The principles of Applied Behavior Analysis do not just occur within the vacuum of a clinical or therapeutic setting. Believe it or not, we see the fundamentals of ABA constantly in our daily lives. For this “ABA All Around Us” series, we’re going to break down some basic concepts and apply them to real-world situations. Today, let’s take a look at Positive Reinforcement:
Positive Reinforcement, in simple terms, is when something is introduced into the environment immediately following a behavior, which increases the likelihood that the behavior will occur again in the future under similar circumstances. For the purposes of ABA, when we talk about the environment, we’re talking about anything in the physical world surrounding a sequence of events involving behavior. So how can we apply this concept to our daily lives?
Let’s use going to work as an example. You go to work so you will be positively reinforced by getting paid. Payment is being introduced into the environment, resulting in an increase in the likelihood that you will continue going to work in the future. If your job stopped paying you, then the positive reinforcement of a payday would be removed and you would no longer have any reason to go to work, thus extinguishing your behavior of going to work. By withholding payment in the presence of your going-to-work behavior, your employer is placing your behavior on extinction, which is when we no longer reinforce a behavior that was previously reinforced.
The goal of placing a behavior on extinction, is to make that behavior ineffective at gaining access to reinforcement, thus resulting in the behavior ceasing to occur. By having a contingency for reinforcement in place, you have a reason to engage in the behavior that will gain you access to that reinforcer.