Fall 2015
John Wills Lloyd
Sarah Dillon

Behavior Operates on the Environment

When an organism (e.g., a person) behaves (does something, acts in some way), the behavior changes the environment. The situation that existed prior to or at the time of the behavior is affected by the behavior. The changes in the situation are the consequences of the behavior. Those changes can either (a) increase or sustain the probability of the behavior recurring or (b) decrease the probability of the behavior recurring.

Here are two diagrams illustrating this fundamental feature of the behavior-environment interaction.

Punishment What is the behavioral process that this image illustrates?
Reinforcement What is the behavioral process that this image illustrates?

In antecedent-behavior-consequence ("ABC") terms, think of the initial situation as the antecedent and the altered situation as the consequence. The behavior occurs within a context, changes that situation, and those changes have consequences for the future probability of the behavior. A teacher's job is to set up situations and consequences so that certain behaviors are "favored" in an evolutionary way, so that over time an individual's behavior evolves in productive directions.

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