Encyclopedic Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations in the Technology and Principles of Behavior

 Encyclopedic Glossary of Terms

ABC. Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence. This is a common phrase for helping to evoke recognition behaviors associated with the three term contingency. See Three-Term Contingency

Abnormal Behavior. It is common, particularly in medical and psychological model orientations to behavior, to differentiate between normal and abnormal behavior. However, normal and appropriate are matters of perspective. The distinction between normal and abnormal, and between appropriate and inappropriate (out-of-context, whatever that means) behavior may be counterproductive. Behavior is all natural and fully caused. If a behavior exists then it is caused and distinguishing between normal versus abnormal can distract from identification of the cause of the behaviors. This is particularly harmful in the technology of behavior wherein we seek to control the behavior in question. It may relate to being unexpected by the observer or that the variables controlling it have not yet been identified. This term is not generally used in behavior analysis. It may be reserved by some to refer to extremely unusual behaviors caused largely by medical problems or genetic medical disorders.

Abolishing Operations (AOs). Abolishing operations temporarily decrease the effectiveness of consequences. See Motivating Operations and Function Altering Stimulus.

Adjunctive Behavior. "Adjunctive behavior is operant behavior that appears intermittently in the most of other ongoing behavior. It often appears to be an accidental intrusion that have little if any relevance to more important behaviors that is already in progress and which it appears to interrupt at least briefly. The intruding adjunctive behavior occurs under its own independent stimulus controls and is a schedule effect--that is, a pattern of behaving that occurs only if the prevailing schedules of reinforcement permit it to happen." (Fraley, 2008 p. 601) Adjunctive behavior is most common in time schedules or fixed interval schedules. Immediately after the reinforcement trial for a period during which reinforcement is not available, other behaviors can become prepotent until it gets closer to the reinforcement-available trials for thew primary behavior.

Aggressive Behaviors. “Attacks, attempted attacks or threats of attack by one individual directed at another individual.” In dogs, this usually refers to snarling, growling, lunging, snapping and biting. There are different approaches to defining aggression, and no single definition is agreed upon by all. Note that a term like this is general and helps only to define a set of behaviors when operating under contingencies to do so. This term and general terms like it do not define specific behaviors. If one if faced with a problem behavior that might evoke tacting it as "aggressive," one ought to define that specific behavior either broadly as an operant or more specifically as a behavior or response class. Terms like this are not suitable as a replacement for defining a behavior of concern in an unequivocal and unambiguous and operational manner. This caution goes for any so called types or categories of aggressive behavior or for other labels such ash separation anxiety or obsessive compulsive behavior etc. as well.

Alternating Treatment Design. The alternating treatment design in the single subject experiment is characterized by rapidly alternating at least two distinct treatments (independent variables) and observing their effect on a single behavior (dependent variable) (Cooper et al., 1987). 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.

Ambivalent Behaviors. The behaviors resulting as a net-effect from conflicting concurrent contingencies operating simultaneously. Represents a conflict in motivating operations. This usually refers to attack, appeasement or flight behaviors performs either simultaneously or where they vacillate between them. 

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. Stimuli present prior to the behavior in question. There can be many stimuli present in the environment prior to a behavior in question but not all of them will have functional control over the behavior of concern. Once an antecedent stimulus is confirmed to have functional control over a behavior it is called an evocative stimulus (SEv). 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.

Appetitive Stimulation. Stimulation that evokes approach and contact behavior. Appetitive stimulation is assumed to be pleasure eliciting and is the opposite of aversive stimulation. See Aversive Stimulus.

Arousal. Stimulation and activation of the nervous system generally. Can indicate release of various chemicals into the bloodstream as well that so structures the organism for increased activity.

Autoshaping. A respondent conditioning procedure that produces skeletal muscle responses, more typical of operant behavior. “For example, a key is turned on a few seconds before grain is presented to a pigeon. After several pairings of key light and grain, the bird begins to peck the key” (Pierce & Cheney, 2004, p. 420).

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 (Cooper, Heron & Heward, 2007). The term is sometimes used synonymous with punisher (Miltenberger, 2008) or as a negative reinforcer (Vargas, 2013; Chance 2009) but these are just more narrow uses of the term. It is often expressed that the word aversive is subjective or that there is no definitive definition, but this is not the case. The definition above is definitive and comprehensive and it is quantifiable and clear. It is true that we cannot be sure ahead of time what will function as an aversive stimulus because it has not yet occurred but it can usually be predicted fairly well. Furthermore, as Vargas (2013, p. 341) puts it, “The only way to be sure about the effect of a stimulus in a particular situation is to make it contingent on behavior. If behavior is strengthened when it is removed, you have an aversive stimulus.” And, this goes for other basic principles of behavior as well. So in summary, if a stimulus evokes escape behavior, its withdrawal reinforces a behavior or it’s presentation punishes a behavior, then it is an aversive stimulus.

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 Chaining. "A method used to train a chained performance. The basic idea is to first train behavior that is closest to primary reinforcement; once responding is established, links in the chain that are farther and farther from primary reinforcement are added. Each link in the chain is reinforced by the SD (which is also a conditioned reinforcer) that signals the next component in the sequence." (Source) "A sequence of responses in which each response produces a stimulus change that functions as a conditioned reinforcement for that response and as a evocative stimulus for the next response in the chain; reinforcement for the last response in a chain maintains the reinforcing effectiveness of the stimulus changes produced by all previous responses in the chain." Notice the added hypothesis that the SEv also serves as a conditioned reinforcer. So, you have a series of behaviors in a chain. Completion of each behavior serves a dual function; it serves as a conditioned reinforcer for the behavior the learner just performed and it acts as the discriminative stimulus (SEv) for the next behavior in the chain. The opportunity to perform the next behavior in the chain reinforces the behavior and this occurs for each link in the chain until the final behavior, which produces the primary reinforcer from the trainer. This final reinforcement maintains the chain and the conditioned reinforcers that make it up. (Cooper, Heron and Heward, 2007, p. 690) There are no in-chain or interjected cues from the trainer in a behavior chain. See Sequencing.

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

Baseline. The strength of a behavior (measured via latency, duration, rate, frequency or intensity etc.) prior to a behavior change procedure or some other intervention. The strength of the behavior during and after intervention is compared with the baseline in order to objectively identify changes. The difference in level and trend are used to determine whether the intervention was responsible for the change and whether the intervention can be considered successful. "The phase of an experiment or intervention in which the behavior is measured in the absence of an intervention." (Source)

Behavior. Behavior is any measurable, neurally mediated reaction of a body part, be the reaction neuromuscular or solely neural, to a stream of energy emanating from the environment, be the source inside the body or out. Behavior can include operants or respondents. The environment refers to any stream of energy, be it light or sound or feel etc. The environmental stimulation that causes the reaction can come from anywhere outside of the body part that is reacting to it, whether that is outside of the body or within it. Being neurally mediated means that the stream of energy from the environment causes neural behaviors to occur that then cause reactions of other body parts. The word reaction is used deliberately to highlight the reactive and passive character of behavior, that it is fully caused and not autonomously initiated by the body (or by a supposed fictitious inner agent that may free-will the body to behave).

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. Systematic and comprehensive plan involving behavior change procedures for changing specific behaviors of an individual. Usually includes both antecedent control procedures and manipulation of consequences or respondent associations.

Behaviorism (radical). behaviorism is a philosophical position. It emphasizes natural science assumptions. The specific form of behaviorism that provided the philosophical foundation for behaviorology is Radical Behaviorism," which was decided by B.F. Skinner. Radical means fundamental.

Behavior Maintenance. How long a behavior persists after the original contingencies are discontinued. Often refers to the stable performance of behavior after the acquisition stage. Not to be confused with the maintenance stage in a behavior change program. See Steady-State Responding.

Behaviorology. "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 System. “A species-specific set of responses related to a specific US[unconditioned stimulus]. That is, for each species there is a behavior system related to procurement of food, another related to obtaining water, still another for securing warmth, and so on” (Pierce & Cheney, 2004, p. 420). Each species performs a specific set of commonly styled behaviors in feeding, mating, fighting, playing etc. Each of these is thought of as a system because they are species-typical, functionally related behaviors with significant innate influences.

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.

Bite Inhibition. A measure of the strength of a bite, or a measure of the frequency of bites. Bite inhibition has been criticized as non-behavioral, but biting is a behavior, and the force/magnitude of a bite or the frequency of bites are measurable occurrences of the behavior.

Blocking. A conditioned stimulus (CS) that has already been associated with an unconditioned stimulus (US) blocks a subsequent CS–US association. A conditioned stimulus (CS1) is paired with a US until there is a strong association. After this, a second conditioned stimulus (CS2) is presented at the same time as CS1, and both are paired with the US. Finally, CS1 and CS2 are tested separately. If CS1 elicits the conditioned response and CS2 does not, CS2 was blocked.

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.

Competing Behavior Model. The competing behavior model emphasizes replacing problematic behaviors with more acceptable behaviors. This is consistent with the constructional approach. Usually involves diagramming the contingencies of a problem, including identification of replacement behaviors. See Constructional Approach.

Compound Stimuli. Two conditioned stimuli presented together in respondent conditioning, such that both come to elicit the same conditioned response.

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)

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 previously neutral stimulus that has been paired with an unconditioned reinforcer and has acquired effectiveness to increase the frequency of an operant. Generally used in the context of positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement. See also Unconditioned Reinforcer.

Conditioned Response (CR). Response elicited by a conditioned stimulus. Often, but not always, similar to the unconditioned response. For example, a click comes to elicit a similar response to the food it has been associated with. There are instances, however, in which the CR is quite dissimilar to the unconditioned response.

Conditioned Stimulus (CS). A previously neutral stimulus that has been paired with an unconditioned stimulus and now elicits reflexive behavior.

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. Conditioning is a behavior change process wherein an organism is physically changed by the environment in such a way that they respond in a measurably different way to it thereafter. Commonly, conditioning is said to be any change in behavior due to experience. Conditioning involves small scale changes to the nervous system of the organism that make the body respond differently to stimuli from then on. Behavior causes changes to the environment and that changed environment emits a stream of energy that impinges on the sensory system of the organism causing a cascade of neural firings that cause the change to the structure of the organism and that change constitutes a now different organism that then responds differently to the environment. That feedback loop process of causing changes to the structure of the organism and hence it's responsiveness to the environment is conditioning.

Consequence. That part of the postcedent environment that is a selector for behavior and functionally related to the behavior in question and is not a coincidental stimulus; a coincidental selector influences the behavior but it was not generated by the behavior--a consequence on the other hand was generated by the behavior.  The consequence will be reinforcing or punishing. Postcedent stimuli are referred to as a consequence once they have been confirmed as functional related to the behavior of concern and not coincidental. See Postcedent. 

Constructional Approach. As opposed to the eliminative approach. In 1974, Israel Goldiamond proposed and outlined a basic strategic approach to changing behavior that provided a paradigm shift from the popular eliminative approaches practiced at the time. In the eliminative approach, behavior is commonly thought of as abnormal, pathological and excessive. The focus of “treatment” is on decreasing the excessive behavior (via extinction or punishment, for example). Goldiamond (1974; 2002) and Delprato (1981) agree that a view of behavior as pathological or abnormal fosters unnecessary acceptance of the eliminative behavioral methods of behavior change. In the constructional approach, rather than reducing the animal’s repertoire of behaviors, the trainer increases them. In the eliminative approach, the animal is shown what not to do, whereas in the constructional approach, the animal is shown what else to do. Contrast with Eliminative Approach.

Context for Conditioning. The ontogenetic and phylogenetic history and current anatomic and physiologic condition of the animal, as well as the environmental conditions present when a given learning process is occurring. The influence of history and environment on conditioning. Constraints and influences on conditioning. 

Contingency. A description of the functional relation, usually between behavior and the environment. A contingency therefore must have at least two terms and one term must be a behavior. In operant behavior, an antecedent -> behavior functional relation is a contingency, as is a behavior -> consequence functional relation. There may be several terms in a contingency. To fully describe and explain a basic behavior scenario, a 3-term contingency is minimum size of contingency because it includes the behavior as well as the evocative stimulus and the consequence. There may be added terms to provide a greater accounting of the behavior episode. In respondent behavior, only a 2-term contingency is required and includes the eliciting stimulus and the response. See Functional Relationship. 

Contingency Analysis. The analysis of a particular behavior episode in order to identify the variables in the contingency or contingencies that constitute the behavior episode.

Continuous Reinforcement (CRF). A schedule of reinforcement in which every response results in reinforcement.

Controlling Stimulus. A stimulus that changes the likelihood of an operant across subsequent occasions. An SEv (evocative stimulus) makes the operant more likely and an S (extinction stimulus) makes it less likely. SAVE (conditioned aversive stimulus) can increase or decrease the likelihood, depending on the particular contingency in operation.

Counterconditioning. In the broadest use of the word, counterconditioning simply refers to conditioning that counters previous conditioning. More commonly, counterconditioning is used to describe a respondent conditioning procedure. In this narrower usage, counterconditioning is the term used to describe respondent conditioning that counters some previous respondent conditioning. This is usually applied to emotional responses.  The procedure is utilized to change a conditioned emotional response from fearful to joyful, or anxiety to relaxation. It may play a role in systematic desensitization procedures. A term that has been used in place of counterconditioning is reciprocal inhibition. This term was presented to describe a situation in which a relaxed response was created in the presence of an anxiety-eliciting stimulus at a low level of intensity; the relaxation inhibits the anxiety response. See also Systematic Desensitization.

Countercontrol. Operant behavior that functions to oppose aversive stimulation. When an individual is coerced, they will behave in order to work around or against this contingency in order to maintain access to reinforcement. Often misinterpreted as “dominance.”

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.

Delay Conditioning. A respondent conditioning procedure in which the conditioned stimulus is presented prior to the unconditioned stimulus and then ends or ceases after the US is being presented. 

Dependent Variable. In experimentation, the dependent variable is the variable that is measured. The experimenter controls for variables other than an independent variable. The independent variable is the only variable changed between subjects, or with a single subject through time. The dependent variable is measured in order to determine if the independent variable affected it.

Deprivation. An establishing operation procedure in which the reinforcer is withheld in order to temporarily increase its effectiveness. As an abolishing operation, a stimulus is withheld in order to temporarily decrease its effectiveness.

Differential Reinforcement (DR). A procedure in which a target behavior is reinforced while another target behavior or any other behaviors are extinguished. See Positive Reinforcement and Extinction.

Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behaviors (DRA). A differential reinforcement procedure in which a specific target behavior that is not necessarily incompatible to the undesirable behavior is reinforced while another undesirable target behavior is extinguished. 

Differential Reinforcement of High Rate (DRH). A differential reinforcement procedure in which a behavior is reinforced only if it is performed at least specific number of times in a given time frame.

Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behaviors (DRI). A differential reinforcement procedure in which a target behavior that is incompatible or mutually exclusive to the undesirable behavior is reinforced while another target behavior is extinguished. 

Differential Reinforcement of Low Rate (DRL). A differential reinforcement procedure in which a behavior is reinforced no more than a specific number of times in a given time frame. 

Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors (DRO). A differential reinforcement procedure wherein reinforcement is delivered contingent on absence of the target behavior within a specified period of time. Another definition might be, any behavior other than the undesirable behavior is reinforced while undesirable target behavior is extinguished.

Differential Reinforcement of Successive Approximations of a Target Behavior (aka shaping or behavior shaping). A differential reinforcement procedure in successive approximations to a target behavior is reinforced incrementally while other behaviors are extinguished in order to achieve the target behavior. See Shaping.

Direct Observation. Part of a functional assessment, direct observation involves observing and measuring a particular behavior in order to establish its operant level (baseline), and to produce an accurate contingency statement. See Functional Assessment.

Discrimination. "Discrimination is the process of behaving, or coming to behave, differently in the respective presence of different stimuli (instead of behaving in the same way in the respective presence of different stimuli). (Frayley, 2008) Refers to an organism responding differently to two or more different stimuli. The organism discriminates between the stimuli. Also called Evocation.

Discrimination Training. Promoting discrimination in a training context and establishing a very specific discriminative stimulus and countering generalization to similar stimuli. Differentially reinforcing the behavior when performed after the specific discriminative stimulus and targeting all behaviors evoked by similar stimuli for extinction.

Discriminative Stimulus (SD). See evocative stimulus.

Distant antecedents. Older term referring to stimuli other than the discriminative stimulus that come before the behavior and influence it. See Function Altering Stimulus.

Elicited. Respondents are elicited. They are caused by the presentation of a stimulus. Respondents are never evoked or emitted; they are elicited.

Eliminative Approach. In the eliminative approach, behavior is commonly thought of as abnormal, pathological and excessive. The focus of “treatment” is on decreasing the excessive behavior (via extinction or punishment, for example). Goldiamond (2002) and Delprato (1981) agree that a view of behavior as pathological or abnormal fosters unnecessary acceptance of the eliminative behavioral methods of behavior change. The alternative proposed by Goldiamond was a constructional approach. Rather than reducing the animal’s repertoire of behaviors, the trainer increases them. In the eliminative approach, the animal is shown what not to do, whereas, in the constructional approach, the animal is shown what to do. Contrast with Constructional Approach.

Emitted. Operant behavior is emitted. The word evoked or exhibited is better and emitted might imply to some that the behavior is initiatively chosen by an internal agent, which it is not. Operant behaviors are never elicited.

Emotional Behavior. Physiological behaviors including the release of hormones into the bloodstream by glands. The aftereffect experience or awareness behaviors associated with emotional behaviors are called feelings. The behaviors are the respondents involved, including the neurophysiology and the awareness behaviors of their effects. Emotional behaviors are respondently conditioned and changed only via respondent conditioning. They may act as motivating operations or antecedent conditions for operants. 

Environment. All stimuli and conditions that may influence the behavior of an organism, including some internal environments such as hormonal conditions, thinking and the experience of pain. "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. The concept of behavior-controlling environment excludes all non-natural events." See Natural Event (Fraley, 2008)

Escape Behavior. Behaviors that function to allow an organism to stop or diminish an aversive experience that has already commenced. See Negative Reinforcement.

Establishing Operations (EOs). Operations that temporarily increase the effectiveness of consequences. See Motivating Operations and Function Altering Stimulus.

Evocative Stimulus (SEv). An evocative stimulus is a stimulus that evokes a behavior. The older term discriminative stimulus is being replaced with evocative stimulus but remains acceptable.

Evoke. Operants are evoked, as opposed to respondents, which are elicited. Operant behaviors are never elicited.

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.

Extinction: Withholding or preventing reinforcement for a behavior (procedure), and the resulting decline in the frequency of that behavior (effect) across subsequent occasions in operant conditioning. Presentation of the conditioned stimulus without the unconditioned stimulus after conditioning has occurred, and resulting decline in the strength of the association and response in respondent conditioning. Extinction represents no postcedent environmental change (as opposed to reinforcement and punishment, which both involve postcedent environmental changes). Extinction has commonly been described in terms of abrupt cessation of reinforcement, but it can also be framed in terms of gradual decline. Furthermore, extinction might be defined more broadly than common as "the process of decreasing difference between the antecedent and postcedent environmental conditions in a three-term contingency featuring a behavior that was previously effective in the setting (or generalized to it) and that was maintained at its previous rate by reinforcement alone or by a combination of reinforcement and punishment." (Fraley, 2008) In this broader definition, extinction would apply logically to punishment as well as reinforcement. We might refer to this extinction with regards to a punished behavior as an extinction-like process since the word extinction would be confusing in reference to an increase rather than a decrease in the rate or frequency of the behavior. This increase in the behavior has historically been called recovery but it can be thought of as extinction.

Extinction Burst. A temporary increase in the frequency of a specific behavior being extinguished, immediately after an extinction procedure is instated. 

Fading. Fading is a procedure by which prompts or function-altering stimuli are gradually eliminated, leaving the evocative stimulus to maintain sole control over the behavior. This can refer to the establishing of a new evocative stimulus or to transferring stimulus control.

Fear. A feeling or awareness/experience behavior associated with certain emotional behaviors involving the release of certain hormones into the bloodstream by glands and certain neural behaviors.

Fear Hierarchy. "The graduated set of stimulus items that are constructed by client and therapist to treat phobic responses in systematic desensitization. The items are ordered from least to most anxiety producing." (Source)

Fixed Duration (FD). This schedule of positive reinforcement component adds the rule that reinforcement will be delivered after a behavior has been occurring for a specified fixed amount of time.

Fixed Interval (FI). This schedule of positive reinforcement makes the rule that reinforcement is provided immediately after a response after a specific interval of time has passed.

Fixed Ratio (FR). This schedule of positive reinforcement makes the rule that responses will be reinforced after a specific and fixed number of responses has been performed.

Flexible Chaining. See Sequencing and Behavior Chain.

Flooding. In a flooding procedure, the animal is exposed to the full intensity of the conditioned stimulus (i.e. flooded with the conditioned stimulus) without the unconditioned stimulus. Exposure continues until the conditioned response is extinguished, and escape attempt behavior declines. Escape is prevented. Flooding is a procedure intended to produce respondent extinction.

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.

Frustration. Emotional behavior resulting from obstructed access to reinforcers (i.e., extinction).

Functional Analysis. A part of a functional assessment in which the observer manipulates antecedents and/or consequences in order to test specific hypotheses regarding the controlling variables influencing a behavior. It is an experimental approach to evaluating behavioral contingencies.

Function Altering stimulus (SFA). Antecedent stimuli that alter the evocative capacity of the SEv to evoke the behavior is changed; they influence the likelihood of the SEv evoking the behavior (Fraley, 2008, pp. 509-533). This general term includes motivating operations, sensitization, habituation and other more specific terms. For instance, the presence of a fire alarm lever will evoke lever-pulling operants but not always. In many instances, it is a neutral stimulus (SN) rather than an SD. Consideration of context, or, function altering stimuli will help us achieve a higher degree of explanatory power in our contingency description. The presence of flames or smoke (SFA) alters the capacity of the lever (the SEv) to evoke the lever pulling operant. Without the presence of the SFA, the maintaining consequences would not occur (merely pressing the lever any time you see one, would not likely be reinforced, or else a punitive consequence would suppress it) (Fraley, 2008, pp. 512).

Functional Assessment. Term used to describe a range of evaluation strategies and techniques, including the informant method, direct observation and functional analysis.

Functional Relationship. A relation between behavior and the environmental stimuli that control it. A relationship between a dependent variable and an independent variable. In the natural science of behavior, the environment acts as the independent variable and the behavior acts as the dependent variable. We study the effects of the independent variable on the dependent variable, as in other natural sciences. See Contingency.

Generalization: Generalization is the process by which the range or set of evocative stimuli increases. That is, other antecedent stimuli come to also evoke the behavior in question.

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

Graded exposure. Incrementally exposing the learner to a stimulus, first at a low level of intensity and gradually increasing the exposure or intensity through repeated trials. The learner is exposed only at an intensity that does not elicit or evoke the problem behavior.

Habituation. Repeatedly presenting an US generates a gradual reduction in the magnitude of the UR, a process referred to as habituation (Peirce & Cheney, 2008). Notice in respondent extinction the CS is affected by repeatedly presenting the CS without the US whereas with habituation, the US is affected and merely by repeated presentation. Habituation is temporary whereas respondent extinction is much more durable, if not permanent, although less conditioning is required to reestablish the CR after extinction.

Hierarchy of Stimulus Intensity. A breakdown of a stimulus from an exposure that elicits the least responsiveness through to the exposure that elicits the greatest responsiveness.

History of Conditioning. This refers to the history of all the times the subject has participated in that contingency back through time. At some point in time, this basic contingency occurred for the first time and then with repeated trials it has generally strengthened and weakened the behavior involved.

Independent Variable. In experimentation, the independent variable is the variable that is manipulated. The experimenter maintains other variables stable and changes the independent variable among groups of individuals or through time in one individual. The dependent variable is measured in order to determine if the independent variable affected it.

Informant Method. One approach in functional assessments to gain information on the contingencies involved in the target behavior, involving questioning people about the behavior and events surrounding it.

Intermittent Schedule of Positive Reinforcement. Any schedule of reinforcement other than continuous reinforcement or extinction. The positive reinforcer is delivered sometimes, but not always.

Keep Going Signal (KGS). A conditioned positive reinforcer used during the performance of a behavior that is not followed by an unconditioned positive reinforcer right away necessarily but where the completion of the behavior results in delivery of the "terminal" conditioned positive reinforcer and the unconditioned positive reinforcer. There may be a series of KGSs distributed during the behavior. Presumably, the KGS is intended to preemptively keep the learner responding through a long duration behavior where the unconditioned reinforcer may not be sufficient to maintain the behavior.

Latency. A dimension or measure of behavior, usually indicating the time between the presentation of the discriminative stimulus and the performance of the behavior it evokes.

Law of Effect. The law of effect states that consequences can influence the strength of behavior; that some stimulus will tend to strengthen behavior and other stimuli will weaken it. The original way of formulating this referred to how pleasant or annoying the stimuli are: Responses that produce a satisfying effect are more likely to occur again in that situation. Conversely, responses that produce an annoying effect are less likely to occur again in that situation. We no longer define principles of behavior by how satisfying or annoying the stimuli are. Instead, we define them by their actual effect of on the behavior, whether they actually strengthen or weaken the rate or frequency of the behavior on subsequent occasions. 

Learned Helplessness. Refers to ceasing to even try to escape in the face of inescapable, severe, aversive stimulation. If a learner cannot effectively escape punishers, they will often cease trying—they simply resign themselves to it. The learned helplessness phenomenon can be explained as extinction of negatively reinforced behavior. The escape behaviors are rendered ineffective and hence reinforcements withheld and the escape behaviors become extinct.

Learning. Learning is not a scientific technical term. It is a layperson term. See Conditioning.

Least Intrusive Effective Behavior Intervention. Model for decision making regarding the appropriate use of aversive stimulation in training and behavior consulting.

Limited Hold. It adds the rule to a schedule of reinforcement that reinforcement is only available within the context of the schedule for a limited period of time. This rule is particularly helpful when you intend to train a behavior to occur quickly upon presentation of the discriminative stimulus.

Lure. A prompt wherein you direct the subject's attention with something and use that to get some behavior to be performed. Like the carrot in front of the donkey, we can use treats that the dog will act to smell, which we can then use to encourage them to move wherever we move the treat.

Medical Model Approach. A theoretical and procedural orientation to behavior change that tends to explain and change behavior similarly to how medical professionals treat physical disease. Behavior is classified as normal or disordered and disordered behavior is classified into various classifications. This model refers to diagnosing and treating behavior problems and often but not always takes a biological approach to viewing and changing behavior. Diagnostic labels do not explain behavior, one important limitation in this approach. It barely describes it, and the label does not contribute effectively to implying the intervention necessary, partly because it fails to identify the cause of the behavior. See See Biological Approach and contrast with Applied Behavior Analysis, which addresses observable behaviors and how it relates adaptively to the environment.

Motivating Operations (MOs). A type of antecedent. Briefly, MOs alter the effectiveness of reinforcers or punishers and the frequency of operant response classes maintained by those reinforcers and punishers (Laraway et al., 2003). Abolishing operations (AOs) temporarily decrease the effectiveness of consequences, whereas establishing operations (EOs) temporarily increase the effectiveness of consequences. The term MO encompasses all four quadrants in the contingency table, with EOs for both reinforcers and punishers, and AOs for both reinforcers and punishers. Usually, satiation and deprivation are used as MOs. For reinforcers, deprivationtends to be an EO, while satiation tends to be an AO. See Function Altering Stimulation for more general term.

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)

Negative Punishment. A behavior change process in which a decrease or subtraction of a stimulus to the environment during or immediately following a response results in a decrease in the strength of the behavior across subsequent occasions. (Frayley, 2008)

Negative Reinforcement. A behavior change process in which a decrease or subtraction of a stimulus to the environment during or immediately following a response results in an increase in the strength of the behavior across subsequent occasions. (Frayley, 2008)

Negative Reinforcer. Any stimulus that, when removed following a behavior, results in an increase in the strength of that behavior.

Neutral Stimulus. A stimulus that does not evoke or elicit a response. In operant conditioning, if the stimulus used to evoke a behavior but no longer does because of extinction or punishment then the stimulus can be referred to as an s-delta (S) to indicate that.

One-zero sampling. A sampling procedure in which it is observed whether or not a behavior occurs in a given interval of time (e.g., whether or not the behavior occurred in the predetermined 30 second interval).

Operant behavior. Behavior that is maintained by the consequences that it has historically generated. Operant behavior causes changes to the postcedent environment that provides energy feedback to the behaving body, causing small-scale changes to it such that the behavior is then either more or less likely to occur across subsequent occasions of the antecedent stimulus that evoked the behavior (Ledoux, 2013, p. 12). Examples of operant behaviors are sitting, walking and speaking.

Operant Conditioning. A change (increase or decrease) in the strength of an operant behavior across subsequent presentations of the evocative stimulus as a function of its historic consequences.

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

Operant Set. A class of operant behaviors that may differ topographically but function to produce the same consequence. Some behavior analysts use the term operant to refer to operant sets whereas others use the term operant to simply refer to consequence driven behaviors. Note that some behavior analysts use the term "operant" in the same way this glossary is using Operant Set. They would suggest that the word operant used as an adjective as in "Operant Behavior" describes consequence driven behaviors, and that "operant" used as a noun is what we are calling an Operant Set.

Orienting Response. A reflex in which an organism orients their attention to a change in their environment.

Overshadowing. In respondent conditioning, if two neutral or conditioned stimuli are used simultaneously in conditioning an association with an unconditioned stimulus and only one becomes conditioned while the other does not, we would say that the successfully conditioned stimulus overshadowed the unsuccessful stimulus. Which stimulus overshadows the other is probably determined by prior exposure to the stimuli, salience and perhaps preparedness.

Piloerection. Raised fur. Usually on the dorsal neck and often continuing down the spine. Indication of arousal.

Positive Punishment. A behavior change process in which an increase or addition of a stimulus to the environment during or immediately following a response results in a decrease in the strength of the behavior across subsequent occasions. (Frayley, 2008)

Positive Reinforcement. A behavior change process in which an increase or addition of a stimulus to the environment during or immediately following a response results in an increase the strength of the behavior across subsequent occasions. (Frayley, 2008)

Positive Reinforcer. Any stimulus that, when presented following a behavior, results in an increase in strength of that behavior in subsequent occasions.

Postcedent. "The environment as it exists beginning immediately after a response." (Frayley, 2008) Once we know what components of this environment are actually functionally related to the antecedent-behavior sequence, we call that the consequence.

Potentiation. “[A]n increase, over repeated presentations, in the respondent behavior elicited by a stimulus (especially, an aversive stimulus)” (Catania, 1998, p. 402). Contrast with Habituation.

Premack Principle. A behavior with higher frequency or probability can act as reinforcement for a less frequent or less probable behavior. In practice, we can use everyday opportunities to train dogs. Not only treats and toys can act as reinforcers, so too can other behaviors, such as running or playing.

Preparedness. “Some relations between stimuli, and between stimuli and responses, are more likely because of phylogenetic history. This phenomenon has been called preparedness. For example, a bird that relies on sight for food selection would be expected to associate the appearance of a food item with illness, but rats that select food on the basis of taste quickly make a flavor-illness association” (Pierce & Cheney, 2004, p. 438). See Biological Context.

Primary Reinforcer. See Unconditioned reinforcer.

Principle of Behavior. A description of a functional relation between behavior and the environment.

Prompt. A prompt is any antecedent stimulus, other than the designated primary stimulus, that contributes to evoking the behavior of concern. The primary stimulus is the currently non-evocative or weakly evocative stimulus designated to be the cue for the behavior after conditioning. Once the primary stimulus takes on stimulus control over the behavior, the prompt is faded.

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

Punishment. A behavior change process in which a stimulus during or immediately following a response results in a decrease in the strength of that behavior across subsequent occasions. (Fraley, 2008) Punishment weakens the evocative power of the SEv.

Rate of Response. "The quotient when a count of responses is divided by a count of the time units across which the count of responses occurred. (The count of responses is the dividend; the count of the time units is the divisor; and the rate of responding is the quotient.)" (Fraley, 2008)

Ratio Schedules. Schedules of positive reinforcement that make the rule that responses will be reinforced after a specific number (fixed or variable) of responses has been performed.

Ratio Strain. Disruption of operant responding when a ratio schedule is increased rapidly.

Reciprocal Inhibition. See Counterconditioning.

Reflex. The elicitation of an unconditioned response (UR) with an unconditioned stimulus (US). A US–UR relationship. Note that the behavior is a respondent behavior alone but a reflex is the relation between both the stimulus and the response--the respondent contingency.

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

Reinforcement. A behavior change process in which a stimulus immediately following or during a response results in an increase in the strength of that behavior across subsequent occasions. (Fraley, 2008) Reinforcement strengthens the evocative power of the SEv.

Relative Frequency. "The quotient derived from the following: (fulfilled opportunities to respond / total opportunities to respond. The result may be expressed as a percentage." (Fraley, 2008)

Relaxation. Relative minimal arousal. Calmness. Lack of anxiety, or stress. See Systematic Desensitization.

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. Respondent behavior is behavior that is automatically elicited by an antecedent stimulus, cannot be prevented by supplemental antecedent stimuli and is unaffected by consequences.

Respondent Conditioning. A behavior change process that occurs when a neutral stimulus is paired with an unconditioned stimulus (or established conditioned stimulus), and after conditioning has occurred, the neutral stimulus itself elicits what we now call a conditioned response, and the neutral stimulus has become a conditioned stimulus.

Respondent Extinction. A behavior change process whereby the conditioned stimulus is presented without the unconditioned stimulus and the strength of the conditioned stimulus decreases to preconditioning levels. Usually, this means it ceases occurring. For example, if a dog was conditioned to salivate when a bell is rung by presenting the ringing sound followed immediately by inserting food in the dog's mouth thereby eliciting salivation and repeating this process until the ringing sound along would elicit salivation, then extinguishing this respondent behavior would involve presenting the bell ringing sound but not followed by food-in-mouth. Gradually the salivation in response to the bell sound would decline and eventually cease. Respondent extinction can also be used with the respondent emotional behaviors that we commonly refer to as fear. In that case, some previously neutral stimulus has come to elicit the emotional arousal by being paired with a stimulus that does already elicit the emotional arousal. And so, to extinguish the emotional arousal, the stimulus is presented but the unconditioned (or already established conditioned stimulus) is not and this is repeated until the conditioned stimulus no longer elicits the emotional arousal. Note, this is not habituation as habituation is temporary and applies to unconditioned responses. Respondent extinction occurs in the procedure commonly referred to as flooding in which subjects are exposed to stimuli they fear at full intensity until they cease responding fearfully to it. Respondent extinction may also play a partial role in some applications of what is called systematic desensitization.

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. "Any covert or overt innervated muscular movement of all or part of an organism resulting from energy transformations occurring within the organism and initiated by energy inputs from beyond the affected body part. Also, a particular innervated pattern of neural activity that relies on a particular molecular configuration." (Fraley, 2008) A particular instance of behavior (See Behavior). Typing is behavior, for example. An individual keystroke is a particular instance of the behavior, and we call it a response.

Response Class. See Operant 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 amount of effort required to execute a particular behavior. The probability of that behavior being performed decreases proportionally as response effort increases, if an alternative functionally equivalent behavior becomes available. Organisms will generally choose a behavior fulfilling a specific function that requires less effort than other behaviors that will achieve the same function.

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. The reversal-design single subject experiment typically involves two phases. The first phase (the A phase) involves establishing a baselinefor the frequency or magnitude of the behavior (the dependent variable) in question. Following the A phase, you instate the independent variable (that is, the consequence or the antecedent that you want to know about) and continue to measure the frequency or magnitude of the behavior. This second phase is called the B phase. Usually, there is at least another A phase. See also Alternating Treatment Design.

Safety Signal. A salient stimulus that is presented immediately before or during conditioning trials wherein an aversive stimulus will not be presented and is not present for trials wherein the aversive stimulus will be presented.

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. Decline in the effectiveness of a reinforcing stimulus due to excess exposure to it or repeated presentation of it. If an organism is satiated with a particular reinforcer, its value declines and it is not as powerful a reinforcer as a result. Satiation can also be used in the context of punishers, and in that regard the behavior would increase in frequency. See Motivating Operations.

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.

Self-Controlled Behavior. Self-controlled behavior is the opposite of impulsive behavior. Contrast with Impulsive Behavior.

Sensitive Periods. Narrow windows of time in early development when organisms are particularly susceptible to particular forms of learning or learning specific classes of associations. Previously referred to as “critical periods.”

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).

Separation Distress. Distress related behaviors (physiologically and anatomically, panic and pain related although anxiety and fear related sometimes) elicited by social (or place attachment) isolation, or conditioned stimuli predicting social (or place attachment) isolation, and the operants they motivate. (O'Heare, 2009) See important caution under Aggressive Behavior.

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 Events. Environmental events or conditions, not including motivating operations, not typically occurring immediately prior to the behavior in question but setting the occasion, or form the context, for a particular behavior, making the behavior more or less likely. These can often be thought of as more distant motivating operations. See Function Altering Stimulation.

Shaping (procedural)."A procedure in which differential reinforcement is applied to a series of successive approximations of a final specified form of a behavior." (Fraley, 2008) Shaping is a postcedent intervention and a compound procedure in that it utilizes two basic principles of behavior (both postcedent changes): extinction and reinforcement. It usually involves positive reinforcement, but utilizing negative reinforcement can legitimately be called shaping. It is a special kind of differential reinforcement. Both are compound procedures involving reinforcement and extinction, but while differential reinforcement changes only the rate or frequency (quantity) of a behavior, shaping changes the form (quality) of the behavior. They are both postcedent interventions in that they involve reinforcement and extinction, both postcedent behavior change processes. See Free-Shaping for further discussion.

Simultaneous Conditioning. A respondent conditioning procedure in in which the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus are presented at the same time and end at the same time. 

Social behavior. Also called communication in psychology and ethology, behavior that influences the behavior of others. Social behavior or "communication" is just like any other behavior and operates on the same principles of behavior. It is not the transmission of information from mind to mind.

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.

Socialization. The process of exposing an animal to stimuli in a sensitive manner while the animal is in (or approximately in) a sensitive period of development and particularly amenable to acclimating to these stimuli and establishing nonaversive respondent emotional responses to it and establishing a history of reinforcement for contacting the stimuli.

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. Once a behavior is past the acquisition stage and into “maintenance,” it should reach steady state.

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. Any event that is capable of influencing 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. "Stimulus control is the functional control that stimuli in the environment acquire over the behaviors exhibited in their presence. These stimuli set the occasion for the behavior that reliably follows them." (Frayley, 2008)

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

Superstitious Behavior. Coincidentally reinforced behavior. Sometimes postcedent events occur and while not generated by the behavior itself still function to reinforce the behavior simply by the temporal occurrence of it. When a behavior is reinforced by stimuli that were not generated by the behavior and occurred merely coincidentally, the behavior it reinforces is called superstitious. For example, if a rat is in a Skinner Box and food is delivered at random intervals, not contingent on any particular behaviors, the rat is likely to be performing a common behavior, such as sniffing, turning or standing on hind feet, more often than other behaviors. Even though the food delivery is not contingent on any particular behavior, the frequency of some behavior may increase, and this is called accidental or superstitious. In this example, after a few sessions the rat might be spinning in circles well above its previous operant rate.

Systematic Desensitization. Systematic desensitization is effective, no question about it. But we just do not know why exactly. In 1920, John Watson and Rosalie Rayner published a classic paper on how emotional responses are conditioned via respondent conditioning in which the authors detail how a child names Albert was conditioned to fear specific stimuli. In 1924, Mary Cover Jones published a classic follow-up article on how emotional responses, fear in particular, could be changed via respondent conditioning by outlining how they counterconditioned fear responses in a child names Peter. These classic works provided the foundation for Joseph Wolpe’s 1954 seminal article in which he proposed the procedure known as systematic desensitization. Systematic desensitization was proposed to change problem emotional responses including fears, anxieties and phobias. The idea was to coach the client in relaxation exercises, construct a hierarchy of fear and then incrementally and gradually expose the client to an imagined or actual exposure to each level in the hierarchy starting with the least intense, promote relaxation and work through the entire hierarchy, level by level. Wolpe proposed reciprocal inhibition as the mechanism by which the learner desensitizes to the feared stimulus. This is similar to counterconditioning. The idea is that the learner cannot engage in two contradictory or mutually exclusive emotional / physiological responses at the same time. The relaxation was said to inhibit the fear or anxiety (or countercondition it). Since then, the reciprocal inhibition and counterconditioning hypotheses have been called into question. Others have proposed that habituation or respondent extinction are responsible for the desensitization effects but these also have been called into question. In recent years, many behavior technologists have proposed that much of the beneficial effects are actually the result of operant conditioning rather than respondent conditioning. Complex cognitive (covert verbal behavior) explanations and expectancy/placebo effects have also been proposed. Systematic desensitization is the term often used to describe any procedure involving relaxation and graded exposure through a hierarchy of stimulus intensity. Within that framework, there is in vitro systematic desensitization wherein the learner imagines the exposure and in vivo systematic desensitization wherein the learner is actually exposed to the stimulus. This latter approach is sometimes called contact desensitization though. And sometimes the in vitro version is referred to as systematic desensitization and the contact version is referred to as in vivo desensitization. The entire process is sometimes also referred to as simply exposure therapy but this term is usually used to refer to systematic desensitization and other exposure procedures. (O'Heare, 2009)

Tertiary Reinforcer. A conditioned reinforcer that was established by pairing with another conditioned reinforcer as opposed to an unconditioned reinforcer. "A stimulus that functions as a reinforcer because of its contingent relation to another reinforcer. Such stimuli have also been called secondary reinforcers, but this designation is best reserved for cases in which the modifier specifies how many stimuli separate the conditioned reinforcer from a primary reinforcer (e.g., a secondary reinforcer is followed directly by a primary reinforcer, a tertiary by a secondary, etc.)." (Source)

Three-Term Contingency. The three-term contingency describes the controlling variables for a behavior and the functional relationship between behavior and the environment,in terms of what occurs before the behavior (antecedents) and immediately after the behavior (postcedents) that influences it. Once we have determined that an antecedent stimulus controls a behavior, we refer to it as the discriminative stimulus (SD). Once we have determined that a particular postcedent stimulus reinforces or punishes the behavior and is therefore functionally related to the behavior, we call it the consequence. Under some circumstances, it can be useful to include a four term in the contingency, a function altering stimulus. This might include function altering stimulation (or context) such as the general setting events and the specific motivating operations. For instance, a fire alarm lever will not always evoke pulling behaviors but in the presence of smoke or flames, the alarm lever evokes the pulling behavior (barring other opposing contingencies). The flames act as a function altering stimulus and the lever then becomes the SD. Without the smoke or flames, lever pressing behavior will not likely result in reinforcement. In fact, it may result in punishment. Emotional arousal, if the animal goes into the contingency in question in this "mood" can also act as a function altering stimulus. Function altering stimulus is a general term hat includes all of these context terms such as setting events and motivating operations etc. 

Trace Conditioning. A respondent conditioning procedure whereby the conditioned stimulus is presented and then removed, followed shortly by the presentation of the unconditioned stimulus. Establishing a "clicker" as a conditioned positive reinforcer utilizes trace conditioning. For effective conditioning, the US ought to follow the CS within a couple/few seconds to achieve satisfactory contiguity.

Unconditioned Reinforcer. A stimulus that acts as a reinforcer but not as a result of conditioning. Related to biological needs such as food, optimal temperature etc. The body develops structurally under genetic controls such that they will be reinforced automatically by the property that is said to be a primary or unconditioned reinforcer (Fraley, 2008, p. 125)

Unconditioned Response (UR). Response elicited by a stimulus related to biological adaptations. For example, eye blinking is a UR elicited by a puff of air on the eye. It is adaptive because it protects the eye and hence contributes to biological/reproductive fitness. See Reflex.

Unconditioned Stimulus(US). Stimulus that elicits an unconditioned response. For example, a puff of air is a US that elicits blinking. See Reflex.

Variable Duration (VD). This schedule of positive reinforcement makes the rule that reinforcement will be delivered after a behavior has been occurring for a variable amount of time. As with other variable schedules, the reinforcement is delivered on what seems like a random schedule but is variable around a mean of a specified duration of time.

Variable Interval (VI). This schedule of positive reinforcement sets the rule that reinforcement is to be delivered on the first occurrence of the target behavior after a variable interval of time has passed. Similar to the fixed interval schedule, the first behavior after an interval of time passes is reinforced, but in this case, the time interval is variable around a mean, rather than being fixed.

Variable Ratio (VR). This schedule of positive reinforcement makes the rule that the target response will be reinforced after an apparently random but specific average number of responses. The VR schedule is similar to the fixed ratio schedule, but rather than reinforcing after every, say, 4 responses, you provide the reinforcement after an average of 4 responses.

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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