Functions of Behavior

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Definition:  From a Behavior Analytic perspective,  Consequences maintain behavior and antecedent conditions signal the availability of reinforcement for a specific topography of behavior.   Said simply  Consequences are WHY you engage in a particular behavior,  Antecedents are WHEN you will engage in “some” behavior (which you learn is a function of consequences).

This is a critical point as many people believe (incorrectly) that antecedents “cause” a particular behavior to occur.

When we refer to functions we must necessarily START  with consequences.

In general there are typically four sets of consequence categories that are referred to when talking about functions (although there is debate about this however they are generally accepted to be

1. Attention: any forms of verbal attention (positive or negative),  physical contact (including touching,  hugging,prompting and even physical restraint),  eye contact or shifting attention from others to the individual

2. Escape/Avoidance: The removal of a task/demand or activity or the preventing of its presentation

3. Access to Tangible items:The delivery of any object or edible item

4.  Sensory maintained or automatically reinforced:  This category is defined by the lack of environmental mediation.  Specifically,  changes in the environment do not affect rates of the behavior,  so it is hypothesized that some form of internal (physiological) consequence is maintaining the occurrence of the behavior.

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