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Operant extinction

Operant extinction

The behavior I have identified for this assignment is tantrums in my son when denied access to preferred items. According to Health of Children, “A tantrum is an episode of extreme anger and frustration characterized by crying, screaming, and violent body motions, including throwing things, falling to the floor, and banging one’s head, hands, and feet against the floor.” Operationally defined, his tantrums will involve crying, screaming, and stomping his feet. Crying will occur with or without tears for any amount of time exceeding five seconds. Screaming will be defined as the occurrence of any vocalization above our normal conversational level for any amount of time. Stomping feet will be defined as any occurrence of his foot lifting and slamming flat-footed with high pressure into the ground.

An antecedent is the occurrences leading up to a behavior. These can include time, setting, or actions that happened immediately before a behavior. The antecedent of the tantrums is denied access to tangible items or people. The setting can differ for him but it could be anywhere from his bedroom to his grandparent’s house. In most cases, the tangible items are either food items such as a juice box or candy. In other instances, the tangible items could be a preferred toy such as his kinetic sand, finger paints, or bubbles which at times cannot be appropriately used inside the house. If the child requests a person that is not currently present at the moment, he asks he may tantrum. Whether a phone call, video call, or any other alternative is suggested, the child may tantrum. When the child requests a specific item, he is either offered an alternative or denied access altogether.

A consequence is an action or response that happens right after a behavior occurs. It is said to be a reinforcer at times, according to B.F. Skinner, which in this case proves very true. Previously when this behavior occurred, the consequence used to be a quick reaction or reprimand. Whichever adult was watching the child at the moment would respond by “stop it“. This consequence would result in the child laughing or intensifying his behaviors. This would result in a circular power struggle of continuous reprimands and an increase in behaviors. If the child would laugh after the initial reprimand, he would continue to reach for whatever item that he was originally denied. When considering the reactions the child had to the original consequence, I decided to rethink my reactions. The new consequence of his tantrum is to wait it out. After giving him the initial response that whatever item or person he wants is unattainable at the moment if the tantrum starts, I will ignore the tantrum until he calms down and can breathe before discussing other alternatives.

Reinforcement contingencies can be negative or positive. Positive reinforcement is the addition of a reinforcer that results in an increased behavior, While a negative reinforcer is just the opposite. Wherein both reinforcers increase behaviors, negative reinforcement is the result of a reinforcer being removed. In regards to reinforcement contingencies that occur as a result of his tantrums, The initial responses are definitely positive reinforcement well the reprimands or removal of other toys were negative reinforcement. The initial responses are positive reinforcement because the addition of a shocked response or an angry response triggered him to either intensify his initial behavior or begin new behaviors. However, at times when the tantrum would increase, he would be threatened by the removal of other objects, which again would result in a higher intensity behavior. It seems as though the angry response or any response in general to his tantrum would intensify his behavior. When he would get tantrums, he said off of the negative responses he would get from it, so the removal of any response should illuminate the behavior altogether.

It is often an issue that an incorrect consequence or response can result in reinforcing the wrong behavior by mistake. They can also result in reinforcing her behavior in general when you didn’t intend it to. For example, in this scenario the response of “stop it” or a look on your face was actually, in fact, reinforcing the tantrum behavior. In this specific case, the child would enjoy that type of attention, end it would increase the unwanted target behavior. Even in my professional working environment, I have seen this multiple times, especially when you are getting to know a child or a person. My son is only two years old, so technically, I’m getting to know him still, too. Another issue that I came across when initially attempting to reduce the target behavior was in the process that I thought was going to be negative punishment. Initially, when the tantrums would increase, I would threaten the removal of a toy. After I would threaten the removal of a toy, I would then Count to three, which on its own is a separate issue because he is learning numbers and enjoys counting. This would result in him either counting along or laughing. After a few trials and errors, I began counting backward from three so he could identify the difference. However, it was still ineffective because he would continue to tantrum so I would remove a toy, television, or music as a punishment. Instead of reducing the tantrums after realizing the other item is gone due to this behavior, it would actually increase the behavior. At times there are a lot of learning curves when developing a behavioral plan. The most important piece is to understand the antecedent and the key reinforcements. If you don’t understand these two elements of the target behavior, then it is easy to end up reinforcing unwanted behaviors in the end. My first two attempts to decrease my son’s target behavior of tantrums were perfect examples of improperly implementing reinforcement contingencies.

The term extinction typically refers to some type of species no longer existing. In the Psychology world the term is similar, but it applies to a target behavior no longer exists. An extinction procedure is set to ignore the behavior or remove the reinforcer in order to completely end a target behavior. What I have found is that the reinforcer my son responds to most is simple attention of any kind. So instead of any type of response, whether it be an upset look on my face or a verbal reprimand, I will just be quiet. The new consequence I have set in place is to respond to his original request for whenever item or person with an alternative and explain why that is not an option at the moment. Then, if he begins to tantrum, such as; crying, stomping his feet, screaming, or dropping to the floor, I will completely ignore it. Essentially I am waiting out the tantrum until he responds in an appropriate manner. However, it is very important that the adult who is with him understand the operational definition of his tantrums. If he were to look upset in any manner, it is understandable, but responding to any emotions he may have towards not having access to said items or people could result in different issues. For example, if a babysitter didn’t understand the difference between his tantrum and the pouting expression, then they could be responding to said expression and exacerbating the issue. Ideally, this extinction procedure would completely illuminate his tantrum behaviors by removing the reinforcer that causes it to increase. In conclusion, by removing the positive reinforcement that is any kind of verbal or visual attention completely, my child will no longer tantrum when he does not have access to preferred items or people.

Reference Page

Dalphonse, A. (2020, December 31). Examples of Operational Definitions: 3 key components. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from definitions/

Tantrums. (n.d.). Retrieved February 08, 2021, from

Webster, J. (n.d.). ABC: Antecedent, Behavior, consequence. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from


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Operant extinction procedures are frequently used effectively in ABA treatment plans. However, as you observed in the interactive media presentation you completed, they can also be incorrectly implemented. This improper implementation can result in unknowingly reinforcing the very behavior we want to decrease. As a future ABA professional, it is important for you to learn how to correctly identify maintaining antecedents and consequences that reinforce unwanted behavior and to correctly apply extinction techniques that effectively reduce the target behavior.

Operant extinction

Operant extinction

In order to successfully complete this assignment, you will first identify a behavior frequently exhibited by yourself or by someone close to you to which you would like to apply an extinction procedure.

Define the behavior operationally.

Describe the antecedent to the behavior.

Describe the consequences of the behavior.

Describe positive and negative reinforcement contingencies that occur as a result of engaging in the behavior. (Hint: Think about what is maintaining your identified behavior and what you will be withholding when you implement the extinction procedure.)

Identify procedures that can end up reinforcing the unwanted target behavior and explain the potential results of improperly implementing these procedures that were meant to help extinguish the unwanted target behavior.

Identify the extinction techniques that you feel will most effectively reduce the target behavior, and explain why you feel these will be most effective. (Hint: Think back to your identified positive and negative reinforcements to help you identify what you should be withholding to change the behavior through an extinction procedure.)

Resources: At least two scholarly or professional sources.

Length: 4 pages, in addition to a title page and reference page.

Font and font size: Times New Roman, 12 points.

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