Fixed-outcome shaping with an escape contingency: Ronald Republican and his “significant other,”
Debbie Democrat are listening to NPR's Diane Rehm show, when he hears her guest enthuse about what a truly
great American president Bill Clinton was. Ronald angrily shouts at Debbie, “Turn that damned thing off.” But
she ignores him and he requests in a more reasonable voice, “Turn that damned thing off,” which Debbie does.
Next time around, Debbie only answers such requests when he adds, “please.” And finally she raises the criterion
one more level, and removes the aversive stimulus only when Ronald pleasantly requests, “Debbie, would you
mind turning off the radio?” Shaping with a fixed outcome (more or less the same aversive quality of left-wing
NPR praise for great democrats) as the escape contingency required Ronald’s request to more and more closely
approximate civility--fixed-outcome shaping with an escape contingency. (I know, you think Ronald should have
turned off the damned radio himself; but after all, he is a republican.)
Variable-outcome shaping with an escape contingency: Ronald Republican is driving his Cadillac Seville
down the road, listening to NPR's Diane Rehm show, when he hears her guest enthuse about what a truly great
American president Bill Clinton was. Without taking his eyes from the road, Ronald gropes for the radio’s off
switch. And each time he's offended by a message from his car radio his grope for the off switch becomes a little
more accurate. Shaping with a variable outcome of having to listen to less and less of that aversive blather, as he
escapes by hitting the off switch with increasing accuracy.
Fixed-outcome shaping with a punishment contingency: Whenever Ronald would say something like, “I
think George Bush did a wonderful job saving democracy from the 'terrorists,'" Debbie would foam at the mouth
and shout back, "I wish George W. had found his own Monica Lewinski, so the democrats could have impeached
him." But, if Ronald hedged a bit with, "Some people say George Bush did a wonderful job saving democracy
from the 'terrorists,'" Debbie would let it slide. However, as Ronald became increasingly constrained in his Bush
nostalgia, Debbie became increasingly intolerant and, once again, would rewrite history with her impeachment
fantasy. Until eventually, Ronald's political statements were reduced to an occasional, "I wonder what old George
is doing these days." Shaping with a fixed outcome (more or less the same aversive response from Debbie) as the
punishment contingency required Ronald's political statements to become increasingly bland.
Variable-outcome shaping with a punishment contingency: Same scenario as with the fixed-outcome
shaping, except, the more constrained Ron became in his Bush nostalgia, the less aversive his nostalgic remarks
were for Deb and therefore the less viscously aversive were her aggressive retorts, descending from, her Lewinski
fantasy to, “I can’t believe you said that,” to a mere, “Well, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, now that
Bush is out of the White House.” Shaping with a variable outcome (less violent aggression from Deb) as the
punishment contingency caused Ron’s nostalgia to become increasingly bland.
1. Fixed- and variable-outcome shaping—define them.
2. Fixed-outcome shaping and variable-outcome shaping—diagram two similar examples showing the difference
and give an example to show the difference.
3. Fill in a table contrasting fixed- and variable-outcome shaping. And explain it.