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Extinction in Applied Behavioral Analysis

Extinction in Applied Behavioral Analysis

Extinction is when a conditioned response is gradually weakened and thus resulting in the behavior disappearing or decreasing; the conditioned behavior eventually comes to a halt. In classical conditioning, where a conditioned stimulus is presented in the absence of an unconditional stimulus, the conditioned stimulus comes to an end eventually. In Pavlov’s classic experiment, the researcher conditioned a dog to salivate whenever it heard the sound of a bell. When the bell was rung, but no food was present, the dog eventually stopped salivating (Vurbic & Bouton, 2014). Extinction in operant conditioning occurs when there is no longer any reinforcement when a response is elicited and follows a discriminative stimulus. B.F. Skinner first discovered this phenomenon by accident. He observed a rat press a lever in a satiation experiment, then the pellet dispenser jammed. The rat, however, continued to press even when no pellets were forthcoming (Lattal St Peter, & Escobar, 2013).

Grady et al. (2016) point out that for extinction to be effective in the way it works, it ought to be done consistently. Extinction is deemed to be successful when there is a response when an extinction stimulus is present is zero (for example, when a teacher fails to give attention to an undisciplined student). When the behavior reappears after it has been eliminated, this is referred to as a resurgence. Although extinction, when applied consistently over a period of time, results in the eventual decline of the undesirable behavior, in the short term, the person exhibiting the behavior can have an extinction burst. An extinction burst often takes place soon after the extinction has been enforced. This is often characterized by a temporary or sudden increase in the frequency of the response and then followed by the eventual decline and subsequent extinction of the targeted behavior. Aggressive behavior, emotional responses, or novel behavior may also take place.

Examples of Extinction Application

An example of extinction in the real world is conditioned aversion to taste. For example, if a person loves ice cream and often eats it for pleasure, then one day, as the person eats their favorite ice cream, he discovers a dead bug inside it. The person may end up vomiting and even have frequent replaying thoughts in mind. This person will create an aversion to ice cream though they initially loved to eat it. One way to overcome this taste aversion would be for the person to expose themselves to ice cream even when the person feels queasy. The person may attempt to take a few licks over and over again. As the person continues to eat the ice cream without throwing up, the conditioned aversion will soon come to an end. This also works for toddlers who like to lick sugar without others watching. If the mother to the toddler adds salt into the sugar and the child licks it and is put off by the taste, then the bad behavior becomes extinct either gradually (through putting the salt frequently) or immediately.

The second example is when a toddler chooses to throw tantrums every time their parents take them to the mall for shopping. If the toddler knows that they’ll get whatever they want when they throw a tantrum, they’ll continue to do so, and the parents will yield to their demands. However, when the parents one day decide to ignore the child and let them throw tantrums and still not give them whatever they want; and the parents do so consistently; the toddler will soon realize their tantrums have lost their effect in eliciting the desired response. The tantrums will become extinct.

Another example is when a teacher commends a student every time they perform well. If the student gets five stars and a badge displaying academic prowess, then the student will continue to work hard at excelling. However, when the teacher withdraws the five stars and the badge, the student may gradually stop working as hard at excelling academically because the reinforcer is no longer available.

References

Grady, A. K., Bowen, K. H., Hyde, A. T., Totsch, S. K., & Knight, D. C. (2016). Effect of continuous and partial reinforcement on the acquisition and extinction of human conditioned fear. Behavioral neuroscience130(1), 36.

Lattal, K. A., St Peter, C., & Escobar, R. (2013). Operant extinction: Elimination and generation of behavior.

Vurbic, D., & Bouton, M. E. (2014). A contemporary behavioral perspective on extinction.

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Extinction in Applied Behavioral Analysis

Extinction

Extinction in Applied Behavioral Analysis

Extinction in Applied Behavioral Analysis

 

 

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