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MOTIVATING OPERATIONS AND TERMS TO DESCRIBE THEM: SOME FURTHER REFINEMENTS
MOTIVATING OPERATIONS AND TERMS TO DESCRIBE THEM: SOME FURTHER REFINEMENTS
MOTIVATING OPERATIONS AND TERMS TO DESCRIBE THEM: SOME FURTHER REFINEMENTS
MOTIVATING OPERATIONS AND TERMS TO DESCRIBE THEM: SOME FURTHER REFINEMENTS
MOTIVATING OPERATIONS AND TERMS TO DESCRIBE THEM: SOME FURTHER REFINEMENTS
MOTIVATING OPERATIONS AND TERMS TO DESCRIBE THEM: SOME FURTHER REFINEMENTS
MOTIVATING OPERATIONS AND TERMS TO DESCRIBE THEM: SOME FURTHER REFINEMENTS
MOTIVATING OPERATIONS AND TERMS TO DESCRIBE THEM: SOME FURTHER REFINEMENTS
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MOTIVATING OPERATIONS AND TERMS TO DESCRIBE THEM: SOME FURTHER REFINEMENTS

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Article discussed at EB meeting on 10/26/11, led by Michael LaPaglia

Article discussed at EB meeting on 10/26/11, led by Michael LaPaglia

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  • 1. JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS 2003, 36, 407–414 NUMBER 3 (FALL 2003) MOTIVATING OPERATIONS AND TERMS TO DESCRIBE THEM: SOME FURTHER REFINEMENTS SEAN LARAWAY, SUSAN SNYCERSKI, JACK MICHAEL, AND ALAN POLING WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY Over the past decade, behavior analysts have increasingly used the term establishing op- eration (EO) to refer to environmental events that influence the behavioral effects of operant consequences. Nonetheless, some elements of current terminology regarding EOs may interfere with applied behavior analysts’ efforts to predict, control, describe, and understand behavior. The present paper (a) describes how the current conceptualization of the EO is in need of revision, (b) suggests alternative terms, including the generic term motivating operation (MO), and (c) provides examples of MOs and their behavioral effects using articles from the applied behavior analysis literature. DESCRIPTORS: motivation, establishing operations, abolishing operations, moti- vating operations, behavior-analytic terminology The term establishing operation (EO), (1993a, 1993b) further identified three typesoriginally used by Keller and Schoenfeld of learned EOs, which he termed the surro-(1950) and then by Millenson (1967) to de- gate CEO, the reflexive CEO, and the tran-note motivating events, has been revived and sitive CEO. These CEO subtypes are dis-reformulated in a series of papers by Michael cussed in detail elsewhere (e.g., McGill,(e.g., 1982, 1983, 1988, 1993a, 1993b, 1999; Michael, 1982, 1993a, 1993b, 2000;2000). Michael defined EOs as environmen- Olson, Laraway, & Austin, 2001) and willtal events, operations, or stimulus conditions not be reviewed here.that affect an organism’s behavior by altering Since Michael’s early articles on the topic(a) the reinforcing or punishing effectiveness appeared (i.e., Michael, 1982, 1983), behav-of other environmental events and (b) the ior analysts have increasingly recognized thefrequency of occurrence of that part of the importance of EOs and have generallyorganism’s repertoire relevant to those events adopted Michael’s terminology with respectas consequences. Michael termed the first ef- to them. From 1990 to 1999, the cumula-fect the reinforcer-establishing effect and the tive number of articles in the Journal of Ap-second effect the evocative effect. Uncondi- plied Behavior Analysis (JABA) that used thetioned establishing operations (UEOs) do term establishing operation rose from three tonot require a learning history to change the over 60. Moreover, citations of Michael’seffectiveness of consequences. In contrast, 1982 and 1993b articles on the EO haveconditioned establishing operations (CEOs) increased in number every year since theiracquire their motivating function as a result publication (Iwata, Smith, & Michael,of a particular learning history. Michael 2000). In fact, Michael’s 1982 article, first published in the Journal of the Experimental We thank Robert Stromer and four anonymous re- Analysis of Behavior (JEAB), is now the JEABviewers for their very helpful comments on a previous article most frequently cited in JABA (Elliot,version of this paper. Fuqua, Ehrhardt, & Poling, 2003). Recent Correspondence concerning this article should be issues of JABA (Vol. 33, No. 4) and the Jour-addressed to Alan Poling, Department of Psychology,Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan nal of Organizational Behavior Management49008. (Vol. 21, No. 2) contained sections dedicat- 407
  • 2. 408 SEAN LARAWAY et al.ed to the EO. The EO concept has also been ply, most research on the EO has been pub-discussed in several other publications (e.g., lished in JABA. Given the recent increase inAgnew, 1998; Biglan, 1995; Blakely & interest in the EO concept demonstrated bySchlinger, 1987; Chase & Hyten, 1985; applied behavior analysts, JABA readers seemDougher & Hackbert, 2000; Guerin, 1994; to be the natural audience for the changesHall & Sundberg, 1987; Klatt & Morris, in EO concept proposed in this paper. In2001; Lamarre & Holland, 1985; Lohr- addition, we believe that the MO conceptmann-O’Rourke & Yurman, 2001; Poling, presented herein will improve the analysis1986; Poling & Byrne, 2000; Schlinger & and treatment of behavior in applied set-Blakely, 1987; Schlinger & Poling, 1998; Si- tings.gafoos, 1999; Wilder & Carr, 1998). TheEO concept has even appeared in non-En- Not All Motivating Events Areglish-language journals. For example, da Establishing OperationsCunha (1995) and Miguel (2000) translated One possible limitation of current termi-the EO concept into Portuguese. In short, nology stems from using establishing opera-the EO concept has thus become the fore- tion as an omnibus term for all operationsmost behavior-analytic approach to motiva- that have motivational effects. The term es-tion, and behavior analysts who work in a tablishing implies only an increase in the ef-variety of applied settings have increasingly fectiveness of a consequence as a reinforcerused the concept in their analyses and inter- or punisher, yet many motivating variablesventions. Interestingly, the EO concept has decrease the effectiveness of consequences.not received much attention in the basic lit- For example, researchers have found thaterature (for exceptions, see Ailing, 1991; da time-based presentation of attention (as inCunha, 1993; Hixson, 1995; McPherson & so-called noncontingent reinforcement pro-Osborne, 1986, 1988). cedures) reduced the reinforcing effective- The EO concept has provided behavior ness of attention (e.g., Berg et al., 2000; Fi-analysts with a useful way to describe an im- scher, Iwata, & Worsdell, 1997), althoughportant class of operant controlling variables. time-based schedules likely have other be-Nevertheless, some elements of current EO havioral effects as well. Similarly, Northup,terminology may interfere with applied be- Fusilier, Swanson, Roane, and Borrerohavior analysts’ efforts to predict, control, (1997) found that, in some participants, thedescribe, and understand behavior. One pur- stimulant drug methylphenidate decreasedpose of the present paper is to consider how the reinforcing effectiveness of coupons ex-certain terms historically used in discussions changeable for edible items. This effect isof EOs do not precisely describe the behav- consistent with the decrease in food con-ioral effects of motivating events. A second sumption generally produced by stimulantpurpose is to provide, when necessary, alter- drugs (Julien, 2001). Using current termi-native terms, including the omnibus term, nology, the interventions used in these stud-motivating operation (MO). A third purpose ies would be termed EOs, even though theyis to describe MOs and their behavioral ef- reduced the effectiveness of the reinforcersfects using examples relevant to applied be- involved.havior analysts. Although the issues dis- Michael (1982, 1983, 1993b) recognizedcussed herein are pertinent to the general be- the problem of using establishing operation ashavior-analytic community, we believe that an omnibus term but stated that it was in-refinements in the EO concept is of partic- convenient to introduce the complementaryular interest to the readers of JABA. Put sim- term abolishing operation (AO; see also Mc-
  • 3. MOTIVATING OPERATIONS 409Gill, 1999, p. 394). Instead, Michael (1982) Drug Administration (2002) recently ap-suggested that ‘‘ ‘establishing’ should be tak- proved buprenorphine as a treatment foren to be short for ‘establishing or abolish- opiate dependence. The terminology sug-ing’ ’’ (p. 151). In practice, using the same gested in this paper explicitly describes theterm to refer to events that either increase or AO functions of time-based schedules,decrease the effectiveness of consequences methylphenidate, and buprenorphine,seems illogical and may lead behavior ana- whereas the current terminology does not.lysts to neglect operations with abolishingeffects (Poling, 2001). Hence, behavior an- MOs May Affect Multiple Behaviorsalysts should consider using AO to refer to The results of basic and applied researchany event that decreases the effectiveness of support the judgment that a given stimulusa given consequence, EO to refer to any can have multiple behavioral functions (e.g.,event that increases the effectiveness of a giv- Michael, 1988). In attempts to identify a be-en consequence, and MO as an omnibus havior’s controlling variables, applied behav-term that subsumes both AOs and EOs. ior analysts should be aware that a givenThis suggested terminology will be used MO is likely to affect many behaviors and athroughout the remainder of this paper. given behavior is likely to be affected by Using the new terminology, time-based many MOs (Poling, 2001). In Northup etpresentations of attention in Fischer, Iwata, al. (1997), methylphenidate functioned asand Worsdell (1997) and Berg et al. (2000) an AO for food-related coupons and as ancould be considered AOs for attention, as EO for coupons related to activity reinforc-would methylphenidate (with respect to ers. Horner, Day, and Day (1997) examinedcoupons exchangeable for edible items) in the motivating effects of neutralizing rou-Northup et al. (1997). As these studies dem- tines on problem behaviors exhibited byonstrate, AOs play an important role in ap- boys with developmental disabilities. Theyplied behavior analysis, and treatments for found that various events, such as delayingaberrant behavior sometimes involve AO a planned activity or sleep deprivation, couldmanipulations (e.g., Fischer, Iwata, & Ma- have multiple motivating functions. In 1zaleski, 1997; Hagopian, Fisher, & Legacy, participant, sleep deprivation reduced the1994; Vollmer, Marcus, & Ringdahl, 1995). value of staff praise as a reinforcer (i.e., itFor example, many pharmacotherapies for functioned as an AO for praise) and in-drug abuse function as AOs for drug rein- creased the value of immediate access to ed-forcers (see Schuster, 1986). As a case in ible items as a reinforcer (i.e., it functionedpoint, research with humans has demon- as an EO for edible items).strated that the opiate drug buprenorphine Northup et al. (1997) and Horner et al.(Subutex) reduces the reinforcing effective- (1997) demonstrated that MOs can haveness of other opiate agonists (e.g., morphine, multiple, and sometimes simultaneous, mo-heroin) by producing subjective effects sim- tivating effects. Thus, treatments that in-ilar to opiate agonists and by blocking the volve MO manipulations may change alter-subjective effects of opiate drugs adminis- native behaviors in addition to target behav-tered concurrently (Mello, Mendelson, & iors. Using a relatively dense time-basedKuehnle, 1982). Mello et al. found that, rel- schedule, Goh, Iwata, and DeLeon (2000)ative to placebo, buprenorphine reduced delivered reinforcers that maintained self-in-male heroin users’ choices for heroin at doses jurious behavior while they concurrently at-that did not affect choices for money. Be- tempted to train appropriate alternative be-cause of the drug’s AO effects, the Food and haviors, specifically mands, using the same
  • 4. 410 SEAN LARAWAY et al.reinforcers. The time-based schedule re- have reduced behavior. Indeed, Solnick, Rin-duced the rate of self-injurious behavior but cover, and Peterson (1977) found that foralso interfered with the acquisition of time-out to function as a punishing event,mands, and this schedule appears to have the time-in situation must provide a rela-functioned as an AO for the reinforcers, tively high density of effective reinforcingthereby preventing them from strengthening events. Such events are effective as reinforc-mands. ers because of the action of their relevant EOs (e.g., food deprivation for edible rein-MOs Influence Punishers, Too forcers). Thus, the EOs for the programmed To date, most discussions of MOs have reinforcers in time-in also established thefocused on EOs for reinforcement, although punishing effectiveness of ribbon loss (i.e.,MOs also include EOs and AOs for punish- functioned as EOs for ribbon loss as a pun-ment. As with reinforcing events, the capac- ishing event) and abated misbehaviors thatity of events to function as punishers de- resulted in ribbon loss. Conversely, AOs thatpends on MOs. Specific examples of such reduced the effectiveness of the programmedMOs are rare in the applied literature, be- reinforcers (e.g., food satiation for ediblecause most applied studies of MOs have fo- items) would also reduce the punishing ef-cused on MOs for reinforcement. Neverthe- fectiveness of ribbon loss and increase theless, some common behavioral interventions likelihood of misbehaviors that resulted inthat involve punishing consequences rely on ribbon loss.MOs for their effectiveness. Consider, for Other authors have noted that the pun-example, a study by Foxx and Shapiro ishing effectiveness of time-out depends on(1978). These researchers investigated the ef- the effectiveness of reinforcers in time-infects of the time-out ribbon, a form of non- (e.g., Alberto & Troutman, 1990, p. 276;exclusionary time-out, on the misbehavior of Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 1987, p. 450),boys with mental retardation. Boys were giv- and a similar principle operates in tokenen different-colored ribbons to wear. As long economies that incorporate response-costas a boy behaved appropriately, he was al- procedures. If the putative back-up reinforc-lowed to continue wearing his ribbon, which ers are not currently effective, loss of tokens (i.e., the loss of the opportunity to acquiresignaled that reinforcers, such as edible the back-up ‘‘reinforcers’’) would not effec-items, were available for his good behavior. tively control behavior. In commonsenseIf a boy behaved inappropriately, he tem- terms, losing the opportunity to earn a con-porarily lost his ribbon and could not earn sequence is only important if you currentlyreinforcers for 3 min and until he stopped ‘‘want’’ that consequence. Therefore, MOsmisbehaving. that increase the reinforcing effectiveness of The removal of the time-out ribbon sub- particular objects or events also increase thestantially reduced the percentage of intervals punishing effectiveness of making those ob-in which misbehavior occurred. That is, re- jects or events unavailable (i.e., time-out) ormoval of the time-out ribbon functioned as of removing them (i.e., response cost). Asa punishing event. The capacity for ribbon this example illustrates, a single environmen-loss to punish misbehavior was due to the tal event can have multiple and simultaneousribbon’s relation to currently effective rein- motivating effects.forcers (e.g., edible items) that were availablewhen the boys possessed the ribbon. If the The Defining Effects of MOsribbon did not signal that effective reinforc- Another potential limitation of currenters were available, ribbon loss would not terminology involves the names for the two
  • 5. MOTIVATING OPERATIONS 411effects that heretofore have defined MOs, change merits consideration. Because MOsthat is, the reinforcer-establishing effect and can increase or decrease responding, it seemsthe evocative effect. Whereas these two imprecise to use evocative effect to refer toterms are often used to define the effects of both kinds of changes. Michael (1983) not-all MOs, in fact, these terms actually name ed this imprecision:the specific behavioral effects of one subtype The term [evoke] is somewhat unsat-of MO, namely, one that establishes the re- isfactory, however, in suggesting onlyinforcing effectiveness of some event and an increase, since some of the relationsevokes responses related to that event as a that will be considered evocative in-consequence. But, as stated previously, MOs volve decreases. Evocative or suppressivecan establish and abolish the effectiveness of would actually be more accurate butreinforcers and punishers. To refer to both also more cumbersome, so for now letincreases and decreases in the effectiveness of us assign to evoke and evocative a bidi-both reinforcers and punishers as reinforcer- rectional implication. (p. 19)establishing effects seems problematic. Consider again the effect of time-based Instead of using evocative effect in the bidi-presentation of attention on the subsequent rectional sense advocated by Michael, in thereinforcing effectiveness of attention. Under interest of accuracy, behavior analysts shouldcurrent terminology, this effect would be consider using behavior-altering effect as a ge-called a reinforcer-establishing effect, even neric description of MOs’ effects on behav-though time-based attention abolished the ior. We have suggested elsewhere (Laraway,effectiveness of attention as a reinforcer. Be- Snycerski, Michael, & Poling, 2001/2002)havior analysts should consider using value- that behavior analysts (a) use the verb evokealtering effect to replace reinforcer-establishing to describe an increase and the verb abate toeffect as a generic description of a change in describe a decrease in responding due to thethe effectiveness (i.e., value) of any operant action of antecedents and (b) denote the for-consequence. Value-altering effects comprise mer an evocative effect and the latter an aba-the (a) reinforcer-establishing, (b) reinforcer- tive effect. EOs for reinforcers have evocativeabolishing, (c) punisher-establishing, and (d) effects, as do AOs for punishers. AOs forpunisher-abolishing effects of MOs. It reinforcers have abative effects, as do EOsshould be noted that the effectiveness of for punishers. Thus, in Northup et al.consequences is sometimes a relatively con- (1997) methylphenidate had an abative ef-tinuous variable, with minimum, interme- fect on responding maintained by couponsdiate, and maximum values possible. Thus, exchangeable for edible items, and in MelloEOs shift a consequence’s effectiveness to- et al. (1982) buprenorphine had an abativeward the maximally effective end of the con- effect on heroin self-administration.tinuum and AOs shift a consequence’s effec- A third effect of MOs mentioned by Mi-tiveness toward the minimally effective end chael (1993a, 1993b) is that they modify theof the continuum. In Fischer, Iwata, and evocative effects of discriminative stimuli.Worsdell (1997), Berg et al. (2000), and MOs influence discriminative stimuli (a) byNorthup et al. (1997), presentation of non- making reinforcement and punishment pos-contingent attention and administration of sible, thereby making discrimination train-methylphenidate would be said to have re- ing possible, and (b) by changing the controlinforcer-abolishing effects. over behavior exerted by previously estab- With respect to the second generic effect lished discriminative stimuli. Discriminationof MOs (i.e., the evocative effect), one training relies on the processes of differential
  • 6. 412 SEAN LARAWAY et al.reinforcement or punishment, which, of abative effect. The evocative effect representscourse, require effective consequences. Once an increase in responding, and the abativea discriminative stimulus has been devel- effect represents a decrease in responding. Inoped, the behavioral effects of that stimulus many natural and laboratory (particularlywill be seen only when an MO is in effect. free-operant) situations, researchers mayThus, the behavior-altering effects of MOs have trouble disentangling the value- and be-may depend on the presence of relevant dis- havior-altering effects of a given MO be-criminative stimuli. This was demonstrated cause consequences often occur while theby Horner et al. (1997), who found that the MO functions effectively, thereby confound-probability of boys’ engaging in a problem ing the two effects. Pure behavior-altering ef-behavior was higher when an MO and a dis- fects can be seen most clearly in extinctioncriminative stimulus were presented together or before the first occurrence of the relevantthan when either of these antecedents were consequences (Klatt & Morris, 2001).presented alone, in which case the probabil-ity of problem behavior remained at near Concluding Commentszero. The behavior-altering effect of MOs, In conclusion, behavior analysts’ increas-then, involves the direct effects of a given ingly effective attempts to treat behavioralMO on behavior combined with the MO’s problems using the EO concept suggest thateffects on the ability of discriminative stim- the general approach to motivation offereduli to control behavior (Michael, 1993a, by Michael is a fruitful one (e.g., Berg et al.,1993b). 2000; Fischer, Iwata, & Mazaleski, 1997; Fi-Summary of Motivating Operations and scher, Iwata, & Worsdell, 1997; Northup etTheir Effects al., 1997; for reviews, see McGill, 1999; In sum, MOs have two defining effects. Wilder & Carr, 1998; see also Iwata &They alter (a) the effectiveness of reinforcers Smith, 2000; Smith & Iwata, 1997). Nev-or punishers (the value-altering effect) and ertheless, current terminology associated(b) the frequency of operant response classes with this approach needs further refinement.related to those consequences (the behavior- The expanded MO concept presented herealtering effect). The value-altering effect, as a makes a behavior-analytic approach to mo-generic term, subsumes the following specif- tivation more comprehensive by explicitlyic effects of MOs: (a) the reinforcer-estab- recognizing distinct motivating operationslishing effect, (b) the reinforcer-abolishing that previously have been underemphasizedeffect, (c) the punisher-establishing effect, and by clarifying the effects of these con-and (d) the punisher-abolishing effect. Based trolling variables. Applied behavior analystson the different value-altering effects, we can have only recently begun the serious studydistinguish four MO subtypes: (a) EOs re- of the effects of antecedents on problem be-lated to reinforcement, (b) AOs related to havior. According to Smith and Iwata, a pos-reinforcement, (c) EOs related to punish- sible reason for this situation is the lack ofment, and (d) AOs related to punishment. a unifying conceptual system for interpretingAgain, establishing operations make rein- the effects of antecedent events. It is ourforcers and punishers more effective, and hope that the conceptual scheme presentedabolishing operations make reinforcers and in this article will prove useful in categoriz-punishers less effective. The behavior-altering ing and making sense of one important classeffect, as a generic term, subsumes two effects of antecedent variables, namely, those thatof MOs: (a) the evocative effect and (b) the influence the effectiveness of operant con-
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