Automatic reinforcement is usually related to _________________ behaviors. But what does that mean? And how does it affect our actions and choices? In this article, we will explore the concept of automatic reinforcement, some examples of it, and how it can be used to reduce problem behaviors.
What is Automatic Reinforcement?
According to Hope Education Services, automatic positive reinforcement is when a behavior results in the addition of something good or desired as a consequence of one’s own actions, without the involvement of others. It can be in the form of a sensory consequence that sounds, looks, tastes, smells, or feels good.
For example, scratching an itch, pouring a glass of milk, or listening to music are all behaviors that are automatically reinforced by the pleasant sensations they produce.
Automatic negative reinforcement is when a behavior results in the removal or avoidance of something bad or undesired as a consequence of one’s own actions, without the involvement of others. It can be in the form of a sensory consequence that reduces pain, discomfort, boredom, or anxiety.
For example, taking aspirin for a headache, turning off a loud alarm, or escaping from a stressful situation are all behaviors that are automatically reinforced by the relief they provide.
How Does Automatic Reinforcement Affect Our Behaviors?
According to JSTOR, automatic reinforcement is an important but ignored concept in behavior analysis. It is a “natural” result of behavior when it operates upon the behaver’s own body or the surrounding world. It can explain many behaviors that are not obviously influenced by external consequences, such as language acquisition, thinking, and problem solving.
For example, children may learn to utter correctly constructed sentences without any obvious external reinforcement for correct word order. They may be automatically reinforced by the internal feedback they receive from their own speech.
Similarly, adults may solve puzzles or play games without any obvious external reinforcement for their performance. They may be automatically reinforced by the cognitive stimulation or satisfaction they experience from their own actions.
How Can Automatic Reinforcement Be Used to Reduce Problem Behaviors?
According to Psych Central Pro, problem behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement is likely to need intervention that is different than that of problem behavior maintained by social reinforcement. Noncontingent reinforcement (NCR) and response blocking are two interventions that have been shown to reduce problem behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement.
NCR involves the use of a time-based schedule to deliver stimuli that compete with the automatic reinforcer produced by problem behavior (e.g., Hagopian & Toole, 2009), whereas blocking consists of physical intervention to prevent problem behavior. Blocking can prevent access to the automatic reinforcer that maintains the response (i.e., extinction; Smith, Russo, & Le,1999) or can function as punishment (Lerman & Iwata, 1999).
For example, for individuals with autism spectrum disorder who display pica (eating non-edible items) or self-injurious behavior (SIB) maintained by automatic reinforcement, NCR and blocking can be used together to reduce these behaviors. NCR can use competing stimuli that are incompatible with the problem behavior, such as teething rings or pretzels. Blocking can use gentle physical guidance to prevent the individual from putting non-edible items in their mouth or biting their hand.
Automatic reinforcement is usually related to _________________ behaviors that produce favorable outcomes for the individual without the involvement of others. It can affect various aspects of our behavior, such as language, cognition, and motivation. It can also be used to reduce problem behaviors that are maintained by sensory consequences by using interventions such as NCR and blocking.