Topic Tuesday: Extinction

Extinction is a procedure in which previously reinforced behavior is no longer being reinforced resulting in a decrease in behavior.  This procedure does not prevent the occurrence of the behavior, however by changing the environment to remove reinforcement, the behavior no longer has a function and will decrease over time.  The amount of time it takes to decrease can vary based on several factors, including how often it has been reinforced in the past.  One thing to keep in mind when considering using an extinction procedure is the extinction burst that takes place immediately after removing the reinforcement. 

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An extinction burst is an immediate increase in the behavior (can be frequency, intensity, duration, etc.) after the removal of reinforcement.  Essentially, an extinction burst means that things are going to get worse before they get better.  For this reason, it is extremely important for all parties involved (teachers, parents, caregivers, etc.) to be consistent.

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