Behavior 101 #5: Differential Reinforcement

Now that we’ve learned about the four quadrants of reinforcement and punishment, how EOs and AOs effect these, how to identify the function of a behavior, and how to use schedules of reinforcement, we can start to think about how to use these behavior principles to alter behavior. In order to do that, we must learn how items are discriminated within our environment. How do we know that a spoon is good for eating soup, but a knife is better for cutting? We’ve learned to discriminate between these two things. If we use a spoon versus a knife for soup, we’ll get access to our reinforcement (the soup) must faster and with much less effort. But if I try and cut a prime rib with a spoon, well, I’ll be making a huge mess and probably just pick the thing up and take a bite out of it before I’m successful with cutting it. Our history of differential reinforcement tells us that the quickest way to get the soup in our mouth is with the use of a spoon, but the quickest way to cut the steak will be with a knife.

Differential reinforcement is the systematic use of positive reinforcement used in behavior modification programs- usually to get rid of unwanted behaviors and to increase wanted or replacement behaviors. Basically you reinforce behaviors under certain circumstances, and don’t reinforce under other circumstances. The target behavior is put on extinction, and replaced with some other behavior, depending on what type differential reinforcement program you are using. There are several types of differential reinforcement, each one used depending on the circumstances and function of the behavior.

DRO- differential reinforcement of other behaviors. In this situation the instructor will reinforce any appropriate behavior that is occurring instead of the target behavior. For instance, you set a timer for 10 minutes and reinforce at the end of the 10 minutes, if the target behavior has not occurred. Any other behavior can occur as long as it’s not the target behavior. The length of time you choose will be dependent on how often the behavior is occurring, and how short of an interval it needs to be to be initially successful.

DRH- differential reinforcement of high rates of behavior. The instructor reinforces the behavior only after it has occurred at high rates in a given period of time, generally starting at a rate slightly higher than is already occurring and often increasing until a predetermined rate is reached. As with DRO, the length of time you choose will be dependent on how often the behavior is occurring, and how short of an interval it needs to be to be initially successful.

DRL- differential reinforcement of low rates of behavior. The opposite of a DRH program. The instructor reinforces the behavior for occurring at low rates in a period of time, generally progressing lower as the program goes on until a predetermined rate is reached. Again- you guessed it- the length of time of each interval is dependent on how often the behavior occurs, etc. etc.

DRA- differential reinforcement of alternative behavior. This is similar to a DRO, except you’re looking to reinforce only a specific alternative behavior, usually each time if occurs, instead of any appropriate behavior.

DRI- differential reinforcement of an incompatible behavior. The instructor reinforces a behavior that is incompatible with the target behavior, which means the target behavior cannot occur at the same time as the incompatible behavior. The incompatible behavior can be physically incompatible, or functionally incompatible. You might reinforce a person singing a song to eliminate that person’s whistling behavior (Or you reinforce them keeping their mouth shut?).

If you're sitting, you can't also be running!

If you’re sitting, you can’t also be running!

Differential reinforcement in some way is responsible for most of our learning. You’re differentially reinforced for saying “Mom” when addressing your mom, but not when addressing your dad. You’re reinforced for sitting at your desk in school and doing work when in English, but for during gym. Or recess. Or after school hours (assuming you’re not in detention- what did you do this time?).

When using differential reinforcement, it’s important to ignore the unwanted behavior, and reinforcement according to your DR strategy. Don’t forget how to properly reinforce:

Reinforce immediately
Reinforce frequently
Reinforce enthusiastically
Describe the behavior (e.g. “Good Sit!!!”)
Use a variety of proven reinforcers

Be prepared for an extinction bust, where the behavior gets worse before it gets better. Differential reinforcement is a good way to combat unwanted behaviors without the use of punishment.

Conversations with River


IMG_1900-2Today, while I was asking my girl River a question for around the 20th time on our ninety minute public outing, I was thinking about how freaking boring our life together would be if we didn’t have an ongoing flow of conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I do not mean that I stand in a park and talk to my dog like some crazy dog lady (I would… never do that… ) but we do indeed have a back and forth stream of communication. Here are a few things I posed to her today; in long written word here, but we worked through them with body language and a few single words only:

1. “Would you like to enter this fenced park to go swimming in the lake? There are other dogs off leash there, and I know that can be uncomfortable for you, so I’ll let you decide.”

She chose to take a short walk around the area first so she could take in the environment and then pulled me towards the entrance. Once off leash, she ran to the lake and waited for the toy to be thrown without even glancing at another dog. Remember folks, this is my “extremely dog reactive” cattle dog bitch I’m talking about.

2. “That five month old puppy is approaching you. You know you have to ability to not react, and if you quietly lay down and wait for me to deal with the situation you can get back to the toy throwing sooner. Oof. She just stole your toy… Please stay there and I will get it back for you and be very, very happy with you.”

She did exactly that. A very sweet but slightly foolish Doodle puppy stole River’s toy less than a foot away from her feet not once but TWICE and River let it happen. She has learned over the last several years that I can help her handle these predicaments; she does not have to use her teeth or other scary displays on strange dogs.

Heel position right next to the water's edge: a very difficult thing to ask a swim-obsessed cowdog!

Heel position right next to the water’s edge: a very difficult thing to ask a swim-obsessed cow dog!

3. “I know it’s hard for you to think while swimming, but I would really like to do some Rally-O proofing exercises with you and reward all of your brilliance with toy throws. Can you work with me this close to the water and new strange stimuli and I’ll promise to make my other criteria lower?”

She responded with near excellent fronts, finishes, and short steps of heeling less than ten feet from the water! Rally exercises are still pretty new to her, so I was asking a lot, but she gave me her best.

You’ll notice that I never gave her a traditional command during these exchanges. In fact, during our actual verbal communication I did not give her a single cue word other than our Rally practice cues. Leaving other dogs alone, down stays while I got her stolen toy back, and her focus on me versus the humans and dogs in the park were all given. I let her choose what she wanted to do every step of the way and each action of mine was directly in response to her. If she hadn’t pulled me towards the entrance of the park, I would have kept walking down the trail and waited to visit the swimming area until others had left with their dogs. If she had made a move to react negatively towards that puppy (which, honestly, would have been warranted!), I would have moved us much further away and possibly left the area. If she hadn’t been able to focus on me enough in that environment to practice Rally moves, I would have abandoned the idea of difficult proofing until another time with fewer distractions.

These are just a couple of examples from one day, but the list goes on and on; I try to make me and my dogs’ time together one of mutual enjoyment whenever possible. I try to give them as many choices about their life as I safely and sanely am able to. Life with dogs is just far more interesting and rewarding when you treat them as a thinking being with thoughts and feelings about the world. Three years ago, I never imagined that my “super reactive” cattle dog could swim in a fenced dog park with other dogs around without having a complete fit every five seconds. But she did indeed play for over an hour today, with! other! dogs! around!, and I have the photos to prove it. All of our hard work towards building our relationship, trust, and teamwork is paying off. I haven’t needed to teach her any new cues lately. I have never used punishment based training methods for her dog reactivity, and I have never forced her to do anything around dogs she absolutely did not want to do. I did not flood her, I did not strap an e-collar on, she never wore a pinch or choke chain, I didn’t have to train a ton of commands and throw away all of her choices to follow them, and yet… I have a dog I can take to a public lake off leash without huge reactions. Her recall is pretty stellar, her focus is lovely, and she is a mostly happy (I won’t lie: there is still some level of stress around strange dogs and sometimes she can still get a snark in if it’s needed!) little dog who once tried to bite the face off every single strange fellow canine she came across. We constantly improve together thanks in large part to the talks we have like the ones we had today.

So: next time you’re out for a walk, try having a conversation with your dog. You might be surprised how much you can communicate and learn from them without ever opening your mouth.

Behavior 101 #4: Behavioral Operations

To review previous posts in this series go here:
#1- 4 quadrants
#2- Reinforcement schedules & Extinction
#3- Functions of Behavior

As we learned about in previous Behavior 101 posts- all behavior functions for a reason and is controlled by what consequence follows it- reinforcement or punishment. What is reinforcing or punishing to me is not necessarily the same for you. If I washed your car, and in return you gave me the latest copy of The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, I’d probably be over at your house washing your car every month. If you gave that to my husband, he’d probably roll his eyes and throw a soapy sponge at you. He lives with a behaviorist- the majority of his day is spent trying to get me to shut up about it. He couldn’t care less about the field. But offer him maybe the latest BBC Top Gear show or magazine, or some random performance car part- and he’d be a happy camper. He’ll be washing your car frequently. Our reinforcers are completely different.

But what about the very next day? Maybe I’m reading my new copy of JABA and you come inside and tell me, “I drove through the mud. My car needs another wash.” I’d probably point to the hose and tell you to do it yourself. Why? I was reinforced for doing it yesterday- was it not really reinforcement? Reinforcement is supposed to increase future instances of that behavior, but now, I’m not washing the car. Was it really punishment? To understand what’s happening here you have to understand the concepts of Establishing Operations (EO) and Abolishing Operations (AO).

Establishing operations and abolishing operations are anything that temporarily changes the value of a reinforcer, either for better or for worse. And establishing operation will momentarily increase the effectiveness of a reinforcer, while an abolishing operation will decrease the effectiveness. Establishing operations are sometimes knows as motivating operations (MOs), because at the time, you are motivated to gain access to that reinforcers. You gave me a copy of JABA yesterday, so I’m not motivated to earn another one. I’m currently satiated on it. Plus, I already have it. I don’t need two of the same issue. I probably haven’t even finished reading the one that you gave me yesterday.


What are the odds right now of you getting up from your computer and getting a banana? That would, of course, depend on several things. Are you hungry? Hunger is an establishing operation. It will increase the value of the banana (assuming you like bananas) or anything you like to eat. But what if you just ate a huge feast and you’re so full you have to unbutton your pants to be comfortable. Chances are, you’re not going to want anything edible I have to offer you, even if it’s your favorite thing. You’re full, you’re satiated on food, and this is an abolishing operation. Your favorite food will still be a reinforcer, just not right now. Maybe later, when you’re hungry, you’ll be more willing to do things to get food. I’m certainly not going to make myself a grilled cheese if I’ve just eaten a huge meal. But if I’m hungry- grilled cheese making behavior is pretty likely (as I do like a good grilled cheese).


Back to the banana, though. You’re sitting at your computer, next to me, and there’s a banana in the kitchen. You’re not hungry, or maybe you don’t like bananas, so the likelihood of you getting up to get a banana is pretty much zero. What if I offered you 10€ to get me a banana? You might be a little more likely to get that banana. I’ve put an Establishing Operation on the behavior of getting a banana, because now the reinforcer value has changed- it went from not very reinforcing (eating a banana when you’re not hungry) to much more reinforcing (money!).

For a banana?

For a banana?

Well, maybe you’re in the U.S. and my 10€ is worthless to you. You’d have to take it to the bank, get it exchanged for US dollars, loose money on the exchange rate, pay the bank for a foreign currency exchange fee, and in the end, you may end up with only $5. The amount of work to make that 10€ meaningful to you is not enough to get you to bring me the banana. All that effort is an abolishing operation. You have to get me a banana AND go through this whole bank process to get your reinforcement? Forget it! Unless you want the 10€ for posterity (cool! A euro bill!), or you’re really broke and that $5 end result is worth it to you. Being broke would be an establishing operation.

But what if I offered you 1000€? Suddenly the effort of getting that banana and the whole rigmarole with the bank might be worth it.

Now THAT'S more like it!

Now THAT’S more like it!

When you take your dog to training class, do you feed them breakfast or dinner right before? Probably not. You want your dog to be hungry and willing to work for training treats. If they work for a ball or toy, do you let them play with that toy all they want before training time? No, you want that establishing operation. You want the dog to de deprived of the reinforcer. Maybe you own a dog who would eat themselves to death (my lab, Dierdre!). Feeding them dinner beforehand would not be an abolishing operation. They’ll still work for food even when they’re full (well, Dierdre believes she’s never really full, she has a black hole in place of her stomach). Like reinforcement and punishment, establishing operations and abolishing operations will be different for each person.

Maybe you come in the next day with that dirty car, and you have the latest copy of JABA that just came out that morning. An establishing operation again- I’ll probably get up and wash your dirty car even though I just did it yesterday, because the new edition of the journal is out and now I want that. I’m motivated to get it. The release of a new issue is an establishing operation- the value of the new edition skyrockets for me.

Currently, I go to work to make money. Sure, I enjoy my job; luckily I didn’t spend 10 years in college to do something I hate. But I primarily do it to make money. My job has a high amount of effort required; working with severely mentally handicapped individuals is not easy, so my motivation to continue to go is to keep getting a paycheck. If I won the lottery tomorrow and suddenly had 10 million euro in my bank account, my going to work behavior would decrease. It may even cease, at least for a little while. Winning the lottery would change my motivation to earn a paycheck, as I’m already satiated on money. I have enough (heck, you don’t even have to pay taxes on lottery winning in Germany, so I’d be set!). Winning the lottery would be an abolishing operation. I’d probably take a year or two off and go travel the world. Shoot, I may not come back! (Just kidding, it’s hard to travel with three dogs, so I wouldn’t go far for very long at a time.) But eventually I may get bored and decide to return to work. My motivation at that point would be different- I’d be going to escape being bored, not to gain access to a paycheck (remember our functions?). Plus I enjoy behavior, so going back to being a practicing behavior analyst would, in itself, be motivating for me.

In order to make the most effective training program for your dog, no matter if you’re training for competition, work, or a good family companion, make sure you know how these affect the individual you are working with to keep your reinforcers highly motivating at the time you’re using them!

Behavior 101 #3: Functions of Behavior

Welcome back to the latest installment of your behavior 101 class. In case you missed the first two, or want to brush up, we covered the 4 quadrants of reinforcement and punishment HERE, and extinction, conditioned reinforcers, and schedules of reinforcement, HERE.  Today, we’ll be delving a little deeper into functions of behavior.

All behavior that occurs has a function to it. No matter who is doing it, what they’re doing, or where it occurs, behavior happens for a reason. That reason is not always the most apparent to the observer, but some data taking, and a Functional Analysis of Behavior (FBA), will reveal the behavior’s function.

The 4 main functions of behavior:

Access/Tangible: The organism’s behavior serves to gain access to a tangible item (food, item, etc.).

Attention: The organism’s behavior serves to get social attention.

Escape: The organism’s behavior serves to get away from something/someone.

Sensory/Automatic: The organism behaves in a way that feels good to them.

In order to determine what function is maintaining the behavior we’re looking at, we can take some ABC data. ABC data’s purpose is to analyze the environmental changes surrounding the presence of a behavior. This is considered a ‘descriptive analysis’ of behavior rather than a functional analysis. For most trained behavior analysts analyzing everyday behavior, a descriptive analysis is all that is needed to pinpoint the function(s) of the behavior. For more complex cases or for more clinical/academic/research work, a full functional analysis is done. For brevity, and because doing an FBA takes training, we won’t be discussing that here, but rather looking at descriptive analysis.

What is ABC data?

A= Antecedent: anything that exists before the behavior is exhibited

B= Behavior: the behavior we are analyzing

C= Consequence: anything that happens after the behavior. The consequence can be reinforcement, punishment, or extinction, depending on the effect it has on the behavior.

ABC data is typically taken on a chart with three columns, one each for A, B and C, and helps us see the function of the behavior.

Simple ABC collection data

Simple ABC collection data

Let’s do an example together.

A person says, “Sit.” Puppy sits. Person gives puppy an edible. In the future, the puppy sits more often when he hears, “Sit.”

What is the antecedent? The person said, “Sit.” (This is an Sd, a discriminative stimulus, and we’ll learn what kind of antecedent this is later on). What is the behavior? The puppy sits. Consequence? Puppy gets an edible. What kind of consequence was that? Well, the rate of the behavior occurring in the future goes up- so the puppy was positively reinforced. What was the function of the puppy’s sitting behavior? The puppy sat in order to gain access to the edible. The puppy’s behavior functions for access.

Let’s try another:

The kitchen has a nice, stinky, full trash can. Dog doesn’t touch the trash while her person is home. Person walks out the front door, gets in the car, and drives away. Dog gets into the trash. This is Great Fun for the dog, and as a result, whenever her person leaves, she gets into the trash.

Mmmmmm.... trash....

Mmmmmm…. trash….

What is the antecedent? The trash can being full and stinky? No- the trash can was full and stinky before, but the dog didn’t touch it. The antecedent was the person leaving the house. The behavior was getting into the trash can. And the consequence was, again, access to the delicious trash.

How about this one:

A stranger walks past the front window. The dog jumps off the couch and charges the window, barking and snarling. The person continues walking down the sidewalk, eventually disappearing from sight. Every time the dog sees a person through the window, he now barks.



The antecedent? The sight of the person through the window. The behavior? The dogs barking. The consequence? The person goes away. Now, we know the rate of behavior in the future goes up (because we are good little data takers!) so we know the dog is being negatively reinforced. What is the function? The dog is engaging in behavior in order to have the strange person go away. The barking functions for escape.

A child is in math class, and is told to complete 5 math problems. He starts screaming, and throws himself on the floor. The teachers remove him to a time out chair. Now, every time he is told to do math, he screams and throws himself on the floor. What just happened? The screaming and throwing himself on the floor functioned for escape, and the teachers put him in time out. He got out of doing the math problems that he didn’t want to do, and now he does it every time he doesn’t want to do math, because it works. Inadvertently, the teachers are negatively reinforcing the screaming behavior. This is why identifying the correct function of a behavior in crucial to planning an effective intervention, no matter if it’s a human, a dog, or your spouse ;).

Can you think of a very common type of escape behavior in dogs? Growling. This is generally the go-to escape behavior for dogs, along with fleeing. Fight-or-flight behaviors are escape behaviors. With few exceptions, a growling dog is trying to get the antecedent to stop.

Go away!!

Go away!!

One of the side effects of punishment is an increase in escape-maintained behaviors. It is one of the reasons that punishment-interventions are only used when nothing else has worked (usually in cases of severe life-threatening self-injury in people). We see this side effects in dogs- use enough aversive control training techniques and you’ll see a lot of escape behavior- to include aggression, growling, and avoidance of the trainer. We’ll discuss the side effects of punishment at length later, but suffice to say, these side effects are the reasons that only Masters and PhD-level Board Certified Behavior Analysts are allowed to use punishment in treatment settings, and only for the most severe cases which have failed to respond to other positive or discriminative interventions (with data to support the failed prior interventions), or for severe life-threatening behavior. Punishment should never be taken lightly.

What’s the function in this example?

A dog is left alone in the backyard. He starts howling. His person comes outside and shouts at him to stop. The dog stops howling and runs to greet his person. His person, satisfied that the howling stopped, then turns and goes back inside, closing the door behind them. The dog then starts howling again. The howling functions for attention. Every time he howls, his person arrives! The howling is being positively reinforced by the arrival and attention by his person. Just because the person is yelling, doesn’t mean that it’s punishment. Yelling at me would certainly be punishment; I don’t like being yelled at (unless, maybe, you’re yelling at me that I won the lottery). But to this dog, all that’s happening is that he is bored and alone, he howls and… yay! My person showed up!

A child might make rude nosies in class. His classmates laugh, and his teacher scolds him. If he continues to make noises, the behavior is maintained by attention from his classmates and his teacher. The teacher is another example of someone accidentally maintaining a behavior they don’t intend to! (It’s also possible the teacher’s scolding acts as punishment, but the social attention from the class outweighs the punishment- we’ll get to that in another lesson, later).

What about a dog with hot spots? The dog’s skin itches, so he scratches it. It feels good, so the next time he itches, he scratches it again. This is an example of a sensory function. If you bite your nails, tap your pen, or rub a soft piece of suede because it feels soft, those are all sensory-based behaviors. Children with intellectual disabilities that rock, flap hands, or spin are often engaging in sensory-maintained behaviors (although, just because a behavior seems like a sensory function, doesn’t mean it is- an FBA will revel if it is or not)

Automatically reinforced, sensory-maintained behavior. AKA- scratching.

Automatically reinforced, sensory-maintained behavior. AKA- scratching.

Behaviors can be multiply controlled, meaning, they serve more than one function. A dog may bark to get attention in one situation, and bark as a form of escape in another. When served broccoli a child may scream, throw the broccoli on the floor, and beg for cookies. The parents, out of frustration at the screaming and worried about their child not eating (especially if this is a severe case of food refusal with a pattern of days or weeks of not eating), gives in and gives this kiddo cookies. This is an example of something that is multiply controlled. The behaviors are functioning both for escape from eating broccoli and access to eating cookies.

Aggression in dogs is often multiply controlled, and without learning in what situations aggression arises and what the functions are in each situation, it will be impossible to intervene on this or other dangerous behaviors. Ascertaining the correct function of a behavior before intervening on it is of tantamount importance in designing a safe, effective and scientifically-validated intervention to reduce the behavior and replace with a socially acceptable behavior. It is important to never make assumptions on functions. Let’s say you are presented with a clinical case of a 16 year old male with polyembolokoilamania. You might do a cursory talk with the caregivers who say “Nope, he does it at all hours of the day or night.” Since this behavior is happening at night, with no one around to provide attention, nothing to gain access to, and nothing to escape from, you might assume this is an automatically reinforced sensory function. But just to be sure- you decide to conduct an FBA and leave the family with data sheets. What you find is that, after each episode, the boy is taken to the doctors or the ER the next morning to be treated for minor injuries related to his activities. Even though the doctors trips are happening hours apart from the target behavior- data and an FBA show you that this is, in fact, being maintained by attention from the doctor, if the doctor is someone the boy likes and he only gets to see if he engages in polyembolokoilamania.

Knowing the function of the behavior, and the effects of reinforcement and punishment, can enable you to systematically control the environment to bring about changes in behavior, such as suppression of dangerous or socially unacceptable behaviors, or increases in behaviors we want to see, such as required behaviors to compete at the top tiers of agility or obedience. We’ll discuss more about using this, along with differential reinforcement, and motivating and abolishing operations, in upcoming posts.

In the meantime- try identifying the ABCs and functions in the examples below and leave your answers in the comments!

Ex 1: Mom pushes cart through the candy aisle. Child screams. To quiet him, Mom gives him candy. The next time he sees the candy aisle, he screams.

Ex. 2: Dog is alone in the backyard. He decides to dig a hole. It’s fun, so he does it next time he is in the backyard.

Ex. 3: Dog is eating dinner. Another dog comes near, dog growls. The second dog turns around and leaves. The next time the second dog approaches the bowl, the first dog growls.

Ex. 4: Mom tells little boy to put his shoes on. Boy screams and says “No!” Mom’s frustrated, and grabs the boy, holding him down and putting his shoes on. He never learns to put his shoes on and screams every time someone tells him to put his shoes on.

Ex. 5: When I open the fridge, my guinea pigs run to the side of the cage and squeal. Shortly after, fresh vegetables appear in their cage. Now, whenever I open the fridge, the pigs squeal louder.

Ex 6: A little girls likes to draw pictures and show them to her mom. Every time she shows them to Mom, Mom gives her a big smile, tells her what a great job she did, hugs her, and puts the picture on the fridge. The little girl draws her mom a picture every afternoon.

Ex 7: As I’m writing this, my dogs come up and head butt my elbow. I reach down and pet them. As more time goes on, they head butt my elbow more frequently. (Then I finally make this the last example, get up, and take them for a romp in the field!)

Behavior 101 #2: Simple Schedules of Reinforcement, Extinction

Hopefully by now you’ve had some practice identifying how the four quadrants of reinforcement and punishment play an integral part of your everyday life. If you need a refresher, feel free to review HERE. Last time, we talked briefly about how a reinforcer may hold more value to one individual, but may not be of value at all to another individual. Making sure to choose effective reinforces is a must for any behavior change intervention. Often a behavior analyst will do what is known as a preference assessment along with the initial assessment. A preference assessment involves repeated presentation of various potential reinforcers, and data is taken on how much the individual interacts with each given item, and if that item is freely chosen over other available items. This isn’t done with just people or dogs; research into the animal behavior world has even involved preference assessments of Galapagos turtles (for those interested- the preference assessment showed that one turtle preferred having his shell rubbed, while another turtle in the study preferred being sprayed with the hose.

Generally, things like food/edibles, shelter, water, and sexual stimulation all fall under the category of ‘primary’ reinforcers. This means that these things are genetically hardwired into most of us to act as reinforcers. This isn’t to say that pizza or candy will be a reinforcer for everyone, but with a few extreme cases, I haven’t met too many people that don’t like to eat at least every so often (I have, however, worked with kids who don’t eat at all. Period. So just because it’s a primary reinforcer doesn’t mean it will act as one for an individual).

Most other reinforcers fall into the category of secondary reinforcers (or conditioned reinforcers). Secondary reinforcers are things that, by themselves, have no reinforcing power, but through the use of pairing, have become reinforcers. Can you think of the most commonly used conditioned reinforcer? We use it everyday. I’ll give you a hint- it’s green (at least, in the US it is!). If you guessed money, then you were correct! Money is a very powerful secondary reinforcer, because it holds unlimited access to other conditioned or primary reinforcers (it’s also a generalized reinforcer, but we’ll talk about generalization later). If you hadn’t been taught at some point that money is a means of buying things you wants and/or need, then all money would be to you is a piece of paper. Hand money to a 3 month old. Does it have any value to them? Other than maybe an interesting texture (or taste?), you probably won’t have a very effective intervention if reward a baby with a dollar bill every time he makes eye contact.

Reinforcers can be conditioned by a process called pairing. Pairing involves simultaneous presentation of the primary reinforcer with the one to be conditioned. Most clicker trainers will be familiar with this process from their early stages of working with a new dog. A click noise by itself holds no value to a dog that has never heard it before, or has never had it paired. The click itself is not reinforcing. What clicker-trained dogs have been taught to understand is that the click means a food reward is coming. Initially, when you are starting out, you must pair the food (or ball, or whatever primary reinforcer you’re using) with the sound of the click. This is usually achieved by firing the clicker in rapid succession with the presentation of the primary reinforcer. Also called ‘loading’ the clicker. What it does is teach the dog that the sound equals a reward. It pairs the stimuli together.

A paired reinforcer

A paired reinforcer

I’m sure most people are aware of Pavlov’s dog. Pavlov conditioned a dog to a bell by feeding the dog every time the bell was rung. After enough times of hearing the bell and being presented with food, the dogs would begin to drool in anticipation of being fed. This is often referred to as Pavlovian conditioning.

Pairing isn’t just done with reinforcers, but with punishers as well. We can have conditioned punishers, just like we have conditioned reinforcers. We use this process throughout the day, most likely without realizing it. A speeding ticket is a conditioned punisher, as the presentation of one usually limits the future amount of time we spend going above the posted speed limit sign. A car horn is another conditioned reinforcer. A parent’s warning could be another (“wait ‘till your father gets home!” sent most of scuttling to our rooms and generally effectively stopped whatever behavior tended to bring upon the wrath of the offended parent). Of course, a conditioned punisher or reinforcer will loose its value if it’s not regularly backed up with the primary reinforcer/punisher. If your parent warned you enough times, but Dad never cared about your antics when he returned home, chances are, after a time, you didn’t care when Mom said that, and you just continued on with your shenanigans until somebody put an eye out. The punisher lost its effectiveness, because it was never backed up with the actual punisher to which it had been paired. You can probably guess that this is called ‘unpairing.’ Never fear, it’s simple to re-pair a conditioned reinforcer.

The more items a conditioned reinforcer can be paired with, the more powerful that conditioned reinforcer will become. A paper bill that only buys you a drink of water is nice, if you’re thirsty (we’ll talk about motivating operations another day) but a paper bill in the form of a $1 bill, which can be spent on limitless things from gum to soda to cheap dollar store toys, or even saved for bigger and better things, will be a more effective reinforcer. And, naturally, $100 will generally be more effective than $1 when it comes to maintaining the behavior that got the money in the first place.

This reinforcer is pretty worthless to Dierdre. As you can see, she's tasting it. Other than the novel fun of shredding it, this wouldn't motivate her to retain behavior. However, it would probably be more reinforcing to you or me!

This reinforcer is pretty worthless to Dierdre. As you can see, she’s tasting it. Other than the novel fun of shredding it, this wouldn’t motivate her to retain behavior. However, it would probably be more reinforcing to you or me!

Of course, there is a limit to how effective a reinforcer is given the behavior that it was presented for. If you only got paid $1 a day to go to work, I’m going to guess that that’s probably not enough to keep you going to work, even in this economy (especially if today’s cost of living continued to be what it is). Maybe if you really loved your job, but then your reinforcement would most likely be coming from somewhere else, such as social attention, praise, or a rewarding feeling (e.g. volunteer work). Even if you offered me $5 a day to snuggle puppies all day, I’d still probably turn you down, simply because that involves leaving my house and I love to sleep. Sleeping and being at home is worth more to me than $5 and some puppy snuggles. Ok, there are times I’d get out of bed for this for free, but that usually because I haven’t done so in awhile, so I’m deprived of the secondary reinforcer in this scenario- puppy snuggles. Give me a few days of doing it and I’ll quickly become satiated and it will loose its reinforcing value. Puppies are a lot of work!

Now, to dabble a bit into what’s known as organizational behavior (a.k.a. the behavior of workers/employees), we see this play out every day in the wages paid for different jobs. Less desirable and more demanding jobs, and/or jobs requiring much more initial effort in terms of education, higher degrees, etc. often net the larger paychecks. And I don’t mean ‘fast food worker’ less desirable so much as ‘septic tank scuba diver’ less desirable. There’s only so little money you can pay someone to suit up and scuba dive in a tank full of human waste before they call it quits. (Yes, this is a job that actually exists. Mostly in Australia. Gotta love their adventurous, hard-working spirit, that’s for sure!). This is also the reason why often (not always, but often) you find poorer customer service and lower morale at locations that pay poor wages. Research shows that companies that pay higher wages and provide benefits have higher morale among their employees, better customer service, and less turnover, such as Starbucks and Costco. More effort equals higher reinforcement equals continued effort on the part of the individual.

If your dog exerts a lot of effort for a behavior (say, a variable surface track, or a utility dog obedience routine) and is met with very little reinforcement, the dog’s quality of work may decline. The work and effort is not worth the reinforcement. So how do we get around having to give the dog a cheeseburger for every agility jump, thus creating a 200-pound porker that knocks down all the rails because his belly hangs so low? We institute reinforcement schedules. These can be fixed or variable, with a frequency or time interval, and all have their pros and cons. Chances are pretty good that, at your job, you’re on a fixed ratio with regards to your pay. You are probably getting paid on a weekly, bi-monthly, every 2 weeks, whatever schedule. If it’s always the same, every pay period (excluding bank holidays and whatever kinks get thrown in there) then you’re on a fixed ratio reinforcement schedule. If you give a puppy a treat every other time the dog sits, then you’ve placed the puppy on a fixed ratio schedule of 2. Every 2 behaviors nets the pup a treat. We usually write this as FR-2. At my job I get paid every week, so I’d be on a fixed ration of FR-7, every 7 days, I get paid. This can vary widely, but there comes a point where, eventually, a FR schedule is too high to control the behavior. If you dog only got rewarded every 150th time he ran a challenging variable-surface track, he’d probably ‘forget’ how to track. The ratio is not high enough to maintain the behavior. Finding the happy medium by gradually fading the reinforcement is required.

A more effective ratio of reinforcement is a variable ratio of reinforcement. A variable ration (VR) is still written as a number, say 5, but that will only be the average ratio, not the constant ratio. The dog may get rewarded for sitting on the 3rd time, on the 6th time, on the 4th time, on the 5th time and on the 7th time. The average ratio is 5, but the frequency varies. This keeps the individual guessing as to when the reward will come. This time? No. This time? No. This time? YES! All right, I got it!! This time? No. Because the individual keeps guessing, the behaviors maintain throughout several instances of non-presentation. Variable ratio schedules are the most resistant to extinction.

Extinction is what we call it when a behavior stops being reinforced, and eventually disappears. That behavior becomes extinguished. Often, when you extinguish a behavior, you experience what is called an ‘extinction burst.’ The phrase, “It gets worse before it gets better!” usually refers to an extinction burst. An extinction burst happens when a behavior that typically produces a reinforcer, suddenly stops producing that reinforcer. The organism’s first response will be to try the behavior again. Maybe harder this time. Or faster, or in rapid succession. Anything to try and make that behavior work again. Think of it like a vending machine. Everyday you put a dollar in, press the button, and get a soda. This has been working nicely for you and you’ve become accustomed to getting a soda every day from this vending machine. One day, you put in your dollar, push the button, and nothing happens. What is the usual response? You may push the button again. And again. You may push it harder, you may push it faster, or multiple times in rapid succession. You might try putting in another dollar. You may get mad, try and shake the machine, even kick it, before you finally give up and walk away. This is an extinction burst. You’re usual behavior of putting a dollar n and pushing a button has worked well until now, and when it didn’t work, you escalated the rate and intensity of your behavior until you realized it wasn’t going to work.

We see this a lot in children, especially younger ones. Say you go through the grocery check out, and there’s candy there, and the child wants the candy. The parent says No, and the child starts to kick and scream. The parent is distracted, busy, maybe doesn’t want to deal with it right now, so they give in and buy the candy. The next time they go to the grocery store, they tell themselves, “I’m going to stick to my guns this time. No candy!” When they approach that checkout and the child screams for candy, the parent says No. The kid screams and cries, and when that doesn’t work, they may scream and cry even louder. They may start kicking and hitting. They’re going through an extinction burst.

Extinction bursts are usually responsible for many people believing that what behavior intervention they’re doing is not working, when in reality, you know it IS working because the presence of the extinction burst means that you’ve blocked the reinforcer maintaining the behavior and you just need to be persistent and wait for the behavior to extinguish. This can take time, and of course, in some instances, such as self-injurious behavior, the risk of injury is far too great and a different intervention must be tried.

Sometimes ignoring an attention-maintained behavior can be rough, such as trying to ignore a barking puppy in a crate while you wait for them to be quiet before you let them out. You don’t want to let them out while they’re barking and therefor inadvertently reinforce the barking, but you just can’t stand the barking. In instances like these we try to elicit the behavior we want, often through prompting, or by offering an alternative or incompatible behavior. For barking dogs, I usually toss a blanket over the crate, which distracts them enough for them to settle down for a moment while they try and figure out what just happened, and then reward the quiet with praise and letting them out.

Interval ratios of reinforcement involve amounts of time, rather than presentations of behavior. Instead of rewarding a dog for every 3rd sit, maybe you’re rewarding for every 30 seconds of a solid down-stay. This would be a fixed interval of 30 seconds. FI-30. Of course, interval ratios can come in the variable form as well, and are also the most resistant to extinction. When you’re proofing that down-stay for competition, chances are you’ll use variable intervals to make sure your dog stays for however long you leave them there- 30 seconds or 10 minutes. These are also written as the average number, so VI-5 for an average of every 5 minutes (or 5 seconds!).

There is also fixed and variable time ratios. In these scenarios, the organism is rewarded on that time ratio regardless of whether or not the behavior has occurred. Feeding your dogs dinner might be on a fixed or variable time ratio. If you feed your dog dinner everyday at 5, regardless of their behavior that day (did they chew a pillow? Or were they a perfect angle while you were gone? Either way- you’re going to feed them!) they’re on a fixed time ratio. If you’re more like me, and feed them generally sometime in the evening (6? 7? 8:30?) then they’re on a variable time ratio. Of course if your dogs are anything like mine, they start campaigning for dinner around 5:30ish, or as soon as I get home from work. The closer to when they believe dinner should be, the more intense the behavior gets. This is typical of a variable time ratio- the closer to the approximate time to when the reward should appear, the more intense and stronger the behavior will get. Then, after the reward appears, the behavior diminishes or disappears entirely until closer to when the end of the next interval will be (the following morning, about 8am, my dogs are back to campaigning!).

Next time you go to train, think about how you’re using these simple schedules of reinforcement throughout your training session. Next time, we’ll talk about compound schedules of reinforcement, as well as different types of differential reinforcement!



Behavior 101 #1: The four quadrants of reinforcement and punishment

Behavior controls all that we do, yet I find that most people don’t have a solid understanding of exactly how it governs our lives, or the lives of the animals which share our world. Knowledge of the laws of behavior can help you manipulate the environment in such a way as to elicit the behaviors you want to see and make them maintain. It doesn’t matter if your ‘subject’ is a dog, a person, an elephant, a dolphin, or a pigeon, behavior is behavior, and the laws of behavior apply to all. I trained dogs long before I went to school for behavior, so I always find it easier to think of behavior in terms of dogs first, but that’s more difficult for some people, and they need human examples first. Because of this, I’ve tried to include both dog and human examples, so you can visualize whichever is easier for you to understand.

All behavior is controlled through the environment, even our own. What causes a behavior to maintain, increase, decrease, disappear, or change, all depends on what happens immediately after that behavior occurs. We call this the consequence. I’m sure we’re familiar with this idea from childhood. When Mom would scream at us, “If you continue to do that you will suffer the consequences!!” (Right? It couldn’t have just been my mom.) Behavior occurs for several different reasons as well, but before getting ahead of ourselves, let’s learn, or review, the basic terms used in the science of applied behavior and see how these fit into our life.

Most people who have dabbled in any sort of dog training are aware of the basic principles of reinforcement and punishment, although not everyone gets the definitions correct. Positive/Negative Reinforcement and Positive/Negative Punishment are the most commonly tossed around terms I hear in dog training communities, so we’ll start there.

Homer Simpson knows the four quadrants!

Reinforcement is a stimulus change, immediately after the behavior, which causes the future rate of that behavior to increase. Punishment is the opposite- that’s when the stimulus change that happens after the behavior causes the behavior to decrease. The positive and negative on the front of that word just means that you are either adding or removing the stimuli from the situation.

So when you hear ‘positive reinforcement’ that means you added a stimulus (typically referred to as a reinforcer) and the rate of the behavior went up. How do we know that it went up? Well, ALL behavior analysts take data on the rate of behaviors they’re training or trying to change. Without data, it’s not applied behavior analysis. But, of course, not all trainers are behavior analysts, so they usually go with- does the dog sit more frequently when asked? Does it seem to be learning what I’m teaching? Is the dog becoming more reliable or responding quicker or seem to understand what you’re asking? Anecdotal observation probably says yes. When teaching a new puppy to sit, you probably give food or toy rewards immediately following the dog’s completion of the behavior. Through this the dog learns that sitting when they hear the “Sit” means they will be rewarded. The “sit” becomes a discriminative stimulus (an Sd), but we’ll get into that later.

What about negative reinforcement? Almost sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? Well, negative means you’re removing a stimulus (or preventing one), and reinforcement means that behavior is going to increase. Suppose your child doesn’t like broccoli. You set a plate down in front of them and it has broccoli on it. They see the broccoli and scream and cry. The parent removes the broccoli from the plate to stop the crying. The child’s screaming has been negatively reinforced- the screaming caused the removal of the stimulus, and this means that in the future, the odds that the kid will scream when presented with something they don’t like will increase. (Removing the broccoli is also negatively reinforced for the parent. They remove the broccoli and the god-awful wailing from their child stops. In the future, they’ll probably get rid of that broccoli faster, the get their kid to hush, or prevent the behavior altogether, by not placing broccoli on the plate). Preventing a consequence can also be negatively reinforced. If you burn yourself on a hot pan while getting it out of the oven, you’ll probably remember to put on an oven mitt the next time you go to grab a hot pan out. By preventing the burn, the rate of your oven-mitt-wearing behavior will most likely increase. Even though you’re not directly experiencing the painful stimulus every time, you’re still removing (negative) that painful sensation preemptively, by putting on that oven mitt.

Biting dogs are usually inadvertently negatively reinforced. Something might be causing them pain, such as a person roughly handling them. The dog bites, the person will generally stop whatever they were doing, and the pain to the dog stops. This is also negative reinforcement. Don’t be fooled by the reinforcement part of the word. I hear a lot of trainers say they ‘only train with reinforcement.’ Well, shock collars are quite often used as negative reinforcement, and I’m sure most people saying they are reinforcement trainers don’t mean it that way! If the dog if being taught to force-retrieve, often a shock collar is placed on the dog. The shock is triggered, and a dumbbell is forced into the dog’s mouth. As soon as the dumbbell is in the mouth, the shock stops. The dog learns that to remove (negative) the pain, he must pick up the dumbbell, and the rate of picking up the dumbbell goes up (reinforcement).

So if that’s reinforcement, then how does punishment come into play? Positive punishment is the style of punishment and correction that is most hotly debated in dog training forums. Again- positive, we’re adding something to the equation. And punishment means the rate of that behavior is going to go down. Say we’re walking down the street and our dog is pulling. We pop the dog hard with a leash and give what is commonly referred to as a leash and collar correction. This is positive punishment. Adding a chain collar or pinch collar to the mix doesn’t change anything other than the intensity to the dog. We’ll talk about intensity later. Shock collars are, of course, also used as a form of positive punishment. A dog barks and receives a shock, and his rate of barking goes down. This is positive punishment.

By now you may be able to guess what the fourth quadrant, negative punishment, would look like. Once again, it’s negative, so we’re taking (or preventing) something from the organism and the rate of behavior will go down. Say you have a dog with a terrible jumping problem. If you are petting your dog, and he jumps up, and then you withdraw the attention and walk away, and the dog learns that jumping up ceases the flow of attention, you are using negative punishment. You’re removing the attention, and the rate of jumping up goes down. Ever get grounded as a teenager (or ground your own children?). This is also negative punishment. You’re removing privileges and the teenager is question will stop what ever caused them to get grounded, or at least, be less likely to do that in the future. Say an off-color joke at work and get suspended without pay (or even fired)? Negative punishment.

Now some of you parents may have learned the hard way: “But wait! I tried this on my own kids, and it didn’t work!!” If the behaviors do not go up or down depending on what type of reinforcement or punishment that you’re using, then you’re simply not punishing or reinforcing that behavior. And here we reach the crux of a problem that it is difficult for people to understand or sometimes they never think of this to begin with. If the behaviors are not going up or down, then you’re not using a reinforcer or a punisher. In the case of the grounded teenager- if the rate of the behavior doesn’t go down (and I don’t mean cease completely in one application, behavior very often doesn’t work that way, unless the reinforcer or punisher is extremely powerful) then whatever your using is not a reinforcer, or the one maintaining the behavior is stronger.

My primary line of work is with children and adults with autism, downs syndrome, prader-willi, fragile-x, mental retardation, and other severe intellectual disabilities who exhibit some of the most extreme behavior, and many of these individuals exhibit extreme aggression, or self-injurious behavior (SIB). I’ve been bitten more severely by a 7 year old boy than I ever have by a dog. And on more then one occasion. (And that’s saying something because I had my top lip nearly bit off by a dog once. On accident).  In many cases I’ve seen individuals with SIB that bite themselves so hard they draw blood, and they do it repeatedly. Or hit themselves in the chin so hard they fracture their jaw. I worked with one boy who would slam his fingers in the kitchen cabinet drawers and jump up into the air before throwing himself down onto the tile floor on his knees, causing his kneecaps to have hairline fractures in them. Wouldn’t they be positively punishing themselves and then automatically stop the behavior? There’s the infliction of pain, which could be a punisher, but the rate of behavior doesn’t go down? Why not? Well, the answer is actually very simple, and one most people don’t think about. To these individuals, pain is not a punisher. Or whatever they are receiving after engaging in these behaviors is a more powerful reinforcement.

The number one rule of using these four quadrants applied to behavior you are working with is that just because it’s a reinforcer or punisher to you, doesn’t mean it is to the individual you are working with!! In the examples above, just because the behavior elicits pain in you, doesn’t mean it will elicit pain in the individual, or in many cases, your pain tolerance may be vastly different from the pain tolerance of someone with special needs. In many of the cases I mentioned above, the behavior functioned for access to desirable items. We’ll talk about function in a later installment, but for a quick down and dirty lesson in function I’ll say this. All behavior serves a function. Finding out that function is key to altering the behavior. In a majority of the individuals I mentioned, when they would engage in these severe self-injurious behaviors, their caretakers would often run around, even turn their homes upside down, trying to find out what the individual wanted. One older woman with a severe intellectual disability I worked with in a group home, would bite herself until she bled, and would continue until someone brought her McDonald’s French fries. The boy who slammed his fingers in the cabinets? When he did this, his parents would run around the house presenting things to him until they figured out what he wanted. They were inadvertently reinforcing the slamming behavior by giving him reinforcers when he did this behavior.

Commonly I see these applications used incorrectly with training dogs. Many people assume food treats will be a great reinforcer for training dogs. And usually, yes, it is. But you can never assume that because something is a reinforcer for one dog, or even a majority of dogs, that it will be a reinforcer for the dog you are presently working with. My female German Shepherd, Tiki, is a great example of this. She likes food…ish. She’ll eat her dinner, albeit it slowly (compared to the other three who are scarfers at dinner time). She could care less about food treats. She enjoys them, when I hand her a treat, she’ll often take it from me (after first sniffing it suspiciously) then take it somewhere in the house, where she’ll put it down, lick it a few times, and then it’s hit or miss whether she’ll eat it, or leave it for the other 3 to find later. Food is just not a powerful reinforcer for her. Training her with food wouldn’t get me anywhere quickly. What is a reinforcer for her? Praise. She loves to be praised in that roughed up way that involves vigorous rubbing, high-pitched voices, and butt scratches. She’ll do anything for it. I never need to carry food with me when we’re training. But my male German Shepherd? Forget it. He could care less about your silly, puny praise. You’d better have some delicious hot dogs or meatballs, or you’re not getting any decent progress with him. The yellow Labrador in our house would prefer to have a neon sign above her head that states, “Will Work For Fetch.” Our little guide dog puppy? She’ll work for plain old kibble. Doesn’t matter that she had a bowlful that morning, or will get another bowlful that night. If I offered kibble to my male shepherd in exchange for completing a behavior, there’s a very strong chance he wouldn’t do it again the next time. He’s actually taken the kibble and spat it out at my feet before. Definitely not a good reinforcer for him.

Definitely a punisher for me, especially if I found this say… in my bed? I’d have to have a long look at my life choices to ensure this wouldn’t happen again. For your dog though… I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it’s probably a reinforcer for him or her. It’s all a matter of perspective!

In people, and in dogs too, reinforcers can and will change daily or even by the minute. Know what is actually reinforcing to the individual you are working with, not what you think is reinforcing or has been effective as a reinforcer with others. It’s usually most helpful to have access to a variety of high-quality reinforcers. The more you present one reinforcer, the closer you get to satiation. This is where a reinforcer looses its value due to repeated presentation. In essence, the person or dog you’re working with gets tired of it. The best way to combat that is to deny them access to it for a time. This will result in deprivation; the reinforcer is more powerful because they haven’t had access to it in awhile. Many people do this without realizing it. Does your dog have a favorite toy that they only get to play with while you are training? By not allowing them to have constant access to it, you’re creating deprivation between training sessions. Sometimes deprivation can turn mediocre reinforcers into slightly more powerful ones. My male German Shepherd that I said wouldn’t work for kibble? If it’s late in the evening and he hasn’t eaten dinner yet, I can often motivate him to track for a bowl of dinner at the end of the track. He hasn’t had kibble in a while, and his tummy is most likely getting rumbly. An entire bowl of food is also quite a bit more than just a few pieces of kibble, and the quantity of the kibble increases its motivating factor, also known as MO. We’ll talk about that later, too. Seasoned trainers know this is considered a ‘jackpot’ reward, even if it is not a very highly motivating reinforcer. I usually place a few meatballs or a hot dog or two in there as well, just to ensure that the reward has been worth the effort to him.

So where does these styles of behavior control fit in? As a positive trainer, of course, I urge people to use positive techniques and never to resort to positive punishment. When working with people, ethically, you have to start with positive reinforcement techniques. And in most cases, this is more then enough to alter the behaviors. But there are times when it’s not enough, or the behavior is too severe, or too dangerous. There are times when we must resort to positive punishment to alter dangerous behavior in individuals with intellectual disabilities. As a master’s level, board certified behavior analyst, I am one of the few allowed to use positive punishment in practice with people, but only after everything else has been exhaustively tried and met with no success. I definitely do not take that responsibility lightly, and only do so in the most extreme cases. My own plans must go to be reviewed by an ethics committee, be peer-reviewed by other behavior analysts, and then often a Ph.D.-level behavior analyst also looks them over. Positive punishment is a serious thing, with serious implications and side effects that must be weighed and considered. It is generally only used when there is an immediate danger to life and limb, or when nothing else has worked (and we must present data, graphs, plans, and detailed information about what has been tried and what hasn’t worked). I can only wish that as much care would be taken when trainers insist on using positive punishment with dogs, as often a behavioral review would show that positive reinforcement, discrimination training, interval ratios and other correct manipulation of behavior analytic principles either hadn’t even been tried, or were used incorrectly. I feel very strongly that if a master’s level board certified behavior analyst (a board exam which carries a 42% fail rate for first time exam takers, and a 74% fail rate for subsequent attempts) must use caution, be peer reviewed, and be overseen by an ethics committee prior to using a positive punishment intervention in which they’ve been trained and certified to use, why would a layman, no matter how much experience you have, feel that it is something they should use as a first-line style of training.

So go forth with your new knowledge, and try to identify how these four quadrants maintain your own behavior in your daily life. Forget your keys and can’t start your car? Negative reinforcement for remembering your keys. Put a dollar in the vending machine and receive a snack? Positive reinforcement! Having a bad day and snap at your co-workers, resulting them leaving you alone? Positive punishment for them, negative reinforcement for you. Everything we do throughout the day in controlled by the environment around us and the rules of behavior. Next time we’ll talk about extinction, discriminative stimuli, s-deltas, motivating operations, functions, various styles of reinforcement, and more! So be sure to come back!


Interested in becoming a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA)? Check out for more information