with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA


Unwanted Effects of Reinforcement: The Bad Effects of a Good Intervention

Reinforcement is a highly recommended strategy in applied behavior analysis. However, it is important to consider the possible unwanted effects of reinforcement.

Let’s look over a few examples of some of the potential unwanted effects of reinforcement.
Examples of Unwanted Effects of Reinforcement
Examples of the potential unwanted effects of using reinforcement include but is not limited to the following:

Reinforcement in one setting could lead to a decrease in the target behavior in another setting (behavioral contrast)
Reinforcement of a specific behavior could lead to an increase in undesirable behaviors in that same functional response class
Similarly, reinforcement of a specific behavior could lead to a decrease in desirable behaviors in the same functional response class
When reinforcement contingencies are strong, maladaptive behaviors could develop, especially if the reinforcer begins to be available less often (ex: aggression)
Sometimes reinforcement contingencies can lead to low levels of energy or fatigue in an individual leading to less effort being applied to other behaviors that could in fact be more reinforcing or more beneficial for the person’s quality of life
Reinforcement contingencies for some behaviors can have a negative impact on a person’s health and wellbeing, such as gambling or addiction.
Some reinforcement contingencies are so powerful that they prevent people from acting with avoidance or escape when this response would be more beneficial to them (again, such as in the instance of gambling or addiction or even overeating, etc.)
Positive reinforcement can lead to problems with health, relationships, disease and cancer, and other negative outcomes for one’s life. Since immediate reinforcement contingencies are often more powerful than long-term, rule-governed contingencies, reinforcement can lead to these poor outcomes (Perone, 2003).


What is Negative Reinforcement? Definition, 3 Types, and Examples

What is negative reinforcement?
Negative reinforcement has to do with how a behavior is followed by the “removal, termination, reduction, or postponement of a stimulus” and then that behavior happens more often in the future (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2014).

So, negative reinforcement like positive reinforcement, involves a behavior happening more often as a result of what happens after the behavior.

However, negative reinforcement includes one of the following as the event following the behavior:

Something is removed
Something is terminated or ended
Something is reduced
Something is postponed

Four-Term Contingency of Negative Reinforcement
Negative reinforcement involves a four-term contingency. The four parts of this contingency include the establishing operation, an SD (discriminative stimulus), the response or behavior, and the SR- or the abolishment or reduction of the EO.


Fading Reinforcement: How to Stop Rewarding a Child for Every Little Thing They Do

"Should I really reward my child every time they do something?"
This is a common question parents may ask or at least wonder about from time to time especially if they are told or believe that rewarding kids is an effective strategy for helping their child learn new skills and improve their behavior.

One concern that some people may have about using concepts of applied behavior analysis with children, especially with children with disabilities, is that it may...


7 Examples of Positive Reinforcement in Everyday Situations

Positive reinforcement is a highly recommended concept that is grounded in behavioral psychology and is used regularly within applied behavior analysis services.

Positive reinforcement refers to the addition of a stimulus [a reinforcer] after a particular behavior with an increase in the frequency of that behavior occurring in the future.

Sometimes the concept of positive reinforcement can be misunderstood. Sometimes the use of positive reinforcement is seen as something that is only used in a structured or contrived...


Tip for Parents: Assume Your Child is Doing Their Best and Consider the Influence of Environment on Behavior

Although it can seem reasonable to think that a child is willfully behaving badly, most of the time a child is not purposely trying to be defiant toward those who are caring for them.

This is not to say that a child shouldn’t learn to take responsibility for their own actions, because that is actually a trait of good character as a person grows up.

However, it is more beneficial for the parent and the child when the...


Using Preference Assessments for Getting to Know a Child Better and Helping Them Learn

Getting to know a child is necessary in order to help that child to learn and grow.

Part of getting to know a child is to learn about their interests. Learning what a child likes to do, what they like to spend their time on, and what motivates them to behave in certain ways is essential whether you are a parent, a therapist, or a teacher.

One way to get to know more about a child is to...


Comparison of Males and Females with ASD: Gender Differences in People with Autism Spectrum Disorder

What are the differences and similarities in how boys and girls experience autism?
Research suggests that the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, namely difficulties in social skills, difficulties in communication skills, and restrictive or repetitive behaviors, may look different based on the gender of the person with autism.
Males Diagnosed with ASD More Often Than Females
Autism is diagnosed more often in males than in females.

For every four males that are diagnosed with autism, only one female is diagnosed...


Levels of Autism: Understanding the Different Types of ASD

Over the years, autism has been defined in different ways within the medical and behavioral health community.
DSM - Diagnosing Autism
Specifically, the DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders), the leading source for diagnosing various mental or behavioral disorders in the United States, has changed the criteria or requirements for obtaining a diagnosis of autism (or autism spectrum disorder) throughout its updated editions of the manual.

These changes are not something specific to the diagnosis of autism...


Understanding Autism: What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Whether you are a parent of a child with autism, a teacher who educates a child with autism, a therapist providing intervention to an individual with autism, an individual who has a diagnosis of autism, or anyone else who is interested in helping people with autism spectrum disorder, understanding autism is one of the most important things that you can do in the process.
Developmental Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is a developmental disorder, sometimes thought...


Top 10 Reasons Children with Autism Deserve ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis)

Applied behavior analysis is an evidence-based practice for children with autism spectrum disorder. It is also found helpful for a wide range of other populations and areas of need including education, developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, health, fitness, organizational behavior management, animal training, and much more.

In an article published by the National Institute of Health, Walsh (2011) reports 10 reasons why children with ASD DESERVE ABA.

To learn more about the justification for these reasons that children with ASD deserve ABA read the full article here:
The Top 10 Reasons Children With Autism Deserve ABA
The Top 10 Reasons Children with Autism Deserve ABA, according to Mary Walsh (2011), include: