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Behavioral Theory
CD 446
C. Knox, Instructor
Philosophical Foundation
Realism - reality as directly given to the
senses, objective, observable,
measurable. Can be examined
Experimental Psychology – Wundt,
Pavlov, Watson
Learning is based on the association of
elements, the building of connections in
the brain
All responses are learned
Complex forms are based on the
association of other simpler forms through
branching, stringing or other combining
Levels of behavior
Conscious choices
Classical: SR (Pavlov, Watson)
Operant: SRC (law of effect)
Thorndike, Skinner
Mediated Operant: SROCK
Learning is facilitated through
management of these components in
building and reinforcing associations
 Generalization, Discrimination, Extinction
Consequences and Contingencies
Antecedents (stimulus control)
Cueing, prompting, task analysis
Consequences and effects
Positive and negative reinforcement
Primary and conditioned reinforcers
Positive and negative punishment
Continuous, interval, ratio
Applied Behavior Analysis
The importance of the baseline in the
ABAB model
Description of the behavior
Why and to whom is the behavior a
problem or a desired outcome?
Analysis of the antecedents and current
Design, implementation and evaluation of
Steps in Implementing Behavior
Observe and specify behaviors
Set Behavioral Goals
Objectively described observable outcomes
Determine appropriate reinforcers
Select procedures for changing behavior
Implement procedures and record results
Evaluate progress and revise
Generalize; move to self maintenance
Premack principle
High frequency and low frequency behaviors
Task analysis and shaping
Positive practice
“Catch them being good”
Reinforcement teaches more than
It takes more reinforcement to make an
Maintenance Strategies
Contingent on
Contingent on
Reinforcement occurs
Fixed Ratio
One point off for each
word spelled wrong
Fixed Interval
Weekly spelling test
Reinforcement occurs
Variable Ratio
Random opportunities
for bonus points
Variable Interval
Spot quizzes
Adapted from Driscoll, 2000
Stimulus generalization – somewhat like
over generalization in language, people
may over generalize a response
CER’s – conditioned emotional responses
often compound generalization and create
problems for discrimination (classically conditioned)
Stimulus discrimination – Identifying key
elements of stimulus which differentiate it
from other similar stimuli
Some Common Classroom Strategies
Expectations, rules and consequences
MUST be known up front and enforced
Public records
Group consequences
Token systems; Classroom/school store
Contingency contracts
Punishment does not teach positive
behavior; it only stops behavior. It must
always be paired with reinforcement of
behavior to be learned.
You cannot use behavioral theory
effectively unless you know the baseline
characteristics of your learners
Strategies must be learner specific
You must continually observe and adapt
Food for thought
Children can only act in ways they have in
their repertoire and can match to stimuli
Self-management is the goal
Mastery and self-paced learning
Learned helplessness- a response to
continuous aversive or conflicting stimuli
Match between instruction and
Ethical benefits and challenges