This lesson covers:
BCAT B-1: Positive reinforcement
BCAT B-2: Negative reinforcement
BCAT D-5: Escape function
BCAT D-6: Attention function
BCAT D-7: Access to tangible function
BCAT D-8: Automatic function
RBT D-2: Describe common functions of behavior
In behavior analysis, we use the term reinforcement to mean something that increases a behavior in the future. Reinforcement can include getting good stuff (positive reinforcement) or getting rid of bad stuff (negative reinforcement).
The technical term for "getting good stuff" is positive reinforcement, which is something being added to the environment that results in an increase in the future frequency of that behavior.
Think of the term "positive" as meaning adding something to environment, such as
In this sense, "negative" refers to taking something away from the environment:
So we talked about certain outcomes or consequences that either would increase that behavior in the future or decrease that behavior in the future. So any time that you have a consequence that results in that behavior increasing in the future, you're dealing with reinforcement.
Now, there's two types of reinforcement and two types of punishment. And a lot of it has to do with whether we are receiving something as a result of our behavior or something is being taken away. So you see the difference between a consequence can either result in something being given to you or in something being taken away. And so this is called positive and negative.
Now, I can have positive reinforcement. But I can also have negative reinforcement. And I can have positive punishment. But I can also have negative punishment. So let me give you an example of each one.
If I have been given something that I enjoy as a result of my behavior-- so if somebody gives me a pat on the back and a high five, and that's something that I like-- then I am being given something that is going to increase my behavior in the future. That is positive reinforcement. If I encounter something negative that's taken away from me-- so for instance, the loud music example. I ask for somebody to turn music down. They turn the music down. And that's a good outcome for me, because I didn't like that music-- that is actually called negative reinforcement.
My behavior of asking for the music to be turned down is going to increase in the future, because that negative thing that I didn't like, that really, really loud music was taken away. So that is an example of what we call negative reinforcement.
Let's explore some examples of positive and negative reinforcement.
|Positive Reinforcement||Negative Reinforcement|
|Shira cries and her mother gives her candy. Shira is more likely to cry to gain access to candy in the future.||Paula's mother gives her candy so she stops crying. In the future, Paula's mother is more likely to give candy to stop the crying.|
|Yu finishes his math homework and his teacher tells him he did a great job. In the future, Yu is more likely to finish his math homework.||Fasil worked hard and got all of his tasks done for the week so his boss let him leave 30 minutes early on Friday. Fasil is more likely to work hard to get all tasks completed so he can leave early on Friday.|
|Solomon puts money into a vending machine and a drink is delivered. In the future, Solomon is more likely to put money into a vending machine.||Beata coughs several times in a row and is sent home from school. In the future, Beata is more likely to cough in school.|
Whether positive or negative, the reinforcer of a behavior can be delivered by another person or can result because the behavior itself is reinforcing. When the reinforcer is delivered by another person, we say that reinforcement is socially mediated. When the behavior itself is reinforcing, we say that reinforcement is automatic. The table below provides examples of each type of reinforcement.
|A teacher gives a student candy.||A student gets candy out of their lunchbox.|
|A grandparent stops asking a grandchild to clean up.||A person sings in the shower.|
|Peers laugh at a joke.||A person scratches an itch.|
|A barista hands a customer coffee.||A runner stretches.|
There are four variables that most often control challenging behaviors. We want you to be aware of these four common causes or functions that lead to the continuation of challenging behaviors.
The combination of positive and negative reinforcement with socially mediated versus automatic access to a reinforcer allows for four functions of behavior:
Social positive reinforcement can involve receiving attention from others, gaining access to tangible items or activities, or having access to preferred sensory stimulation.
|Julie receives no attention.||⇨||Julie hits.||⇨||Look at her disapprovingly.|
|Attention||Impact on Behavior|
|“Don’t do that.”||The adult may chastise Julie, thinking that reprimanding her will make her feel bad and not hit again. But, this may not be the case. To Julie, it may not matter whether the adult says something nice or something chastising. It may just matter that she now has the adult’s attention when she did not before. So, if over time, the BCBA observes that the behavior technician or caregiver chastises Julie after she hits, and that the behavior is not improving, it is likely that the attention Julie gets when the behavior technician or caregiver says “Don’t do that” is causing the hitting to continue to occur.|
|“No hitting.”||Again, the behavior technician or caregiver may think that being firm with Julie will reduce her hitting. But, if over time, the BCBA sees that people are saying “No hitting” to Julie but Julie still hits, it is likely that the attention Julie gets by the behavior technician or caregiver saying “No hitting” is reinforcing the hitting, or causing it to continue.|
|“It’s okay.”||Sometimes a behavior technician, teacher, or caregiver may try to soothe a patient when they engage in a challenging behavior, such as hitting. It may be possible that giving this soothing attention is reinforcing the hitting. Again, a BCBA must determine if this is the reason for or function of Julie’s hitting before deciding on an intervention.|
|Hold her hand or look at her disapprovingly||Looks or physical touch are also forms of attention and may reinforce challenging behavior such as hitting.|
|Rajesh receives no attention.||⇨||Rajesh falls down.||⇨||"Are you okay?"|
|Attention||Impact on Behavior|
|“Are you okay?”||Another person may check to see that Rajesh is okay in an attempt to soothe. If the BCBA observes that Rajesh continues to fall down when deprived of attention and receives attention after falling, it is likely that the behavior is maintained by attention.|
|Peers laugh.||While adults can most often modify the attention provided to patients engaged in challenging behavior, peers may not follow the same rules. It’s possible that when Rajesh falls, his peers find this amusing and it becomes a game. Rajesh may fall to the ground to get a laugh from peers. If, over time, the BCBA sees that peers are laughing when Rajesh falls, and Rajesh continues to fall, laughing is most likely reinforcing the falling, or causing it to continue.|
|Lift him up.||Looks or physical touch are also forms of attention and may reinforce challenging behavior such as falling to the floor.|
So can someone give me an example or a situation how you would thank someone in a friendly way? Jackson.
Clap once if you hear my voice. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Clap once if you hear my voice.
|Gyte wants to play outside.||⇨||Gyte hits.||⇨||Let her go outside.|
|Coleman is hungry.||⇨||Coleman screams and cries.||⇨||Gets candy.|
All Done. We'll watch it later, OK? We'll watch them later. We'll watch them later.
No, we'll watch it later.
Jack, settle down. Settle down. We'll watch the computer later. It's not going anywhere.
Social negative reinforcement is escape. Someone lets the patient escape bad stuff or removes something that is aversive.
EXAMPLEIf a teenager avoids their homework night after night, you would say that homework is aversive.
Someone allowing escape from an aversive event or task contingent on problem behavior might involve
|Toni is working.||⇨||Toni hits.||⇨||Behavior technician ends task.|
|Jamile is getting ready for a new activity.||⇨||Jamile spits.||⇨||Stops getting ready.|
[INAUDIBLE] What does "hold your horses" mean? No, we need to be in our chair.
I asked you that question first.
Hey, we're finishing our questions, bud. We can get out of our chair when we have 20 serious answers. Thanks for sitting on your chair.
This is the third of the four main functions of behavior. With automatic positive reinforcement, the behavior itself feels good and is reinforcing. A patient might engage in stereotypy to receive sensory input, for example:
|Jo receives no visual stimulation.||⇨||Jo flaps hands.||⇨||Jo gets visual stimulation.|
|Aki has no tactile stimulation.||⇨||Aki picks at his fingers.||⇨||Aki has tactile stimulation.|
With automatic negative reinforcement, terminating or avoiding the behavior itself feels good and is reinforcing.
EXAMPLERubbing a bruise can help to alleviate pain or scratching a mosquito bite can help ease the itching sensation.
Let's take a look at a few other examples.
|Dahliah has a headache.||⇨||Dahliah bangs her head.||⇨||Dahliah doesn't feel the headache.|
|The radio is on.||⇨||Hala plugs her ears.||⇨||Hala cannot hear the radio.|