Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations in the Behaviorology

 Encyclopedic Glossary of Terms

ABCs of behavior. An acronym in which A stands for antecedent, B stands for behavior and C stands for consequence (a type of postcedent stimulation) that represents the three-term contingency. See Three-Term Contingency

Abolishing Operations (AOs). A motivating operation procedure that decreases the effectiveness of a reinforcer. See Motivating Operations and Function Altering Stimulus.

Added Punishment (+P). A behavior change process in which the addition of a stimulus, during or immediately following a response class member, results in a decrease in the rate or frequency of the response class on subsequent occasions. 

Added Reinforcement (+R). A behavior change process in which the addition of a stimulus during or immediately following a response class member, results in an increase in the rate or frequency of the response class on subsequent occasions.   

Adjunctive Behavior. A class of responses that occur periodically during certain schedules and is induced by those schedules, particularly interval schedules or time-based schedules, as an interim activity at points in the schedule during which reinforcement is unlikely.

Alternating Treatment Design. An experimental design in which one or more treatment conditions are presented in rapidly alternating succession such as on successive days or in sessions (Cooper et al. 2007).     Rather than waiting for stability of the independent variable to be achieved, such as in the reversal design, the alternating treatment design alternates interventions right from the start.

Antecedent Control Procedure. Any procedure that manipulates antecedent stimuli in order to increase or decrease the likelihood of a target operant being performed. This involves changes to discriminative stimuli or function altering stimuli. This can include respondent conditioning based procedures that change emotional arousal that functions to motivate the operant in question.

Antecedent Stimulus. An event that occurs immediately prior to a target behavior, which may or may not have been confirmed as functionally related to the behavior. In terms of events that have been confirmed as functionally related to the behavior it precedes, it may be used to refer to an evocative stimulus or a function-altering stimulus.     See Evocative Stimulus for details and see Function Altering Stimuli for details on stimuli that can alter the functional capacity of the SEv to evoke the behavior.

Anxiety. General term referring to emotional arousal. Miltenberger (2004): "A term used to describe respondent behavior involving the activation of the autonomic nervous system (including rapid heart rate, shallow rapid breathing, and increased muscle tension). Often used more specifically to refer to a "anticipatory foreboding," to the awareness related behaviors or private experience of certain emotional responses called feelings. Certain conditioned stimuli elicit emotional responses because they have been associated with other stimuli afterward, which we might term anticipation but it is more accurate to simply refer to responses to conditioned stimuli than to "anticipation" which suggest and agential perspective. This "worrying" can be thought of as anxiety.

Attractive stimulus (satt). A stimulus that functions as a reinforcer when added following a behavior or as a punisher when subtracted following a behavior. This is an unofficial term stipulated for lack of a better term as the opposite of an aversive stimulus. Contrast with Aversive Stimulus.    

Aversive Stimulus (SAVE). An aversive stimulus is any event that functions (a) to evoke behavior that has reduced or terminated it in the past, (b) as a punisher if presented immediately following a behavior, or (c) as a reinforcer when withdrawn immediately after a behavior.

Avoidance. Organisms will generally attempt to escape aversive stimuli. Avoidance is often cast in terms of "anticipation" of aversive stimuli to be escaped but this is tends to suggest an agential perspective and is not as accurate as the following explanation. Organisms will attempt to escape aversive stimulation, or punishers. If the punisher being escaped is an unconditioned punisher then we call it escape. If the punisher being escaped is a conditioned punisher, then call might call this avoidance. Note that they are still always escaping some aversive stimulus and so it is really all escape behavior. They are always responding to stimuli in the environment (or to emotional responses to that stimuli in a different perspective) and there is no agent anticipating some future occurrence. 

Backward Conditioning. A respondent conditioning procedure in which the conditioned stimulus is presented after the unconditioned stimulus. Ineffective.

Baseline. An experimental condition that is conducted before any treatment conditions to establish the base rate of the behavior to which the treatment conditions can be compared.

Behavior. Any measurable, neurally mediated reaction of a body part to stimulation.

Behavioral Deficit. A circumstance in which the subject does not currently exhibit a specified target behavior and it is deemed to be beneficial to establish it within the subject’s repertoire. Contrast with Behavioral Excess.

Behavioral Excess. A circumstance in which the subject exhibits a specified target behavior at a higher rate than is deemed acceptable. Contrast with Behavioral Deficit.    

Behavior Analysis. A branch of psychology studying behavior from a natural science perspective (contrary to other branches of psychology). This general term commonly refers to “applied behavior analysis,” which is the service provision branch and the “experimental analysis of behavior,” which is the branch that focuses on research. Contrast with Behaviorology.   

Behavior Chain. "A sequence of related behaviors, each of which provides the cue for the next, and the last of which produces a reinforcer." (Source) See Backward Chain.

Behavior Change Procedure. The procedural description of how a change in behavior is to be produced as a function of a contrived change in the environment. (Fraley, 2008) Antecedents and consequences are manipulated in order to change the behavior. 

Behavior Change Project / Program / Plan. A formal set of instructions and guidelines, usually written in a document, that outlines exactly how the target behavior will be changed.

Behaviorology. Behaviorology is the comprehensive natural science and technology of environment–behavior functional relations. "Behaviorology is an independently organized discipline featuring the natural science of behavior. Behaviorologists study the functional relations between behavior and its independent variables in the behavior-determining environment. Behaviorological accounts are based on the behavioral capacity of the species, the personal history of the behaving organism, and the current physical and social environment in which behavior occurs. Behaviorologists discover the natural laws governing behavior. They then develop beneficial behavior-engineering technologies applicable to behavior related concerns in all fields including child rearing, education, employment, entertainment, government, law, marketing, medicine, and self-management." (Source). More more concisely and perhaps too simplistically, behaviorology is the science of behavior. This is distinguished from psychology, which is in fact not a science.

Behavior Replacement Strategy. A constructive strategy for changing problematic behavior in which the problematic behavior is replaced within the contingency with another, more acceptable, behavior.

Biological Approach. Attempts to understand and modify behavior by understanding and manipulating the anatomy and physiology of the individual. The biological approach does not deny phylogenetic (evolutionary) or ontogenetic (learning) change, but rather posits that learning takes place in the context of behavior, and that behavior can be understood and changed by understanding and changing this underlying anatomy and physiology. In behaviorology, biology is recognized as mediating behavior but that behavior is always a response to the environment and usually the functional relationship between the behavior and the environment are studied rather than considering the mediation of the behavior by biological processes. A different level of analysis. 

Biological Context. "The evolutionary history and biological status of an organism are part of the context for specific environment-behavior interactions." (Source)  See also Preparedness.

Bridge. See Conditioned Reinforcer

Chaining. See Behavior Chain.

Coercion. The “use of punishment and the threat of punishment to get others to act as we would like, and to our practice of rewarding people just by letting them escape from our punishments and threats” (Sidman, 2001, p. 1). See Aversive Stimulus.

Coincidental Selector. A selector that is not generated by the behavior it follows but rather occurs coincidentally. See Superstitious Behavior and contrast with Consequence.    

Concept. "Any class (i.e., group, category) the members of which share one or more defining features." (Chance, 2009, p. 389) Concept are the product of generalization and discrimination. "One must generalize within the conceptual class and discriminate between that and other classes." (Chance, 2009, p. 323)

Compound Schedule. A schedule that incorporates more than one element, principle or simple schedule, successively or simultaneously. 

Concurrent Contingencies. More than one distinct contingency operative, either competitive or supportive, at the same time.   

Conditioned Aversive Stimulus (CSAVE or Save) An aversive stimulus that acquires its aversive effect through conditioning, as opposed to an unconditioned aversive stimulus. See also Aversive Stimulus.

Conditioned Emotional Response (CER). Emotional responses that are elicited by stimuli that have been paired with unconditioned stimuli or already conditioned stimuli that elicited the emotional response. See emotional behavior.

Conditioned Inhibition. “In respondent conditioning, when a [conditioned stimulus] is presented repeatedly without the [unconditioned stimulus] (extinction, the conditioned stimulus is said to acquire increasing amounts of inhibition, in the sense that its presentation suppresses the response.” (Pierce & Cheney, 2004)

Conditioned Reinforcer. A reinforcer effective because it has been previously paired with an unconditioned reinforcer or an already established conditioned reinforcer. Also called a secondary reinforcer. Contrast with Unconditioned Reinforcer.See also Unconditioned Reinforcer.

Conditioned Response (cr). A respondent that is elicited by a conditioned stimulus. Contrast with Unconditioned Response.    

Conditioned Stimulus (cs). A previously neutral stimulus that has been paired with another stimulus and comes to elicit a response similar to that which was elicited by the stimulus it was paired with.    

Conditioned Suppression. A conditioned stimulus is paired with an aversive unconditioned stimulus. Once it becomes a conditioned aversive stimulus (CSAVE), its presentation will suppress ongoing operant behavior.

Conditioning. A biological process by which behavior is changed as a result of experience.

Consequence. Postcedent stimulus change that is functionally related to the behavior it follows and may include reinforcement or punishment.     

Constructional Approach. A general approach to changing problematic behavior in which the subject’s repertoire of adaptive/acceptable behaviors is expanded in a manner that would displace or replace the problematic behavior. Contrast with Eliminative Approach.

Contiguity. The occurrence of two or more events in both close temporal and spatial proximity, such as when a behavior generates a consequence. 

Contingencies of Reinforcement. A set of, or description of, the functional relations shared among an antecedent stimulus change, a response class and consequences, or lack thereof for previously consequated behavior, including reinforcement, punishment and extinction.   

Contingency. A functional relation between a behavior and antecedent or consequent stimulus changes. May be used to characterize a contingency in terms of the degree to which the behavior is correlated with a consequence—the degree to which a consequence is delivered after each occurrence of a response class and only after occurrence of that response class. See Functional Relation.

Contingency Adduction. The occurrence of previously conditioned behavior under circumstances not involved in the initial conditioning of that behavior.

Contingency Analysis. A term used to refer to either (a) the procedure involved in analyzing episodes of behavior, including describing functional relations, or (b) the descriptive notation of the contingency—the product of the analysis.    

Continuous Reinforcement (CRF). A schedule setting the rule that each response within a series of responses was or is to be reinforced.

Contrived Reinforcer. An extrinsic or arbitrarily imposed reinforcer mediated by a trainer. See Extrinsic Reinforcer and contrast with Natural Reinforcer.    

Counterconditioning. Describes the process and/or procedure of countering previous respondent conditioning with new respondent conditioning.

Countercontrol. Behavior of a subject exposed to coercion, which functions to establish consequences that deters coercive controls over their behavior. Behavior that “controls the controller.”

Cybernetic Loop. The course of a stream of energy involved in the operant conditioning process: a behavior generates a stimulus change in the environment, that is then detected by the behaving organism, which then causes changes within the nervous system that results in a change in behavior thereafter.    

Cycle of Reciprocal Countercontrol. Term coined by O’Heare (2007). Here is how the cycle of countercontrol works: The guardian finds some particular dog behavior irritating. The guardian's behavior (usually punitive countercontrol, such as “correcting” the dog with leash pops, hitting or yelling) is negatively reinforced as a quick fix tactic, which then produces an irritation for the dog, who in turn resorts to countercontrol. This is also negatively reinforced in many cases, and the cycle of countercontrol continues. All the while, fallout from the lose–lose encounters is compounded to degrade the relationship and produce further problematic behaviors. See also Countercontrol.

Delayed Conditioning. A respondent conditioning procedure in which the conditioned stimulus is presented before the unconditioned stimulus and then ends after the unconditioned stimulus starts but generally stops before the unconditioned stimulus stops.

Dependent Variable. The variable (the “effect”) in an experimental arrangement that is quantified to determine whether it changes systematically with manipulation or change in the independent variable (the “cause”) and if so, how it changes. In the natural science of behavior, the dependent variable is usually the response class (occasionally, a behavior outcome). Contrast with Independent Variable.

Deprivation. A physiological condition defined by the amount of time during which the subject has not contacted a reinforcer in question, which results in an increase in the effectiveness of the reinforcer. See Establishing Operation.

Determinism. A philosophical position, derived from naturalism, which holds that any detectable event represents the culmination of an unbroken and unbreakable natural history—that is, that all things are part of a continuous sequence or network of causes and effects and that there can be no intrusion into this sequence by non-natural events (Ledoux, 2015).    

Differential Outcome Effect (doe). A behavioral phenomenon whereby discrimination training occurs more quickly and the discrimination is more accurate when different behaviors contact different reinforcer classes.    

Differential Reinforcement (DR). A compound procedure in which response class members that meet a specific property criterion along some dimension are targeted for added reinforcement and other members of that response class are targeted for extinction.

Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behaviors (DRA). A differential reinforcement procedure in which the reinforcement-targeted response class members or response class form, while compatible with the extinction-targeted response class members, is a specific and different set of response class members or response class form. See parenthetical note under Differential Reinforcement.

Differential Reinforcement of Diminishing Rates (drd). A differential reinforcement procedure in which the reinforcement is delivered at the end of a predetermined interval if the number of responses is less than a criterion that is gradually reduced across time intervals based on the behavior of the individual. See parenthetical note under Differential Reinforcement.    

Differential Reinforcement of High Rate (DRH). A differential reinforcement procedure in which a fixed interval of time is set after which the next response is reinforced only if a specified number of responses have already occurred during that interval. See parenthetical note under Differential Reinforcement.

Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behaviors (DRI). A differential reinforcement procedure in which the reinforcement-targeted response class members or response class form is mutually exclusive with respect to the extinction-targeted response class members. See parenthetical note under Differential Reinforcement.

Differential Reinforcement of Low Rate (DRL). A differential reinforcement procedure in which a fixed interval of time is set after which the next response is reinforced only if no responses occurred during that interval. See parenthetical note under Differential Reinforcement.

Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors (DRO)A differential reinforcement procedure in which any response class member other than the extinction-targeted response class members or response class forms is targeted for reinforcement. See parenthetical note under Differential Reinforcement.

Differential Subtracted Reinforcement (dsr). A compound procedure in which response class members that meet a specific property criterion along some dimension are targeted for subtracted reinforcement and other members of that response class are targeted for extinction.    

Direct Observation. The phase of a functional assessment in which the data is collected to either establish a baseline or determine if further refinement of the variables is required before proceeding with the assessment. See Functional Assessment.

Discriminated Operant. A class of responses defined by a functional relation with a particular class of consequences and a particular class of antecedents.

Discrimination. The process by which responding in which the range of evocative stimulus features triggering a response class decreases or the range of conditioned stimulus features triggering a conditioned response. Discrimination may be seen as a relationship between a behavior and its antecedent controlling stimuli or as a biological process by which this pattern of responding occurs. (Note: Within behaviorology, discrimination has been replaced with the term evocation.) Contrast with Generalization and Stimulus Generalization.    

Discrimination Training. A differential reinforcement procedure in which responding to a specific stimulus is reinforced and responding to similar stimulus features is extinguished resulting in a decrease in the range of stimulus features that will evoke a target behavior. See Discrimination.

Discriminative Stimulus (SD). See evocative stimulus.

Duration. The interval of time during which a continuously exhibited behavior occurs.  

Ectoreinforcer. A reinforcer, the source of which occurs outside of the behaver’s body. Contrast with Endoreinforcer.

Eliciting Stimulus (sel). An antecedent stimulus that reliably elicits a respondent behavior. Contrast with Evocative Stimulus.

Eliminative Approach. An approach to resolving problematic behaviors generally involving the sole use of reductive procedures such as extinction and punishment. Contrast with Constructional Approach.  

Emotional Arousal.A bodily condition created by the presence of chemicals in the bloodstream that were released by glands. (The release of the chemicals is emotional behavior but the presence of the chemicals is a condition of arousal and not itself a behavior. It may, however, influence subsequent behaviors.) Contrast with Emotional Behavior.    

Emotional Behavior. The elicited release of chemicals into the bloodstream by glands. Contrast with Emotional Arousal. 

Endoreinforcer. A reinforcer originating solely from within of the behaver’s body. Contrast with Ectoreinforcement.   

Environment. The natural domain defined by the existence of theoretically measurable independent variables in behavior-controlling relations; the environment occurs on both sides of the skin of the behaving organism. (Fraley, 2008)

Escape Behavior. Behaviors that function to cease, diminish or delay aversive stimulation.

Establishing Operation (eo). A motivating operation procedure that increases the effectiveness of a reinforcer. Contrast with Abolishing Operation.    

Ethology. A branch of biology that studies nonhuman behavior patterns either in the species as a group, smaller population groups or individuals, that has biologically evolved in native habitats, with an emphasis on behavior patterns that do not depend on, or are know to depend on, operant conditioning (Catania, 2013).    

Evocation. The evoking of an operant, or, a pattern of responding in which the range of evocative stimulus features triggering a response class decreases or the range of conditioned stimulus features triggering a conditioned response. Evocation may be seen as a relationship between a behavior and its antecedent controlling stimuli or as a biological process by which this pattern of responding occurs. (Replaces the largely defunct term with behaviorology “discrimination.”) Contrast with Generalization and Stimulus Generalization.

Evocation Training. A training project in which the range of evocative stimulus features decrease by differentially reinforcing responding only to a specific set of stimulus features while extinguishing responding to similar stimulus features. (Replaces the largely defunct term with behaviorology “discrimination training.”) See Evocation.

Evocative Stimulus. A stimulus that evokes a response due to a history of immediately preceding behavior that has been reinforced. Also known as a discriminative stimulus, within behavior analysis.    

Explanatory fiction. Vargas (2009, p.23) defines an explanatory fiction as “a statement that has the form of an explanation, but in which the cause given is essentially a restatement of the behavior to be explained.” An explanation for a behavior requires both the dependent variable (the behavior) and the independent variable (the environmental stimuli functionally related to the behavior). The variables must be distinct. In an explanatory fiction, only the dependent variable is identified (Fraley, 2008, pp.76-77). Diagnostic labels used by those operating under a medical model approach are often explanatory fictions.

Extensity. The distance over which a movement occurs, either linear or angular (Fraley, 2007).

Externalizing a Contingency. Tracing any proposed intervening private internal evocative stimuli back through the chain of causation to a stimulus change external to the behaver and readily accessible/measurable.

Extinction (ext). A behavior change process in which a response class maintained by added reinforcement no longer generates a postcedent stimulus change (added reinforcement) and the response class subsequently decreases in rate or frequency. May also be used to refer to a schedule of reinforcement in which no responses were or are to be reinforced.    

Extinction Burst. An initial increase in the rate of responding following the instatement of extinction.

Extinction Curve. Refers to the decreasing of the rate of behavior under an extinction schedule of reinforcement, which in graphical form forms a curve. 

Extrinsic Reinforcer. A reinforcer contrived and mediated socially (not generated directly by the behavior). Contrast with Intrinsic Reinforcer.   

Fading. A procedure implemented to transfer stimulus control in which features of an evocative stimulus are gradually/incrementally changed to that of a new evocative stimulus.    

Fixed Duration (fd). A schedule of reinforcement, which sets the rule that the target behavior must be exhibited continuously for a specified period of time, at which point reinforcement is delivered.

Fixed Interval (fi). A schedule of reinforcement, which sets the rule that reinforcement is delivered immediately following the first response exhibited after a specific interval of time has passed.

Fixed Ratio (fr). A schedule of reinforcement, which sets the rule that reinforcement is delivered following the final response after a fixed number of responses have occurred.    

Flooding. A procedure, based on the reductive principle of respondent extinction, in which a subject is exposed, usually at full intensity, to an aversive stimulus, where escape behavior is prevented, until escape responding ceases. Also called “exposure and response prevention.”    

Four-Term Contingency. In operand behavior, although the three term contingency is commonly utilized and adequate to explain many behaviors, frequently fourth terms are required. In fact there can be many terms, as many as are required to fully explain the behavior and describe the contingency.

Functional Analysis. An analysis of the functional relations between a response class and its controlling variables. Functional analyses are often conducted as part of a functional assessment process for evaluating problematic behaviors.

Functional Assessment. A systematic process by which a target behavior and its controlling variables are identified, which provides the data from which a behavior change program is planned and implemented. (Carried out in three phases: informant interview, direct observation and functional analysis.) Also called a “functional behavioral assessment.”

Functional Relation. A relation in which a dependent variable changes systematically as a function of changes in one or more independent variables.

Function-altering Stimulus (sfa). An antecedent stimulus, the occurrence of which causes a bodily condition, which alters the function of other stimuli.    

Generalization. A generic term for a stimulus control process in which (a) the range of evocative stimulus features triggering an operant behavior is increased (stimulus generalization), (b) the range of responses that an antecedent stimulus evokes is increased (response generalization), or (c) the range of antecedent stimulus features that elicits a respondent behavior is increased (respondent generalization). See Stimulus Generalization and Response Generalization and contrast with Discrimination.    

Generalized Conditioned Reinforcer. A conditioned reinforcer that has been associated with a variety of unconditioned reinforcers. Praise often achieves this standard.

Graded Approach. A strategy for achieving changes in behavior by (a) breaking projects down into smaller steps, (b) breaking the antecedent stimuli down into component parts to be worked separately before being combined, and/or (c) starting with minimally intense contact with antecedent stimuli and gradually increasing that contact along some dimension (e.g., distance).    

Habituation. A temporary decline in in the magnitude of an unconditioned response upon repeated presentation of the unconditioned stimulus. Contrast with Respondent Extinction.    

Independent Variable. The variable (the “cause”) that is systematically manipulated in an experiment in order to determine its relation to the dependent variable (the “effect”). In the natural science of behavior, the independent variable is some feature of the environment—stimulation. Contrast with Dependent Variable.

Informant Interview. The first phase in the functional assessment process in which the client or others who may have observed occurrences of the behavior (or products of it) being exhibited are interviewed in order to determine the behavior of concern and the general circumstances under which it is exhibited.    

Intermittent Reinforcement. A schedule of reinforcement, which sets the rule that added reinforcers follow some, but not all, occurrences of the behavior.

Inter-response Time. The time interval between the ceasing of a behavior and the beginning of the next response in its class.

Intrinsic Reinforcer. A reinforcer generated directly by the behavior (rather than being arbitrarily selected and mediated by another organism). Contrast with Extrinsic Reinforcer. 

Jackpotting. A schedule extension setting the additional rule that any “particularly well-executed” response among a set of responses is reinforced with a higher than usual magnitude reinforcer. (Common in animal training community but not a technical term common in the natural science of behavior as a whole and likely too vague to be so.)   

Language. A relatively stable pattern of verbal behavior, including vocabulary and rules of grammar, which is conditioned and maintained by the contingencies in place within that verbal community.

Latency. A general term referring to the interval of time between two events, usually used as a short form for “event-response latency,” the interval of time between the evocative stimulus and the beginning of the response it evokes.

Law of Cumulative Complexity. The natural physical/chemical interactions of matter and energy sometimes result in more complex structures and functions that endure and naturally interact further, resulting in an accumulating complexity (Ledoux, 2014, p. 20).

Law of Effect. A law formulated by Thorndike stating that consequences select for or against operant behavior—some consequences will tend to strengthen behavior, while others will tend to suppress it. (The current principles of reinforcement and punishment address the same phenomenon.) 

Learned Helplessness. A phenomenon in which an animal subjected to inescapable intensely aversive stimulation eventually ceases exhibiting escape behavior. Consistent with the principle of extinction of escape behavior.    

Learning. See Conditioning. (According to Johnston (2009), a relatively enduring change in behavior resulting from the process of conditioning, which is then defined as an interaction between responses and the environment resulting in learning. Generally considered acceptable and synonymous with conditioning within behavior analysis but considered colloquial—not a proper technical term—in behaviorology and problematic because the grammar required for its use suggests active rather than reactive behavior changes and hence agential and unacceptable. Behaviorologists use the term conditioning as the proper technical term encompassing both elements described by Johnston.)    

Level. The rate, frequency, duration or other measure of behavior, the “how much” of the behavior used mainly in reference to graphical representations of behavior.

Limited Hold (lh). A schedule extension setting the rule that reinforcer availability is terminated after a specified period of time once an interval schedule times out. (Typically used in the animal behavior community as a latency reduction schedule extension in which the reinforcer is available only for a specified period of time after the cue is delivered and if the behavior is not exhibited in that time, reinforcer availability is terminated.)    

Lure. See prompt.

Magnitude. The degree of force or intensity with which a response is exhibited.

Maintenance. The phase of an intervention representing the end of intensive training activities and a transition to maintaining the behavior changes achieved in the long term.

Matching Law. A law of behavior stating that the distribution of behaviors will match the frequency of available reinforcers.    

Mechanistic Causation. The mode of causation that deals with what comes immediately before something else and reliably triggers its occurrence—the second thing is said to, or assumed to, depend on the first when their temporal relation is reliable.

Mediator. Broadly, an individual organism can be referred to as the mediator of the behavior they exhibit—synonym for “behaver.” The “listener,” within an episode of verbal behavior. See Verbal Behavior and contrast with Verbalizer.

Medical Model. A general paradigm for explaining and changing behavior, in a similar manner to how injury and disease processes are addressed, in which behaviors are assigned labels, usually to fit topographic categories, often of what is considered “abnormal” behavior, and behavior change procedures are derived from ethology and psychology based on the category of behavior is assigned to. Contrast with Behaviorology and Behavior Analysis.    

Motivating Condition (mc). The physiological condition or bodily state established within a body by a motivating operation, which influences behavior during which the condition exists. Coined in this volume. See Motivating Operation and Emotional Arousal.

Motivating Operation (mo). A procedure that establishes a function-altering condition within a body that influences how effective consequences will be and hence how strongly evocative the evocative stimulus will be. See Establishing Operations and Abolishing Operations.

Multiple Baseline Design. An experimental design beginning with concurrently tracked baselines across multiple subjects, behaviors or settings before a treatment condition is introduced to one of the subjects, behaviors or settings while the others remain in baseline condition until changes in the dependent variable (if any) are determined, at which point the treatment condition is introduced for the next subject, behavior or setting until it too produces changes in the dependent variable (if any) and on in this manner through all subjects, behaviors or settings. Contrast with Reversal Design and Alternating Treatment Design.    

Natural Event. "An event that is defined in terms of time, distance, mass, temperature, charge, and/or perhaps a few other more esoteric properties taken into account by theoretical physicists. A natural event is defined by measurable physical properties and occurs only as the culmination of a sequential history of similarly definable events. Thus, natural events cannot occur spontaneously." (Frayley, 2008)

Naturalism. A philosophy of science, utilized by all natural sciences, which holds that only natural events exist, that there are no non-real or non-natural events, and that all natural events are theoretically measurable in terms of mass, time, distance, temperature, charge or certain other more esoteric measures.

Natural Reinforcer. A reinforcer that is generated by the behavior itself rather than being mediated in a contrived or arbitrary manner by a trainer. This is an older defunct term replaced by the term “intrinsic reinforcer” because it inappropriately implies that some behavior may be unnatural, which it is not. See Intrinsic Reinforcer and contrast with Contrived Reinforcer and Arbitrary Reinforcer. 

Natural Science. An empirical approach to studying phenomena of nature based on the philosophical assumption of naturalism, that is that only natural events exist. See Naturalism.

Negative Incentive Contrast. A decreased responding occurring when switching from use of a higher magnitude reinforcer to a lower magnitude reinforcer.   

Negative Punishment. see Subtracted Punishment.

Negative Reinforcement. See Subtracted Reinforcement.

Neutral Stimulus. A stimulus that does not evoke or elicit the behavior in question.    

Operant. A class of responses defined by a functional relation with a particular class of consequences.

Operant Conditioning. A behavior change process wherein behaviors become more or less likely to occur across subsequent occasions due to the historic consequences that it has generated.

Operant Level. The rate or relative frequency of an operant prior to specific conditioning procedures. 

Pairing. A procedure in which a subject is exposed to more than one stimulus contiguously, resulting in a functional relation being established between the stimuli, such as that one stimulus taking on eliciting or consequating functions that the other stimulus was capable of. (Sometimes called “correlating.”) See Contiguity. 
Physical Manipulation. Physically manipulating a subject’s body part in a way that generates a response topography. (Not to be confused with prompting.) Contrast with Prompting.       

Positive Punishment. See Added Punishment.

Positive Reinforcement. See Added Reinforcement

Postcedent Stimulus. A stimulus change that occurs during or immediately following a behavior, which may or may not be functionally related to that behavior.    

Potentiation. A process by which a respondent increases in magnitude or likelihood after a particularly aversive response is repeatedly presented. Contrast with Sensitization.    

Preclusion. A procedure involving the manipulation of an environment in a manner that makes a target behavior impossible.

Premack Principle. A principle stating that the opportunity to engage in a higher probability/frequency behavior can reinforce occurrence of a lower probability/frequency behavior. Also referred to as an activity reinforcer.    

Primary Reinforcer. See Unconditioned reinforcer.

Primary Stimulus. In the context of prompting, the currently non-evocative or weakly evocative stimulus designated to become the evocative stimulus after conditioning.    

Prompt. Any antecedent stimulus, other than the designated primary stimulus, that contributes to evoking the target behavior. See Primary Stimulus.

Prompt Delay. A procedure used in transferring stimulus control in which the newly introduced stimulus is presented before the established evocative stimulus, followed by the behavior and the reinforcer until the new stimulus takes on stimulus control. See Fading and contrast with Prompt Fading.

Prompt Dependence. An antecedent–behavior relation in which a prompt takes on stimulus control because it was not faded quickly enough or early enough.

Prompt Fading. A fading procedure used in transferring stimulus control in which the stimulus is gradually/incrementally made to seem less and less like the currently evocative stimulus and gradually more like the new stimulus. See Fading and contrast with Prompt Delay.    

Psychology. An eclectic aggregate of disparate disciplines, defined as “the study of the mind and behavior” utilizing some scientific methods but is not a natural science. Operating largely under the transformational paradigm and utilizing hypothetico-deductive research methods. (Incommensurable with a natural science of behavior.)

Punishment (p). A behavior change process in which a change in stimulation, during or immediately following a response class member, results in a decrease in the rate or frequency of the response class on subsequent occasions. 

Radical Behaviorism. The philosophy of natural science applied to the study of behavior, characterized by three fundamental assumptions: (a) Behavior is an entirely natural phenomenon, respecting the continuity of events in space and time, which, accumulates as a natural history of fully caused events. (b) The emphasis of inquiry is on analyzing environment–behavior functional relations, experimental control over dependent variables and the application of that control in in changing behavior. (c) Private events such as visualizing, thinking or emoting are real behaviors occurring in accordance with the same set of laws and principles as more overt public behavior.   

Rate. The quotient resulting from the number of times the subject exhibits a response class member, divided by the number of time units across which the behavior was recorded.    

Ratio Strain. A disruption in responding when a ratio schedule is increased abruptly. Also called “stretching the ratio.”    

Reinforcer. A stimulus that, when presented or removed contingent on a behavior, increases the future strength of that behavior across subsequent occasions.

Reequilibration. The return of the rate or frequency of behavior to pre-extinction rates or frequencies following the ceasing of an extinction schedule; this can apply to the extinction of punished behavior as well as the extinction of reinforced behavior.

Reinforcement (r). A behavior change process in which a change in stimulation, during or immediately following a response class member, results in an increase in the rate or frequency of the response class on subsequent occasions.    

Repertoire. The full range of behaviors a subject exhibits.    

Resistance to Extinction. The persistence of an operant behavior after it is put on an extinction schedule. Prominent when the behavior was maintained on an intermittent schedule as opposed to a continuous reinforcement schedule. 

Respondent. A class of responses elicited by conditioned or unconditioned antecedent stimuli, is insensitive to consequential stimulation and uninterruptable by interjected streams of energy once the eliciting stimulus reaches its eliciting threshold.    

Respondent Conditioning. The process whereby a neutral stimulus (ns), which does not elicit the response in question, comes to elicit a response after it has been paired with an unconditioned stimulus (us) (or an established conditioned stimulus). See Pairing and Respondent Behavior.

Respondent Extinction. A procedure and process in which the conditioned stimulus (cs) is presented and the unconditioned stimulus (us) is not, resulting in a decline in the conditioned response (cr).    

Respondent Generalization. A behavior change process that occurs when an organism performs a conditioned response to values of the conditioned stimulus not previously trained.

Respondent Level. The magnitude of a conditioned response before conditioning has taken place. The magnitude of the response to the neutral stimulus.

Response. A single instance of a response class. Compare with Response Class.

Response Class. A set of individual responses that share a common eliciting stimulus, or, consequential effect on the environment. (Response classes are defined functionally and so the individual responses that make up a response class may differ topographically.)

Response Class Form. A set of responses within a response class that share a specific topographic feature or criterion.

Response Class Member. The set of member responses within a response class.

Response Cost. Form of negative punishment in which a specified amount of reinforcer is removed or lost contingent on performance of a specific behavior, and the behavior decreases in frequency as a result.

Response Effort. The magnitude of energy expenditure required for a behavior to be exhibited.

Response Generalization. A process by which the range of responses that an antecedent stimulus evokes is increased. Contrast with Stimulus Generalization.    

Response Prevention. Usually used in conjunction with flooding. Floodingand response prevention is a procedure based on the principle of respondent extinction. It is the opposite of systematic desensitization (based on counterconditioning). In a flooding and response prevention procedure, the animal is exposed to the full intensity of the conditioned stimulus (i.e. flooded with the CS) without the unconditioned stimulus, and escape is prevented (i.e., response prevention). Exposure continues until the conditioned response is extinguished, and escape behavior declines. This procedure is susceptible to problematic secondary effects.

Resurgence. “The increase in topographic variability during extinction after a period of reinforcement…” (Pierce & Cheney, 2004). To put the term in context, an extinction burst is an initial increase in the frequency of the specific behavior being extinguished, whereas resurgence involves different behaviors being offered once extinction is in place. Resurgence is the basis for the variability needed in shaping. While Pierce and Cheney clearly describe resurgence as the topographic variability in responding during extinction, some sources refer to resurgence as the appearance of other behaviors from the organism's repertoire with a reinforcement history, that organisms perform after extinction is put in place. In this use of the term, it is the animal running through their repertoire of behaviors in order to access reinforcers as opposed to the simple increase in the topographic variability during extinction.

Reversal Design. A range of experimental designs in which a treatment or control condition is reverted to in order to confirm the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable. (This includes the familiar ABAB design but can include more than one treatment condition and many different arrangements.) Contrast with Multiple Baseline Design and Alternating Treatment Design.    

Salience. A stimulus is salient to the extent that it is noticeable. The more noticeable and prominent the stimulus is, the more salient it is. The more salient a stimulus is, the greater its associative strength as a conditioned stimulus.

Satiation. A physiological condition defined by a reinforcer being temporarily rendered ineffective (evidenced by a reduction in the rate or frequency of the behavior) due to recent repeated or constant contact with that reinforcer. See Establishing Operation and contrast with Deprivation.    

Schedule of Positive Reinforcement. Rules specifying which target responses are followed by positive reinforcers.

S-Delta (S). A kind of discriminative stimulus, one that used to evoke a behavior but now does not because of extinction or punishment. It is a kind of neutral stimulus now except that referring to the s-delta stimulus as a neutral stimulus fails to specify that it used to evoke a behavior and no longer does.

Secondary Reinforcer. See Conditioned Reinforcer.

Selection Causation. A mode of causation, which deals with selection by consequences—that which comes immediately after something influences the future likelihood of that thing occurring again. (Underlying principles, responsible for the evolution of biological traits within a species, repertoires of behavior within an individual organism and cultural practices within a verbal community.) Contrast with Mechanistic Causation. 

Selection Paradigm. The position that selection causation and hence selection by consequences is the most important and useful mode of causation within the subject matter of a discipline accepting the position. The Selection paradigm does not deny mechanistic causation but it holds that it is of weaker explanatory power and lesser utility within the discipline. Utilized prominently within behaviorology, behavior analysis and biology. Contrast with Transformational Paradigm and Mechanistic Causation.

Selector. A postcedent stimulus change functionally related to the behavior it follows, whether or not it was generated by the behavior or merely coincidental. Contrast with Coincidental Selector and Consequence.   

Sensitization. “In sensitization, the eliciting effects of one stimulus are enhanced as a result of presentation of some other stimulus; one stimulus amplifies the eliciting effect of another stimulus” (Catania, 1998, p. 50). And: “The tendency to be more responsive to the environment following an arousing experience” (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2001, p. 469). Catania offers the example that an animal who is shocked and then shortly thereafter is exposed to a loud noise is more likely to have their startle response elicited. The shock sensitized the animal to the noise. Chance (2003, p. 454) offers this definition: “An increase in the intensity or probability of a reflex response resulting from earlier exposure to a stimulus that elicits that response.” It is common to confuse the notion of sensitization with the notion of potentiation. Potentiation, explains Catania (p. 50), involves “an increase, over repeated presentations, in the respondent behavior elicited by a stimulus (especially, an aversive stimulus).”

Sensory Preconditioning. “In respondent conditioning, two stimuli such as light and tone are repeatedly presented together (light + tone) without the occurrence of a US (preconditioning). Later, one of these stimuli (CS1) is paired with an unconditioned stimulus (US) and the other stimulus (CS2) is tested for conditioning. Even though the second stimulus (CS2) has never been directly associated with the US, it comes to elicit the conditioned response (CR)” (Pierce & Cheney, 2004, p. 443).

Sequencing. "A sequence is a series of multiple, individually cued behaviors performed consecutively and usually without added reinforcement between them. An agility course is a long sequence made up of not only the obstacles, but also the directional cues given between the obstacles." (Source) Notice that this is different from chaining in that it can involve interjected cues from the trainer. Sequencing is often confused with chaining but chaining as conventionally defined does not involve interjected verbal or physical cues from the trainer. This has been called "flexible chaining" as well but again, this is now what chaining is as conventionally defined.

Setting Generalization. The process by which a subject comes to exhibit a behavior in new settings, ones in which the behavior was not initially trained in.    

Shaping. A differential reinforcement procedure in which successive approximations toward a terminal response topography are reinforced.    

Social behavior. Behavior, the consequences of which are mediated by another organism.

Social Disruption. One form of the problematic secondary effects of aversive stimulation, in which the person presenting the aversive stimulation and the context in which it is delivered become conditioned aversive stimuli. This is related to a decline in the social bond.

Spontaneous Recovery (operant). After operant extinction, when the behavior is at the operant level, if the animal is put back into the context that previously set the occasion for that behavior, the behavior may be performed again. It is thought that extraneous discriminative stimuli (contextual stimuli) not fully extinguished evoke the behavior. With repeated exposure and continued extinction, the behavior becomes less and less likely to spontaneously recover. The word “spontaneous” is unfortunate and misleading because the responding is not actually spontaneous at all.

Spontaneous Recovery (respondent). After a respondent behavior has been extinguished and the conditioned stimulus is presented, the conditioned response may return or increase in magnitude. Continued extinction results in a decline of the response.

Steady-State Responding. Behavior that is stable in rate over time.

Startle Response. Reflexin which the organism rapidly activates in a frightened manner; rapid activation of the nervous system, preparing for energy expenditure. Perhaps a rapid surprise version of the orienting response.

Stimulus. A measurable energy change at receptor cells either ectovironmental or endovironmental that influences behavior.    

Stimulus Class. “Stimuli that vary across physical dimensions but have a common effect on behavior belong to the same stimulus class” (Pierce & Cheney, 2004, p. 444).

Stimulus Control. The functional control of response class by some property of an antecedent stimulus.

Stimulus Equivalence. The emergency of accurate responding to untrained stimulus-stimulus relations after reinforcement of other stimulus-stimulus relations. Also referred to as “equivalence relations.” 

Stimulus Generalization. A stimulus control process in which the range of evocative stimulus features triggering an operant behavior is increased (stimulus generalization). Contrast with Response Generalization.   

Structural Approach. An approach to classifying behaviors in which behaviors that share topographies are clumped into the same classification.

Subtracted Punishment (-P). A behavior change process in which the subtraction of a stimulus during or immediately following a response class member, results in a decrease in the rate or frequency of the response class on subsequent occasions.

Subtracted Reinforcement (-R). A behavior change process in which the subtraction of a stimulus during or immediately following a response member, results in an increase in the rate or frequency of the response class on subsequent occasions.    

Superstitious Behavior. Behavior maintained by coincidental reinforcement.    

Three-Term Contingency. The basic unite of analysis in is depicting operants and their controlling evocative and consequating variables.

Time-out. A subtracted punishment procedure in which a problem behavior is followed by a specific interval of time during which reinforcement cannot be earned.

Topography. The form of the response class.    

Trace Conditioning. A respondent conditioning procedure in which the conditioned stimulus is presented and then remove, followed shortly by the presentation of the unconditioned stimulus. 

Training. A behavior change project in which a trainer arranges circumstances such that conditioning will result which brings specific behaviors under specific stimulus control. See Behavior Engineering.

Transformational Paradigm. The position that what is of primary interest within psychology is the mechanisms involved in the transformation of information between the input stimulation and the output behavior. Often attributed to a “mind.” (The paradigm under which much of psychology operates.) Contrast with Selection Paradigm.

Trend. The degree to which a consistent change in the dependent variable occurs. (Where the level refers to how much behavior there is, the trend refers to how much consistent change there is as indicated by the angle of the line in graphical representations of the data.)   

Unconditioned Behavior. Respondent behavior that has not been conditioned but occurs because the body is so structured by biological evolution to react inevitably to certain kinds of stimulation.

Unconditioned Reinforcer. A reinforcer that is effective without any previous conditioning to establish it as such. Contrast with Conditioned Reinforcer.

Unconditioned Response. A respondent that is elicited by an unconditioned stimulus. Contrast with Conditioned Response.

Unconditioned Stimulus. A stimulus that elicits an unconditioned response. 

Variable Duration (vd). A schedule of reinforcement, which sets the rule that if the behavior is exhibited continuously for a specific, but variable amount of time around a mean average, it will be reinforced.

Variable Interval. A schedule of reinforcement, which sets the rule that the first occurrence of the target behavior after a specific, but variable, interval of time has passed will be reinforced.

Variable Ratio. A schedule of reinforcement, which sets the rule that the final response after a specific, but variable, mean average number of responses has occurred will be reinforced. 

Variance. The degree of variability within the data for a dependent variable, evidenced on a graphical representation of the data as the bounce or jaggedness of the line.

Verbal Behavior. Behavior, the consequences of which are mediated by an organism when the mediating organism is behaving in ways that have been conditioned and maintained in the same verbal environment. Contrast with Social Behavior.

Verbal Community. A group of individuals whose mutual mediating reinforcements condition the verbal and mediating behavior of the individuals in the group, because of the benefits that accrue to the group from generating and maintaining these verbal behaviors.

Verbalizer. Within an instance of verbal behavior, the “speaker” is referred to as the verbalizer in that interaction (in order to allow for nonvocal verbal behavior). See Verbal Behavior and contrast with Mediator.   

Glossary of Terms

See glossary for definitions

ABC. Antecedent Behavior Consequence

AO. Abolishing Operation

CER. Conditioned Emotional Response

CR. Conditioned Response

CRF. Continuous Reinforcement

CS. Conditioned Stimulus

CS. Conditioned Aversive StimulusAVE

DR. Differential Reinforcement 

DRA. Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior

DRE. Differential Reinforcement of Excellent Behavior

DRH. Differential Reinforcement of High Rate of Responding

DRI. Differential Reinforcement Incompatible Behavior

DRL. Differential Reinforcement of Low Rate of responding

DRO / DR0. Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior / Differential Reinforcement of Zero Responding

EO. Establishing Operations

SFA. Function Altering stimulus

GAS. General Adaptation Syndrome

KGS. Keep Going Signal

LIEBI. Least Intrusive Effective Behavior Intervention.

MO. Motivating Operations

NS. Neutral Stimulus

SD. Discriminative Stimulus

SEv. Evocative Stimulus

S. Extinction Stimulus

UR. Unconditioned Response

US. Unconditioned Stimulus

VD. Variable Duration Schedule

VI. Variable Interval Schedule

VR. Variable ratio Schedule


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