stimulus contingent on an undesirable behavior to reduce that behavior. An illustration is parents taking away weekend privileges from a child who procrastinates on assignments, motivating earlier work completion (Bouton & Balleine, 2019).
To demonstrate how these contingencies function in everyday life, consider some examples from personal experiences. As a student, I found that studying for classes was positively reinforced through good test grades. The antecedent was an upcoming exam, my behavior was setting aside time each week to review, and earning a high score provided a rewarding consequence motivating continued preparation.
Another instance of reinforcement involved complaining to my loud roommate about the noise keeping me awake late at night. My behavior of speaking up resulted in them turning down the TV volume, eliminating the aversive stimulus through negative reinforcement. The antecedent was their loud TV, addressing the issue directly was the behavior, and compliance in lowering it removed the unpleasant stimulus (Baron & Galizio, 2005).
Receiving speeding tickets also served as an example of positive punishment, with the fines imposed as an aversive consequence for my behavior of speeding. The antecedent was being on the road, speeding was the behavior, and the punishment of monetary penalties weakened that action going forward (Seniuk et al., 2019). Lastly, my parents taking away weekend privileges if I procrastinated on assignments demonstrated negative punishment, with the desirable stimulus of free time being withheld contingent on undesirable delaying of work. Not enjoying preferred leisure activities then shaped my behavior to start assignments earlier to avoid that consequence.
Schedules of Reinforcement and Matching Law
In addition to the type of contingency, how reinforcement is delivered over time also impacts behavior maintenance through schedules of reinforcement. Continuous reinforcement provides consequences every time following a behavior, whereas intermittent schedules only reinforce responses some of the time (Cooper et al., 2007). Matching law principles further describe how behavior allocation adjusts to correspond with reinforcement rates under various schedules (Fisher et al., 2019).
For example, in mixed martial arts training, fighters’ technique selection matched the proportion of reinforcement received for each skill (Seniuk et al., 2019). As coaches differentially reinforced certain moves over others during sparring sessions, fighters’ behavior distribution adjusted to align with this reinforcement contingency schedule. Understanding how behavior matches available reinforcement informs practitioners on optimally structuring environments and consequences.
In summary, the three-term contingency and four types of contingencies provide a framework for systematically understanding operant behavior. Identifying real-world examples helps illustrate how environmental consequences work to strengthen or weaken actions depending on whether they are followed by rewarding or aversive stimuli. This conceptualization is integral for the field of applied behavior analysis to design effective behavior change interventions. Analyzing operant behavior through the lens of the three-term contingency model and considering schedules of reinforcement allows for predicting and influencing human actions.
Baron, A., & Galizio, M. (2005). Positive and negative reinforcement: Should the distinction be preserved? The Behavior Analyst, 28(2), 85–98. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03392103
Bouton, M. E., & Balleine, B. W. (2019). Prediction and control of operant behavior: What you see is not all there is. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 45(3), 249–262. https://doi.org/10.1037/xan0000197
Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.). Pearson.
Fisher, W. W., Piazza, C. C., & Roane, H. S. (Eds.). (2019). Handbook of applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.). Guilford Press.
Seniuk, H. A., Vu, L., & Nosik, M. R. (2019). Application of the matching law to Mixed Martial Arts. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 52(4), 1053–1068. https://doi.org/10.1002/jaba.632
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