Chapter 1


Published on

Published in: Technology
1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Chapter 1

  1. 1. C h a p t e r 1 The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) Behavior Analyst Certification Board 4th Edition Task List1 D-01. Use positive and negative reinforcement. Page 02 FK-10. Behavior, response, response class. Page 06 G-04. Explain behavioral concepts using nontechnical language.2 Throughout FK-09. Distinguish among conceptual analysis of behavior, experimental analysis of behavior, applied behavior analysis, and behavioral service delivery. Page 07 FK-11. Environment, stimulus, stimulus class. Page 03 Introduction Many of you are taking this course to fill some silly requirement or other; you roll your eyes and say, “Whatever.” But watch out, because this course with this book is liable to sneak up from behind and grab you when you’re not looking. By the end of this course and this book, some of you are going to say, “Wow, this has really turned my head around. When I started to read Chapter 1, I had no idea what behavior analysis was and could care less. But now I know what it is, and I want to do it—for the rest of my life—maybe. I want to become a professional behavior analyst.” But right now you skeptics are saying, “Yeah, right; give me a break!” Well, be careful; and remember, we warned you. 1 Many of the concepts and terms on the task list will be used throughout this book. We’ll list them at the start of any chapter that discusses something new about that topic. But they will often pop up in other chapters, so we highly recommend reading through the whole book to gain a thorough understanding of all the basic p ­ rinciples of behavior analysis. 2 Most of this book is devoted to explaining behavioral concepts ­ sing u everyday language. We’ve found that by the time students finish r ­ eading it, they’re able to discuss complex behavioral principles in a way that anyone can understand, not just a few behavior-analyst nerds. But don’t worry, you’ll also become fluent in behavior-analysis nerd speak. We’ve written this book to turn you on to the principles of behavior and behavior analysis; we’ve written it so you’ll understand all the principles of behavior, we’ve written it so you’ll be able to understand how the behavioral world, our psychological world, works, we’ve written it so you can get ready to use the principles of behavior to build a better world, and we’ve written it so you, if you want, can take the next step toward becoming a professional behavior analyst; and some of you will want to take this next step. Others of you already know you want to become professional behavior analysts; and that means if you want to become a behavior-analyst practitioner, you’ll probably want to become a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) when you get your bachelor’s degree or even a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) when you get your master’s degree. And a few of you may end up getting your doctorate degree and your BCBA-D! Well, to become certified, at whatever level, you’ll need to pass the certification exam; and you’ll need to really know the principles of behavior to pass that exam. But you’re in luck; not only is this book an outstanding introduction to the principles of behavior, we 1 M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 1 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  2. 2. 2 Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) think it’s all you’ll need to pass major sections of that exam, the Foundational Knowledge sections. People who studied for the exam, and people who teach people studying for the exam, have said this book is the best ­esource available. Therefore, starting with the r 7th edition of Principles of Behavior, we’re making our book even more certification-exam friendly, so that you can easily find the sections relevant to each of the tasks listed in the Foundational Knowledge Fourth Edition Task List. Not interested in becoming a certified behavior analyst? No problem; our cues for the certification exam tasks are unobtrusive; you can ignore them and keep right on reading. Fundamentals Example of Reinforcer Behavioral Child and Family Counseling know, Dawn, I think you increase Rod’s crying each time you pay attention and cuddle him when he cries.”4 Family Life—Part I3 The baby’s scream sounded like someone’s fingernail scraping over a chalkboard. Sid Fields pounded his fists on the battered computer, jumped up from his desk, and ran into the nursery. Fortunately, Dawn got there before him. She picked up their crying baby, hugged him, rocked him, cooed, and then said to her husband, “Sid, calm down. Rod will be asleep in a minute.” “That kid’s driving me crazy,” Sid said. “I’m having enough trouble getting my PhD dissertation written without having to put up with Rod’s constant crying.” “Sid, he’s just a baby,” Dawn said. “He’s going to be a baby with an unemployed father if I don’t get my dissertation written. You know the chair of our department said he couldn’t rehire me if I don’t finish my dissertation and get my doctoral degree by the end of this year.” “You’ll get your doctoral dissertation written, Sid. I know you will.” Dawn put her right arm around Sid’s waist, while she continued to cradle Rod in her left arm. “Shhh, Rod’s asleep now,” Dawn said as she gently laid their baby back in his crib. Dawn took Sid’s hand and both smiled as they looked down on their sleeping son. Then they started to leave the room as quietly as they could. But before they’d reached the door, Rod started whimpering. So they sat on the floor of the nursery, waiting for their son to fall asleep again. Their smiles had disappeared. Before Rod has no attention from Dawn. Behavior Rod cries. After Rod has attention from Dawn. “I think Rod cries because we pay attention to him every time he does. We run into his room every time he even whimpers.”5 Before Behavior After Rod is alone. Rod whimpers. Rod is not alone. “What about my giving you a hug when you were so upset about your dissertation? Is that why you’re always complaining?” Dawn smiled and took Sid’s hand. Before Sid has no hug. Behavior After Sid whines. Sid has a hug. “I wasn’t complaining about my dissertation; I was stating a fact.” 4 Concept Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) (D-01) As Sid Fields and Dawn Baker sat on the floor of their son’s nursery, they began talking in low voices. “You 3 Based on Williams, C. D. (1959). The elimination of tantrum behavior by extinction procedures. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 59(2), 269. M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 2 Student tip 1: If you want to nail these diagrams and the ­ owerful p conceptual understanding that lies behind them, you need our C ­ ontingency Diagramming Checklist. Just visit, where you’ll find it for free. 5 These contingency diagrams will be explained in detail throughout the book. For now, notice the lines between the boxes. A dashed line indicates a temporal relationship (what’s in the first box, before, occurs before the behavior in the second box). A solid line with an arrow indicates that the behavior causes what comes after. In this case, Rod has no attention before he cries; and his crying behavior causes the after condition of his receiving attention. And for those of you who already have some familiarity with behavior analysis, our before condition is not the same as the more traditional antecedent condition of the antecedent 1 behavior 1 consequence (ABC) model. For example, before condition doesn’t include discriminative stimuli, which we deal with separately in Chapter 12. 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  3. 3. Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) Dawn thought, even if the shoe fits, Sid refuses to wear it. She said, “I have a PhD in behavior analysis, and you will too, before long . . .” “Let’s hope!” “I earn my living using behavior analysis to help other people,” Dawn continued. “And yet, why can’t I use behavior analysis to help my own family? Surely we can figure out how to use behavior analysis to help Rod stop crying and causing such a fuss. Surely we can figure out how to help him stop making life so hard for all three of us.” “What about a little help on my dissertation, too?” “OK, we’ve also got to figure out how to help you get over your so-called ‘writer’s block’ and finish your dissertation so you can keep your job in the psych department.” Two hours later, Rod was sleeping soundly enough that his parents could finally slip out of his nursery without his starting to cry again, but now Sid was too tired to work on his dissertation. If the behavior analysts, Sid and Dawn, had known you’d be reading their conversation, they would have used the technical term reinforcer when talking about the attention that Rod got when he cried and Sid got when he complained. So, by “response” we mean “behavior” or “activity,” and we tend to use those three terms interchangeably.7 A Stimulus by Any Other Name (FK-11) A reinforcer is a stimulus; and a stimulus is any physical change, like a sound or light or pressure or temperature. Stimuli might come from events, like the sights and sounds and tastes and smells of a party. Or stimuli might be the sounds and feelings coming from an activity, like the sound coming from playing the guitar or the feel of touching a sweaty opponent while playing basketball. (Stimuli is just the plural of stimulus. And you’ll sound so cool and impress your friends when you use it correctly and don’t say stimuluses.) So to keep it as simple as possible, we mean stimulus in a very inclusive sense; by stimulus, we include events, activities, and conditions. So a reinforcer could be any of the following: • Stimuli (restricted sense)—a beautiful sunset, the taste of a fruit smoothie, or a friendly smile. • Events—a stock-car race or a Coldplay concert, things in which our participation is more or less passive. • Activities—playing the guitar or shooting hoops. • Conditions—being hot or cold, tired, or the condition (feeling) of happiness and bliss we experience when watching that beautiful sunset, while sitting on the top of a majestic mountain, with our best friend (though methodological behaviorists will squirm in their seats when we talk about feeling, happiness, and bliss in a semi-technical context) [see Chapter 26]. Definition: Concept Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) • A stimulus that increases the frequency of a response it follows. For example, Dawn and Sid’s attention and comfort immediately followed Rod’s response of crying and increased the frequency of his crying. So attention and comfort are a reinforcer for Rod’s behavior.6 And there’s a good chance that Dawn’s immediate attention and comfort when Sid whined was a reinforcer that increased the frequency of his whining. Here’s another example: It might be a big reinforcer for you to see the crucial concepts in this book highlighted in yellow. If so, now’s the time for you to make the response of picking up that yellow highlighter and the response of highlighting those crucial concepts. 6 The infant’s crying raises an interesting problem—the cry-wolf p ­ henomenon. The infant’s crying is a functional escape response b ­ ecause it will bring a watchful parent to the rescue when the d ­ iapers are wet. Watchful parents will also reinforce crying when the child is hungry. But crying can become dictatorially dysfunctional, when ­ arents unintentionally reinforce crying with attention and p comfort every time it occurs. It’s not always easy for the outsider to d ­ iscriminate between functional and dysfunctional crying, though many parents learn that discrimination. And also, it’s not always easy to be a parent. M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 3 3 I used to include events, activities, and conditions in the formal definition, but that seemed too clumsy; so I paired it down, with the hope that you’ll remember that stimulus includes all of those. Question 1. Reinforcer—define it and give an example of atten- tion as a reinforcer. (When we ask for examples, we will normally be happy with examples from the text. We won’t mean original examples, unless we say so. But your instructor might want original examples; better check.) 7 Student tip 2: If you want to nail the concepts and principles in this book (boxed definitions), you need flash cards. And, if you want to nail the tests over this book, you need flash cards, depending on how rigorous your teacher’s tests are. However, making your own flash cards for the 200+ definitions in this book would be a real hassle. And your teacher may not love you enough to make the flash cards for you. But, Uncle Dickie loves you. So just go to, click on the picture of this book; and you’ll be able to find ’em there—free. 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  4. 4. 4 Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) How Quickly Should the Reinforcer Follow the Response? If the reinforcer is to reinforce a particular response, it must follow the response within about 60 seconds or less. We don’t have experimental data on this for human beings, but the research with nonverbal animals suggests that a minute or two pushes the limit (even 30 seconds is hard8). And most behavior analysts working with nonverbal children agree. They’d quit their jobs, if they had to wait 60 seconds before delivering each reinforcer to children. Such a delay is a good way to ensure that no learning will occur, even with people—at least not the intended learning. (By the way, when we say we reinforced a response, we mean we gave a reinforcer soon after the response and that response occurred more frequently in the future.) So, if you’re trying to reinforce a response, don’t push that 60-second limit; push the 0-second limit. The direct effect of reinforcers drops off quickly as you increase the delay, even to 3 or 4 seconds. And even a 1-second delay may reinforce the wrong behavior. If you ask an active child to look at you and then give the reinforcer 1 second after that response, you’re liable to reinforce looking in the opposite direction. So, one problem with delayed reinforcement is that it may reinforce the wrong response—the one that occurred just before the delivery of the reinforcer. Roughly, a reinforcer must be delayed no longer than 1 second to be considered immediate reinforcement and the closer to 0 seconds, the better; between 1 and about 60 seconds should be considered delayed reinforcement. If the reinforcer is delivered after 60 seconds, it probably won’t reinforce the response and might be called delayed delivery of a reinforcer. Questions 1. get the best learning, how quickly should you To give the reinforcer when reinforcing a response? 2. And roughly, what’s the greatest delay you could have between the reinforcer and the response, to get any learning? 3. How immediate is immediate? Example of Reinforcer? doesn’t mean it will work as one. Another way to put it is: Will she more frequently help you with future homework? Will the gold star on her forehead help you to become a star pupil in class? If it does, then you probably have a reinforcer on your hands, or at least on her forehead. Example of Reinforcer Behavioral School Psychology9 Eric’s Classroom Tantrum—Part I10 Eleven-year-old Eric sat quietly in Latoya’s classroom, cute enough to be on an old Norman Rockwell cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Middle America’s stereotype of the American kid—unruly red hair, freckles, dimples, worn Converse shoes, the back of his plaid shirt pulled out of his Levis, his fly half unzipped. Then he started glancing around the room, at first on the sly, and then twisting his whole body in the process, a bit disruptive, but still cute. He wrinkled his face and began making soft noises—less cute. The soft noises quickly became sniffles, then cries, then shouts, “I hate it! I hate it! I want out! Let me out! I hate you!” The American-kid fists began pounding the desk. Eric fell out of his seat and lay on his back, now pounding the floor with his fists and kicking with his sneakers. As he had often done before, he was shouting and crying with more intensity than seemed possible from his small, trembling body, “Hate it! Hate it! Hate it!” And, as other teachers had often done before, Latoya sprang from her desk when Eric hit the floor. Now what? She paused an instant, unprepared. Then she ran to Eric and tried to pick him up, but his body went rigid and he started pounding on her stomach. She withdrew in pain. “Eric, Eric, what’s the matter?” she asked, with as much of a calming tone as she could achieve. “Hate it! Hate it! Want out!” And as other classes had often done before, Latoya’s class fell apart immediately. For the other kids, this was better than reality TV. They stared at Eric and ignored their studies. But, Eric stopped more than this classroom; his shouts and pounding paralyzed the whole school, as all the teachers and staff ran into Latoya’s room to give the new teacher their support. And Latoya stood there, her You’re the Star! You tell your friend you’ll paste a gold star on her forehead as a reinforcer every time she gives you the answer to one of your homework questions. But that may not do the trick. Just because you call the gold star a reinforcer 8 Lattal, K. A., & Gleeson, S. (1990). Response acquisition with delayed reinforcement. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 16, 27–39. M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 4 9 We will use the terms behavioral school psychology and behavioral special education somewhat synonymously, though the traditional approaches to these two areas are quite different. Traditional school psychology concentrates on performing psychological tests of students, largely to determine whether they should go into a special education classroom, but behavioral school psychology and behavioral special education both concentrate on using behavioral techniques to improve classroom teaching, especially for students with difficulties. 10 Based on Zimmerman, E. H., & Zimmerman, J. (1962). The alteration of behavior in a special classroom situation. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 5, 59–60. 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  5. 5. arms dangling at her sides, helpless, embarrassed, and ashamed. Her first day on the job and already a failure. She felt better when Bob went over to Eric, with all the confidence his senior status and experience justified, but he, too, had to retreat from the pounding Eric gave him. If Bob couldn’t handle Eric, then who could expect her to? The staff settled for long-distance psychotherapy, being careful to stay out of Eric’s reach. “It’s OK, Eric.” “Do you want your mommy, Eric?” “What’s the matter, Eric?” And with firm finality, “All right now, Eric; enough of this nonsense. Get back in your seat and settle down.” Followed quickly by a guilty, “We love you, Eric.” Also consultation: “What’s the matter with this poor child?” “Just an extreme anxiety attack.” “Fear of failure.” “Probably dyslexic.” “School phobia.” “Frustrated.” “He’s expressing a deep-seated insecurity.” “The kids tease him.” “We do not,” shouted a defender of juvenile morality. Analysis While Eric was throwing his tantrum in the school building, Dr. Mae Robinson was parking her Prius in the school’s parking lot. She got out, still thinking about the meeting she had just left with the principal of West James Elementary School. She felt flattered that last week he had referred Eric to her school, the Rosa Parks Academy. The principal thought that maybe she could help Eric, after the West James school psychologist and special education teachers had given up on the boy. She smiled as she wondered if it bothered them to ask for the professional expertise of an African-American11 woman and the youngest principal in the school district. Maybe they were just dumping Eric on her, getting rid of a problem, with no hope that she could help the poor boy. Educators sometimes grow cynical after years of disillusion. She had to force herself to stop thinking that way. She had to give them a chance, like they seemed to be giving her. But still. . . . As for Eric, well, she would just have to see. But she thought she knew what caused his problem. No 11 Question to two of my African-American alumna, while editing the 7th edition: What’s cool, African-American woman, woman of color, or Black woman? For later reference in the book, it’s important to establish Mae’s identity. Thanks, Malott Reply: My first choice is African-American woman; second choice is Black woman. Either way, I think it is completely relevant to include it in her description. In this paragraph, you’re hitting on the racial dynamic of superiority that your students may not be familiar with yet and one they may not read about in other classes. Woman of color is used to generically refer to a woman from any number of cultural/ethnic backgrounds—it doesn’t seem appropriate in this context and it doesn’t make your point. As a side note, I specifically remember identifying with “Mae” and I’m glad to see she has made it to the 7th edition! —Felicia Reply: I prefer African-American woman; however, my publishers often insist that I change to Black woman. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. —Helen M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 5 Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) 5 internal demon expressed itself through his tantrums. No warped perception separated Eric from reality. He acquired his obnoxious, pitiful, disruptive behavior because of its consequences. And the way they described Eric’s problem, it sounded like he got plenty of reinforcing consequences. He was getting more attention in 5 minutes of tantrums than most people get all day. Attention is a social reinforcer. Attention is contingent on (attention results from) Eric’s tantrums. The attention probably reinforces his tantrums. He may throw a lot more tantrums than he would if no one attended to those tantrums. This analysis seemed simple to her, though neither the principal, the school psychologist, nor the special education teacher had suggested it. She thought she knew the cause, but what about the cure? She’d have to think about that. Mae walked across the gravel parking lot to the 80-year-old, two-story, brick school building. She had saved it from the demolition crew to house her new special school. As she approached, Eric’s shouts gradually caused her to stop thinking about Eric’s conference and to start thinking about Eric’s reality. She quickened her pace, hurrying to the entrance of the shabby old building. Then she bounded up the inside stairs to the second floor and into Latoya’s classroom. Mae stood a minute, amazed. By this time, spectators had packed the room; not only were the teachers from the other classroom watching and giving advice, but so were their students. This was no time to speculate further about the causes of poor Eric’s problems. Mae had to act. She had to solve the problem. What will she do? Will she succeed? Or would we be so devious as to include studies that are failures? Hold tight, dear readers; only future chapters will tell. Question 1. Give a classroom example of the way tantruming might result from social reinforcers. Notice that we say, “Might be,” because we have not experimentally shown that social reinforcement is maintaining Eric’s tantruming. So far, all we have is Mae’s educated guess. Examples and Nonexamples Reinforcer Here’s a list of questions with our answers. Now, would it be naive of us to ask you to think through your answer to each question before you look at ours? We know thinking is harder than just reading, but give it a shot anyway. Question What’s your guess? Would a gold star on your friend’s forehead normally act as a reinforcer? 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  6. 6. 6 Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) Our Guess Probably not, not unless your friend is about 3 years old, or into punk fashions, or both. Of course, we’re just guessing, based on our experience. You’ll only know for sure if you try it and see if she helps you more frequently in the future because of her star-spangled forehead. (Of course, whether something is an effective reinforcer or not depends on many things, such as the person whose behavior you are trying to reinforce and the specific response you’re trying to reinforce.) More Concepts than You’d Care to Know Here are a few concepts of a semi-technical, semi-obvious nature. Still it may help to discuss them, so they won’t cause trouble later. Behavior (FK-10) What is behavior? My students find the following rule helpful in answering that question: Definition: General Rule Question What about other things on her face—like mascara on her eyelashes, eye shadow on her eyelids, rouge on her cheeks, and lipstick on her lips? Might they act as reinforcers? Dead-man test • If a dead man can do it, it probably isn’t behavior. Our Answer It usually depends on what her female friends paint on their faces. But if she paints her face, then the paint on the face is probably a reinforcer for the act of putting it there. And if she pays cold cash for the stuff, then owning it must be a reinforcer for such consumerism. Question Mae thought that all the attention Eric got for his tantrums probably acted as a reinforcer that caused the tantrums to occur. At least that reinforcer probably kept the tantrums going once they got started. But what reinforcer maintained the giving of that attention; what was the reinforcer for staring at poor Eric? Our Answer I’d guess it’s the sight of the disruptive spectacle. Remember, behavior such as looking at or attending to something occurs because that attending has been reinforced. So if they’re attending to Eric’s tantruming, the spectacle is probably the crucial reinforcer. And even though the teachers in the Rosa Parks Academy were becoming expert behavior analysts, they still had a little way to go, in some cases; they still weren’t sensitive enough to the possibility that their attention to Eric’s tantruming was the reinforcer for that behavior, was causing the problem behavior. It ain’t easy. Keep the following in mind: In the examples of this section, we’re just guessing about what the reinforcers might be. You’d have to do an actual experiment to be sure. However, we find the dead-man test most helpful in deciding what isn’t behavior. Without it, we’d often end up analyzing the wrong thing—nonbehavior. For example, for each chapter I ask my students to bring in original examples of the main concepts and principles of that chapter.12 And without careful use of the dead-man test, they often bring in examples like this: Mr. K. Lutz is a horrible dancer, so his wife reinforced his not dancing in order to protect her feet. And my dog used to be really loud, but then I reinforced his not barking, and now he’s quiet. Of course both of these “behaviors” are things that dead men (or dogs) are capable of, so they fail the dead-man test; they’re not the “behaviors” we should be analyzing. So, dead men don’t dance, and dead dogs don’t bark. But this is just a rough, general rule; don’t get bent out of shape if you find an exception now and then. But, apply the dead-man test only to behavior, not to reinforcers. For example, sometimes silence is the golden reinforcer, without a living soul around but you. So don’t apply the dead-man test to the reinforcer of silence. And here’s a corollary to the dead-man test: If a dead man can’t do it, then it probably is behavior. So, behavior is anything a dead man cannot do. Like scratch his nose. Talk. Smile. Cry. Think. Dream. Behavior may even be the firing of a neuron in the nervous system. Behavior is anything an animal (including the human animal) does. Questions 1. Give an example of something that is probably a reinforcer for some people and not for others. Also, while you are at it, explain it. 2. Give a few examples where the sight of something probably reinforces the behavior of looking at it. M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 6 12 Student Tip 3: If you want to get skilled at doing your own behavior analyses, you may want to get our Principles of Behavior Conceptual Homework. So, once again, just go to DickMalott. com—again, free. In fact, why don’t you just go ahead and make your home page, ’cause you know that’s where the action is. No? Then how about just bookmarking it on your web browser? 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  7. 7. 7 Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) And here’s a more common definition of behavior: Definition: Concept Behavior • A muscle, glandular, or neuro-electrical ­ ctivity. a So a rat pressing a lever or you turning your steering wheel are both muscle activities, and both are obviously behavior. Your adrenal gland releasing adrenalin into your system during a particularly scary scene in a movie is a glandular activity; so it’s also a type of behavior. However, I make greater use of the dead-man test than the more formal definition of behavior because I consider all of the following to be behavior; thinking, dreaming, closing your eyes and seeing the image of your boyfriend or girlfriend, and hearing tunes when your iPod is shut off. And I’m not sure those activities involve muscle or glandular activities, though they do involve neuro-electrical activity (but as we’ll see in Chapter 26, methodological behaviorists would argue that since we can’t see these events, we should not try to analyze them). Furthermore, I suspect reinforcers can increase the frequency of those activities; so that’s even more reason to consider them behavior. And yes, not only can environmental events, such as the presentation of reinforcers, influence or control the obvious activities of the muscles; similar environmental events can also influence or control glandular and neuro-­ electrical activities. And even further out, environmental events, such as the presentation of reinforcers, might possibly also influence or control biological processes like digestive activity; so we might even be able to consider some of those processes to be behavior—not sure. Here’s something that confuses many students: Behavior analysts use response and behavior almost interchangeably. So we might say Rod’s crying is behavior, and we might say it’s a response. But saying Rod’s crying is a response doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a response to some stimulus, like a wet diaper. He may just be crying because crying has been reinforced with attention, even when he didn’t have a wet diaper and wasn’t hungry. In other words, we don’t necessarily restrict response to mean a reaction to something, like a reaction to a wet diaper. Behavior = Response And, here are some other words that mean more or less the same as behavior or response: act, action, movement, and reaction. When we speak of behavior, we don’t restrict its meaning to “comportment” or “manners.” For example, our technical use of the term wouldn’t include “I want you to be on good behavior” or “she was ill-behaved.” This means that Principles of Behavior is M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 7 not about how to avoid getting a scolding from Mommy for being rude or for talking with your mouth full. Note: Some of this discussion of behavior, the dead-man test, dreaming, and so on is a little on the edge; so your teacher might not agree with it all; and you’ll probably hear about it, if that’s the case. Behavior Analysis Behavior analysis is the study of the behavior of human beings and other animals. And that’s what this book is about. Definition: Concept Behavior Analysis • The study of the principles of behavior. Behavior Analyst (FK-09) If you know what behavior analysis is, the following shouldn’t come as a major shock: A behavior analyst is a person who studies or explicitly uses the principles of behavior. Generally, behavior analysts are experimental behavior analysts, doing research, often with animals, studying the basic principles of behavior. Or they are theoretical behavior analysts, doing paper-and-pencil, keyboard, or headwork, to understand the principles and concepts of behavior analysis, how those principles and concepts relate to each other, and how those principles and concepts relate to the rest of the world. Or they are applied behavior analysts, doing research, usually with human beings, studying applications of the principles of behavior to socially significant problems. Or they are service providers (practitioners) using the principles of behavior to solve socially significant problems. Or, of course, they may be any combination of the preceding. Many behavior analysts are psychologists. Many are not. They might be special ed teachers, social ­ orkers, w nurses, or business or other organizational managers— anyone explicitly dealing with the effects of behavioral procedures. Behavior analysts often work as performance managers. Performance managers include all sorts of people trained in the principles of behavior—teachers, parents, coaches, supervisors, clinicians, social workers, nurses, business managers, animal trainers, and those who manage their own personal performance (though managing your own behavior is no easy trick13). Of course, most 13 See Malott, R. W., & Harrison, H. (2005). I’ll stop procrastinating when I get around to it. Kalamazoo, MI: Behaviordelia. Available on 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  8. 8. 8 Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) teachers, parents, and so forth are not performance managers (as we use the term) because they are not knowledgeably using the principles of behavior. We slightly prefer performance manager or behavior manager to behavior modifier. Why? Because a manager may have the goal of supporting an already s ­ atisfactory performance with no need to modify it. Said another way, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—don’t modify it. Behavioral engineer is another acceptable term that means about the same thing—though for some people, it implies that we’re working with machines and not people or, worse yet, treating people as machines. Whatever label we use, keep in mind that we’re talking about using the principles of behavior, like the principle of reinforcement, to manage performance. We’re not talking about brain surgery or drugs when we speak of managing performance or modifying behavior. You might consider the behavior therapist to be a behavior analyst who specializes in working with abnormal behavior, traditionally the kind seen in a psychiatric hospital or mental health clinic. Behavior therapists are often clinical psychologists or social workers, though not always. Normally you wouldn’t apply the term behavior therapist to a behavior analyst who sets up reinforcement procedures to improve productivity in a factory. Repertoire Your repertoire is your bag of tricks. If you’ve gotten this far in the English version of this book, then your repertoire must include reading English. Or else, you’re quickly becoming an expert on Google Translate. By the time you finish this book, we hope your repertoire will also contain the use of behavior analysis. Dancing may be in your repertoire. Perhaps playing baseball, or at least talking about playing baseball, is also in your repertoire. Or if you can’t throw a baseball, can you at least throw a tantrum, like Eric? Is tantruming part of your repertoire? The reinforcement of novel behavior puts that behavior in your repertoire—you learn it. Reinforcement of established behavior maintains that behavior in your repertoire. You learn Spanish, and then you practice it or else you lose it. You learn behavior analysis, and then you practice it or lose it from your repertoire. “Use it or lose it” is a good folk principle of behavior. But: Repertoire is not a thing. You don’t have a repertoire that holds all your tricks. It’s just a way of speaking, a risky convenience. Your repertoire is just the total collection of things you can do. It’s not a warehouse from which you retrieve your stored tricks. Definition: Concept Repertoire • A set of skills. M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 8 A repertoire is what a person or animal can do. If, by the end of this book, you can pronounce repertoire correctly and with grace, you’ll be ahead of most people. Reper is no big problem. You don’t get much credit for that part. Except you pronounce re as in represent, not as in repeat. So try it: reper. Remember, don’t say it like reaper, as in the grim reaper. The hard part: toire. Like twar, as in car, not like as in war. Now say the whole thing: repertoire. Not bad; but keep practicing. Behavioral Intervention By behavioral intervention, we mean the use of a behavioral procedure. We don’t mean a military intervention. For example, Mae plans to intervene in Eric’s classroom tantruming. But don’t think we use behavioral interventions just to stop or decrease behavior. Mae might also use a behavioral intervention to increase the amount of time Eric studies. (We don’t want to make such a big deal of behavioral intervention as to require you to memorize a formal definition. We just want you to tune in.) We prefer to stay neutral and say the behavior analyst intervenes on behavioral or performance problems. We tend not to talk of “treating” behavior problems, because we don’t want to imply a medical model (see Chapter 2 to read our rants on the evils of the medical model myth). Reinforcer Assessment: Make Sure Your Assumed Reinforcer Really Reinforces Remember how we define reinforcer? A stimulus that will increase the future frequency of a response it has followed. We do things that will get us reinforcers. And also, we stop doing things that cost us reinforcers. For example, we might get reinforcers, like smiles and approval, by being halfway decent to people. And we might lose those reinforcers by being halfway nasty to them; so we could stop losing those reinforcers by stopping our nastiness. Still we don’t know for sure if someone’s smile is a reinforcer for us, at least not until we find ourselves doing things that produce that smile or no longer doing things that cause us to lose that smile. Before You don’t see her pleasant smile. Behavior You visit her office. After You do see her pleasant smile. For example, a crocodile smile might not be a reinforcer, unless you’re another crocodile. We all tend to use the term reinforcer to describe stimuli whose reinforcing value we have not shown. We tend to assume that something will reinforce a 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  9. 9. Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) particular response of a particular person just because it has reinforced other responses of other people in the past or just because we think it would if we were that person. It’s OK to start that way, though it’s risky business if you don’t check out your assumed reinforcer before going any further. Many so-called failures to modify behavior are often just failures to use a true reinforcer. Definition: General Rule Check the assumed reinforcer first • Before spending much time trying to reinforce ­behavior, • make sure you have a true reinforcer. For example, suppose you plan to use raisins to reinforce a mentally impaired girl’s talking. Make sure the girl will eat the raisins first. Does the taste of the raisins reinforce her response of picking up one and putting it in her mouth? Will this reinforce eating raisins? Before The girl has no sweet taste of a raisin. Behavior The girl eats a raisin. After The girl has the sweet taste of a raisin. If it doesn’t, you may be in for many long, tedious, so-called reinforcement sessions with no progress when you try to use raisins to reinforce talking. Failure to use this general rule may account for much wasted time of behavior analysts and their clients.14 Once I was working with a child with serious academic problems. So I was giving him an M&M™ candy every time he read a sentence correctly. After his mouth and pockets were 9 bulging with the candies, he said, “Look, I’ll keep reading the damned sentences; but please stop giving me those M&Ms.” Remember we define reinforcers in terms of their effect on behavior, not in terms of what people say. The people may not know, or they may lie. For example, “Boys, would looking at dirty pictures be a reinforcer for you?” “Oh, no, Mother!” In recent years, behavior analysts have become much more tuned into making sure their assumed reinforcer really reinforces, even to the point of making sure their assumed reinforcer is the most effective reinforcer available. They’ve developed a set of procedures called reinforcer assessment procedures, some for verbal clients and some for nonverbal clients.15 For example, to find an effective reinforcer for nonverbal preschool autistic children, we will show a child a set of toys to play with and note the one he or she selects. And we’ll repeat that procedure a few times to make sure the child has a consistent preference. But a more formal procedure is the forced choice method of reinforcer assessment:16 We allow the student to select one of two potential reinforcers chosen from the set. Then we repeat that a few times with those two stimuli to reliably assess the child’s preference between those two. And then we do the same thing with each of the other possible pairs of stimuli, which allows us to rank the stimuli to determine the most preferred, and therefore, presumably the most effective of those reinforcers. We then use those most highly preferred reinforcers, when working with the child. Warning: You may need to do reinforcer assessments often, because the child’s preference may shift considerably from day to day or even hour to hour or even within a single session; and the most preferred reinforcer will lose its reinforcing value. Questions 1. State the “Check the reinforcer first” general rule and then give an example of where and how you should use that general rule. 2. Give an example of reinforcer assessment. 14 Various terms have been used to designate the recipient of the services of the psychologist and, more generally, the behavior analyst. In the classroom, the term student has done the trick and continues to do so. But in other settings, the appropriate designation has proven more evasive: Originally, the term patient dominated, but that term implies a medical cause when the problem may have been the learning of dysfunctional behavior or the failure to learn functional behavior; so client seemed more appropriately neutral. Now, however, consumer is in the ascendancy; so in preparing the fourth edition of this book, I did a search-and-replace, replacing client with consumer. But it started getting too weird; so I checked with users of this book and other professionals and students, and almost everyone said to stick with client or some such term and to bag consumer. So I did a reverse search-and-replace and am pretty much hanging in with c ­ lient, at least for a while longer. M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 9 15 Roscoe, E. M., Iwata, B. A., & Kahng, S. (1999) Relative versus absolute reinforcement effects: Implications for preference assessments. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 32, 479–493. 16 For example, developmentally-disabled/125-forced-choice-reinforcer-assessmentguidelines and Berg, W. K., Wacker, D. P., & Steege, M. W. (1995). Best practices in assessment with persons who have severe or profound handicaps. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology-III (3rd ed., pp. 805–816). Washington, DC: National Association of School Psychologists. 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  10. 10. 10 Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) Autism Enrichment17 “This is how Jimmy spends most of his day. It’s so depressing . . .” “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Lewis, I know it can be difficult to be the parent of a child with autism.” Jimmy Lewis had been given the diagnosis of autism at the age of two; he was now three. At the moment, he was sitting in the middle of the living room floor. As his mother and the new occupational therapist watched, Jimmy engaged in a mix of arm flapping, head rolling, eye squinting, and full-body rocking. This complicated but seemingly pointless behavior was quite painful for his parents to watch day after day. Like many children with autism, Jimmy’s repertoire included a variety of self-stimulatory behaviors—behaviors that are automatically reinforced by the sensory stimuli from that behavior, like singing or twirling. Also, skills children normally have by the age of three were conspicuously absent from his repertoire. Jimmy didn’t make eye contact, talk, or play with toys the way most kids do. Instead of rolling cars down the ramp, he would hold them in front of his face and simply stare and stare at the spinning wheels. “The occupational therapist we had worked with told us that he has a sensory processing disorder,” Amy Lewis said, “And that’s why he has to do this type of behavior.” “Did your former therapist say what a sensory processing disorder was, Mrs. Lewis?” asked Kate, the newly referred occupational therapist (OT) who had just gotten her MA from Big State University last year, and was the newest BCBA in town. “Well, kind of, but I was a little confused. I’m no neurologist after all.” “I might have a simpler explanation for why your son does his self-stimulatory behaviors so often,” Kate said. “And you might be surprised at how useful this explanation will be.” Having studied behavior analysis as well as occupational therapy, Kate was a master of the basic principles of behavior. So, rather than relying on the hypothetical concept of sensory processing disorder (an explanatory fiction) to explain Jimmy’s behavior, she told Amy about the concept of reinforcers. Many stimuli arose when Jimmy flapped his hands and engaged in all his other stereotypic behaviors. He could see his hands moving quickly in front of his face. He could feel the air on his face. Rolling his head repeatedly led to some interesting sensations of dizziness. These stimuli arose every time Jimmy engaged in his repetitive behaviors. And Jimmy kept stimming18 and stimming. Kate suspected that because these stimuli had greatly increased the stereotypic behaviors they followed, they were probably functioning as reinforcers for those stereotypic behaviors. “So you’re saying there’s nothing wrong with my son’s sensory processing?” Amy said. “I’m saying there’s a much simpler way to explain his behavior,” Kate said, “and I’ve seen this and the other principles of behavior at work with all my clients. Actually, not just my clients, but myself and all living things.” “But if these reinforcers affect everyone, then why aren’t we all stimming like Jimmy?” Amy said. “Oh we are!” Kate said. “I’ve been tapping my foot nonstop since we sat down. And you’ve been twirling your hair off and on as well.” “That’s just because I’m nervous, and those innocent behaviors are nowhere near as bad as my son’s.” “That’s true, but they probably would be, except you and I are very aware of how other people regard us. For our whole lives, we’ve gotten social disapproval from those around us for stimming in an obvious way. But our subtle behaviors have kept up just as much as Jimmy’s more obvious ones. That’s the power of reinforcers.” Of course Kate was jumping ahead to Chapter 4, but we won’t hold that against her, will we? Suffice it to say, Kate understood the power reinforcers have to increase behavior, and she was going to do her best to harness that power to help Jimmy reduce his inappropriate behaviors and increase the appropriate ones. Stick with us as we follow Jimmy’s journey throughout the rest of the book. The Label “Autistic” Because behavior analysis is the most effective approach to helping children with autism, and because many of you readers will end up using behavior analysis with such children, we’re putting more emphasis on these applications of behavior analysis (but don’t worry, we’re covering everything else too). Therefore, let’s say a few words about “autism” and “autistic.” Children vary greatly in terms of the quantity and variety of adaptive and maladaptive behaviors they exhibit. Some may exhibit a high frequency of adaptive behaviors and a low frequency of maladaptive, dysfunctional, inappropriate behaviors. But some may exhibit almost no adaptive behaviors and almost all maladaptive, dysfunctional, inappropriate behaviors. Children 17 MacDonald, et al. (2007). Stereotypy in young children with ­ utism a and typically developing children. Research in Developmental ­Disabilities, 28(3), 266–277. M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 10 18 Stimming is the behavior-analysis cute way of saying “engaging in self-stimulatory behaviors.” 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  11. 11. Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) 11 who exhibit a very high frequency of maladaptive behaviors and a very low frequency of adaptive behaviors, especially verbal behavior (language), are often labeled “autistic.”19 Examples of Appropriate Behaviors: eye contact, social interaction with others, and age-appropriate talking. Examples of Inappropriate Behaviors: excessive crying, tantruming, aggression, hand-flapping, teethgrinding, nonsensical talking, and toe-walking. Children whose repertoires are sufficiently dysfunctional for them to be labeled “autistic” rarely show improvement unless they participate in an intensive behavior-analysis training program. Basic Enrichment The Fundamentals vs. The Enrichment Sections We’ve divided this and the other chapters into two main sections. We call the second section the Enrichment section. We call all the subsections that come before it the Fundamentals section. You need to master all the issues, concepts, procedures, analyses, and examples in the Fundamentals section to understand the Fundamentals sections of the following chapters. The Fundamentals are the bare bones.However, you don’t need to master the material in the Enrichment sections to understand the Fundamentals in later chapters. But many professors and students think the Enrichment sections are the best part of this book. Your professor may agree and may wish to include parts or all of the Enrichment sections on your quizzes as well. He or she probably will let you know. We’ve also divided the Enrichment sections of many chapters into two levels—basic and intermediate, and even an occasional advanced section. I’ve tried to keep the basic level on the same level of difficulty as the Fundamentals sections. The intermediate level is more difficult, though it assumes no knowledge of behavior analysis before you read this book; and the occasional advanced sections are very difficult (to see more Advanced Enrichment sections, go to DickMalott. com and click on the icon showing the cover of this book). Over the years we’ve also had to remove some content from the book as we added new sections. And we always come up with more we want to discuss but just don’t have the space to do so. Luckily, we’ve found a home for all the content that falls into these categories, and it’s at So just head to the Principles of Behavior page of, and click on online enrichment, to be as cool as we know you are. Why Just A Behavioral View?20 Sid’s Seminar Max: I’ve been reading ahead, and it looks as if this book deals mainly with behavior analysis. It doesn’t say much about other approaches to psychology. Why not psychoanalysis, Freud, Piaget, information processing, cognitive psychology, humanistic psychology? Joe: What do you expect? The title of the book is Principles of Behavior. Tom:  That may be the title of the book, but shouldn’t we be getting a broader view of the various psychological theories in this class? Sid: An interesting point. Psychology sure isn’t short on theories. We have Freud, Jung, Piaget, cognitive psychology, humanistic psychology, gestalt psychology . . . Joe: The people in California produce a new pop theory almost every week. Sid:  Here’s what I’ve found in teaching this course. I tried to cover all the theories, but the students 19 Many people, including me, are uncomfortable with applying labels to people, such as saying, Jimmy is autistic. It would be more accurate to say, Jimmy has an autistic repertoire. Recently some people have begun to use the expressions, with autism and with retardation. And while I think the desire to stop labeling people is a noble one, I’m afraid such expressions as with autism cause even more problems. It suggests that autism is a thing, like a disease, like a cold, that a person has caught. But, as we will see in Chapter 2, inferring a causal entity from a person’s behavior is the illogical form of analysis called reification, which results from circular reasoning: Why does Jimmy act strangely? Because he has autism. How do you know he has autism? Because he acts strangely. Why does he act strangely? Because he has. . . .  And around in the circular argument you go. Better just to say he has autistic behaviors and then to look independently for the causes—for example, in the child’s past and present reinforcement and escape contingencies. However, in the real world, it might not hurt for you to add with autism to your active verbal repertoire. M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 11 20 At the risk of shameless self-promotion, let me tell those of you who find yourselves falling in love with Sid, Dawn, Mae, Juke, Rod, and the gang, you can learn more about their history as college students like you (well not Rod) in Malott, R. W. & Whaley, D. L. (1976). Psychology. Kalamazoo, MI: Behaviordelia, available on 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  12. 12. 12 Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) were shortchanged. They didn’t learn enough about any one theory to really understand it, let alone make use of it. At best, they learned a few clichés they could use in making small talk. They didn’t appreciate or understand the theories. They gained no solid knowledge. They learned no useful skills. On the other hand, when I devote a whole course to a single approach, the students understand and appreciate that approach—both its strengths and its weaknesses. Tom: OK, but why behavior analysis? Why not Freud? Sid: Because I’m a professional behavior analyst. Behavior analysis is what I teach best. However, I used to assign a chapter on Freud that I was excited about but my students couldn’t get into Freud. (To see the Freud chapter, go to Joe: Also, behavior analysis has more scientific data supporting it and can be applied to more areas than any other approach. Sue: Professor Harper said if you want to study Freud, you have to go to the English department. He said almost no major psychology department in North America takes Freud too seriously any more. S id :  Here’s one more reason I concentrate on behavior analysis, rather than an eclectic approach. With a bachelor’s degree in general psych, there’s almost no job you can get using what you’ve learned about psychology. But, if you’ve had some training in behavior analysis, like what you’ll get in this course, you can get a job as soon as you graduate, using applied behavior analysis, if you’re willing to go where the jobs are; and they’re all around the country and starting to be all around the world. Most of these bachelor’s jobs involve working with children classified as autistic, people classified as mentally impaired, and people with brain injuries. (To find more about behavior-analysis job opportunities, go to And we’ll study more about working with these clients throughout this course. How To Use The Study Questions Now we’re starting to roll. But before we start rolling so fast that we get out of control, let’s take a brief break and spend the next two sections discussing how to use this book. Then we can really get up to speed. We interrupt now because you may need this information to most effectively reread this chapter and read the remaining chapters. M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 12 Question: What are the main questions of the previous sections? What are the main points? What are the main goals? What are the main questions your professor might ask you on your next quiz? Answer: The questions listed under the “Questions” headings. (Your professor will probably tell you what, if any, relation there is between our questions in the book and his or her questions on quizzes and exams.) Whenever you finish a section or so, you should be able to answer those questions placed at the end of those sections. If you can’t, then give the section another shot. Whenever you finish a chapter, you should still be able to answer those questions. So review it quickly to be sure. Whenever you take a quiz or exam, you should still be able to answer the questions. So take at least a half hour or more to review the questions for each chapter before each quiz. But there’s more to life than study questions. You also should read the sections to which the study questions refer. For one thing, it may be tough trying to memorize answers that don’t make sense. A quick skim won’t be enough. Carefully reading the relevant sections should put more sense into the questions, the answers, and you. For another thing, if I were your professor, we’d probably ask you a few more questions that weren’t in the list of questions, just to keep you sharp. Or from a more long-range view: The questions list only the main points, not all the points. But there’s more we hope you get from this book than we can test you on—for example, an appreciation of the field of behavior analysis. In Defense of Easy Questions and Tedious Memorization My view of the level of these study questions may shock you. They require no more intellectual skills than you’ll find in your average turnip. Yet memorizing their answers requires more work than we should ask of a self-­ especting r college student. The study questions don’t require you to think; just memorize every concept, principle, and general rule, word for word. (It doesn’t have to be word for word, just perfect; but word for word is the safest.) Why? Because of a surprising report from our best, most thoughtful, and most creative students. Over the years, they’ve reported that it helped them to memorize everything first. Like memorizing the vocabulary for your Spanish course. Memorize our concepts and you’ll use them with greater ease; and use them you must! Then, as a result of using the concepts and principles awhile, you’ll understand them. You no longer will need to worry with your memorized definitions. Memorize and you take one small but helpful step toward enlightenment. 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  13. 13. Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) 13 Also, there’s a good chance your instructor will be a real stickler on the quizzes. You’ll define a term in a way that looks good to you, but your instructor will say, “No, you left out a word that changes the whole meaning of the definition.” “It was just one word!” “Right, the most crucial word.” “But I was close.” “Not close enough.” “But I meant to include that word; I just forgot.” “Right. See you in class next week.” The thing is, even with years of experience in behavior analysis, we’ve had to spend hours defining these terms so the definitions would say exactly what they need to say. (We even had to enlist the help of many of our friends and colleagues and undergrad students too.) The odds aren’t too high that you can do it casually if this is your first tour of the land of behavior analysis. (Remember, you can get our free flash cards at Of course, you should check with your instructor to see the exact relation between these study questions and the quizzes and tests in your particular course. And when we ask for examples, you can just tell us the ones in the book; fine with us! They don’t have to be original. Here’s why I don’t usually require original examples on quizzes: By itself, a textbook such as this can’t get your repertoire to the point where you can reliably discriminate between examples and nonexamples of concepts, let alone reliably generate correct, original examples; so we think just remembering our examples is a step in the right direction. When we use this book, we supplement it with a workbook, How to Analyze Behavioral Contingencies (you can get access to it at That workbook trains you to creatively generate original examples and analyze novel examples of our concepts. However, whether or not your professor is using this workbook, there’s a good chance he or she may want you to generate original examples on the quizzes and not be satisfied with your just repeating the examples from the book. There’s also a good chance he or she will tell you in advance, but you know how professors are, so you might want to check up front. How To Read Textbooks Follow these guidelines when you’re reading any textbook: • Know the title of the book. That may help you better understand what the book is talking about while you’re reading it. It may help you keep the big picture. This is not the big book or the blue book; it’s Principles of Behavior. We know one professor, Jerry Mertens, who’s so convinced of the importance of this knowledge that he asks for the textbook titles on his exams—not a bad idea. • Know the title of the chapter and section. Remembering the chapter and section title while you’re reading a section will help you understand the purpose of the examples. And remembering that will help you answer quiz questions such as What’s Rod’s sleep problem an example of? • Relate examples to concepts and principles. Look at the concept and principle defined just before or just after an example and see how the example illustrates that concept or principle. Doing this will also help you better understand what you read and answer quiz questions. Intermediate Enrichment Biological Evolution and Reinforcers Life is full of stimuli, events, activities, and conditions that help us (they nourish our body’s cells or help our population survive). Fortunately, most animals, including the human animal, have evolved so that many of those biologically helpful stimuli also act as reinforcers. For example, we tend to repeat acts that produce food, water, and sex. Eating food and water help us as individuals to survive. Sexual intercourse helps us as a species to survive. Behavioral Event Before Your distant ancestor had no reinforcing taste of food. M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 13 Behavior Your distant ancestor found and ate food. Biological Results After Your distant ancestor had the reinforcing taste of food. Your distant ancestor was nourished, was more likely to survive, and was more likely to reproduce and continue the lineage that produced YOU! 02/09/13 7:05 PM
  14. 14. 14 Chapter 1  •  The Reinforcer (Positive Reinforcer) Sex is fun for us as individuals, but it doesn’t help us as individuals. We have evolved in such a way that food and water are reinforcers because consuming food and water has allowed individuals to survive long enough to produce and raise offspring. The reason we have evolved in such a way that sexual stimulation is a reinforcer is that the resulting sexual stimulation has caused individuals to copulate and thus produce offspring. Unfortunately, not all beneficial stimuli are sufficient reinforcers for many of us. For example, most adults (and an alarming number of kids) in the United States fail to find the stimulation from physical exercise much of a reinforcer. So they fail to do the exercise needed to keep their bodies in good shape. And, unfortunately, not all reinforcers are good for us, at least in the quantities many of us now consume. Salt, simple, processed sugar, and trans fats are examples. “I’ll have a fudge sundae after I finish these nachos.” Or you can trash yourself big time by having a cup of coffee with cream and sugar as you finish off your cigarette. Harmful reinforcers have become so prominent in our modern world that I’ve adopted this policy: If it feels too good, be careful. ’Cause it’ll likely sneak up from behind and bite your butt. Question 1. Please give the following examples: a. an example of a reinforcer that is helpful for you b. a helpful stimulus that is not a reinforcer c. a reinforcer that is harmful On Additional BACB Information Ch. 1  Advanced Enrichment Section • PROBABILITY, RATE, AND FREQUENCY • OPERANT CONDITIONING M01_MALO9495_07_SE_C01.indd 14 02/09/13 7:05 PM