Phil and Barbie are playing in their band when Phil remembers – he has to get to a taping of his show. This week ’s subject? Helping a fat woman change her eating habits and lose weight through changing her image of herself.
Barbie says, “Wait, Phil! One-hour interventions don’t have any lasting effects! You need to make sure behavior maintains for your work to be useful!” Phil says, “What are you talking about, Barbie? I’m famous – I can’t be wrong about anything!”
Barbie: “Phil, I’m a behavior analyst! I’ll tell you all about what you, and any good psychologist, needs to know to make lasting changes in behavior!” Phil: “I didn’t know you were a behavior analyst, Barbie!” Barbie: “There’s a lot you don’t know, Dr. Phil…..”
Disclaimer: The author of this presentation assumes no liability from any damages incurred from its cheesy jokes and bad 1980 ’s color/font scheme. Sorry!
Adventures in Transfer and Maintenance Presents:
Barbie & Dr. Phil ’s Excellent Adventure: A Study of Transfer and Maintenance
Barbie , girl-power fashion doll Dr. Phil McGraw , quack … er, pop psychologist
One day, life-long friends Barbie and Dr. Phil were practicing their neo-80 ’s garage band, The Wyld Unycorns …
Dude, Barbie! I ’ve gotta go; there ’s a taping of the Dr. Phil Show in a few minutes! Yeah, Dr. Phil? What ’s the show topic today?
We ’re intervening in the fragile life of an 800-lb. woman, Bertha Bigg. Through my patent-pending method of tough-love, lots of sass, and my way-cool life rules, I ’ll have her eating salads by the time the show wraps!
Phil, you don ’t really think that works, do you? Have you even considered the effects of transfer and maintenance yet? You can ’t engage in behavior changes without taking that into consideration! Y ’mean I need to get that stomach-staple surgery now? So much for saving money!
So what are transfer and maintenance ? They don ’t teach you that in talk-show psychology school! Of course not, Phil! Only big-shot behavior analysts know about transfer and maintenance ! You can read all about it, by the way, in Dr. Malott ’s groundbreaking masterpiece, Elementary Principles of Behavior!
Maintenance is defined as “the continuing of performance after it was first established. ” If Dr. Phil taught his talk-show patient healthy eating habits, and she kept using them long after his show, that would be maintenance! Unfortunately, that doesn ’t usually happen in the talk-show circuit. Any ideas why? I ’m just not being charismatic enough? My agent ’s been telling me that! I don ’t wanna go back to Oprah!
Okay, Barbie, so what if I stage an epic three-show intervention? We keep giving Bertha reinforcing praise, but reduce the frequency each show? If we make the intervals between reinforcement really long, can ’t we fool her into thinking she’ll still get praise for eating healthy? The intervention in T.V. shows, and unfortunately, in some behavioral interventions, does not set up contingencies that will support the behavior once the therapist is no longer present. Remember the Law of Effect ? If our behavior has no reinforcing outcome, we are not likely to repeat it!
Oh, Phil, you don ’t get anything, do you? That ’s called The Myth of Intermittent Reinforcement: you can ’t “fool” Bertha; eventually, she’ll catch on to the fact that she isn ’t getting any reinforcement for eating healthy, and go back to the drive-thru. So the point is: you need reinforcing contingencies in place to maintain behavior . Wow, sounds like a big deal.
Yeah, Phil, it is a big deal. But I think you ’re finally getting it!
Wait a minute Barbie, shouldn ’t the empowering knowledge that Bertha has control over her weight and her life be reinforcing enough? Well, look at it this way Phil, being healthy is an ineffective natural contingency for Bertha. If being healthier wasn ’t enough to reinforce the behavior of healthy eating in the first place, why would it after only one of your pep talks?
They aren ’t pep talks; they’re life lessons! That aside, how do you think we could get behavior, such as eating healthy, to maintain over time without constant behavioral intervention?
Oh, I know! To get somebody to keep eating healthy, plan a diet of healthy food the person actually likes to eat! Am I right? What do I win? Wow, Phil! You ’re right! You could also have the woman ’s family and friends praise her every time they see her eating a healthy meal or exercising! Your reward, Phil: this cool dancing hamster!
This is called The Behavior Trap! The behavior, once taught, can be introduced into effective natural communities of reinforcement, which eventually take the place of the arranged reinforcers. Eventually, Bertha would lose the weight through diet and exercise. As she became thinner, she would get all sorts of effective built-in reinforcers, not to mention unprompted compliments!
Wow, Dancing Hamster! You ’re smarter than Dr. Phil!
Now, Phil, the next problem, once you ’ve got Bertha’s eating habits under control is how you ensure those behaviors transfer to her natural environment and maintain there? Do I have to move in with her to keep up this intervention? I mean, Bertha ’s a nice person and all, but c ’mon, I’ve got a wife and kids!
Oh, please do! Not only will it get you away from Oprah, but I ’m a great cook!
Once I get Bertha to eat healthy food and stop eating junk, she ’ll never go back to that fattening crap!
Oh, no, no, Doccy Doc! That is The Myth of Perpetual Behavior ! You think once you get me eating healthy my behavior will maintain itself, but you ’re wrong!
Yes, Phil. Bertha Bigg sure is bright! There is no such thing as perpetual behavior . You need to have contingencies in place to keep Bertha eating healthy and staying away from those Devil ’s Food Cakes!
So, Dr. Phil, you might need to do some Perpetual Behavior Contracting —like some kind of Performance Management— forever and ever to keep Bertha beautiful. I thought I heard this Iwata guy say something about stimulus diminuition?
You mean stimulus discrimination ! Behavior often doesn ’t transfer because the conditions in which the behavior was trained and the conditions in which we want it to occur are too different. In other words, too much stimulus discrimination occurs. But I thought discrimination was illegal….
Okay now, Pop Quiz! This is a Person . People are Animate. Can you discriminate? This is a doll. Dolls are Inanimate. Doll Person
Um…no. Could you repeat that? Sigh… Anyway, most people, exempting Phil of course, can easily tell the difference between a doll and a real person, especially when that person is themselves. Also, people can tell the difference between real settings, like streets, and cardboard models. Why does this matter?
That has something to do with a study conducted by Brian Iwata (a WMU alumnus!) and friends, right? Mentally handicapped people were taught to guide a doll around a street scene in the lab. When they got outside, they could actually safely cross the streets. How the f-- Phil! What did I tell you about profanity? Do we have to do some punishment interventions again?
Sorry, Barbie. What I meant was, how did that happen? The handicapped people suddenly acquired this behavior, after only training with a doll? Remember all the way back to EPB Chapter 22? It talked about Rule- Governed Behavior. This example is the same thing! The kids learned the correct way to cross the street because in the lab, they were taught to say the rules when guiding the dolls. They said the same rules in real life! Get it, Phil?
Didn ’t think so. Well, the model of the street and the actual intersection were part of the same equivalence class , and … oh, never mind, Phil! No, not really….
Barbie, I ’m lost. What the hell have we been talking about? Okay, Doc. Here ’s a recap for your thick mentalistic skull…
The Myth of Perpetual Behavior , which is the erroneous belief that you can modify behavior, the modified behavior maintains itself, and you never have to deliver another behavioral consequence again.
This is a myth because again, if you stop providing reinforcement, the behavior will stop as well!
You ’re guilty of committing this error too, Dr. Phil.
Eats veggies and pasta for dinner Eats Crisco and cookies for dinner Eats veggies and pasta for dinner Eats veggies and pasta for dinner maintenance So not maintenance Pop Quiz #2: Identify Maintenance! Behavior Now Behavior in 6 months