Prediction and control of operant behavior: What you see is not all there is.

Prediction and control of operant behavior are major goals of behavior analysis. We suggest that achieving these goals can benefit from doing more than identifying the 3-term contingency among the behavior, its setting stimulus, and its consequences. Basic research now underscores the idea that prediction and control require consideration of the behavior’s history. As one example, if an operant is a goal-directed action, it is controlled by the current value of the reinforcer, as illustrated by the so-called reinforcer devaluation effect. In contrast, if the behavior is a habit, it occurs automatically, without regard to the reinforcer’s value, as illustrated by its insensitivity to the reinforcer devaluation effect. History variables that distinguish actions and habits include the extent of their prior practice and their schedule of reinforcement. Other operants can appear to have very low or zero strength. However, if the behavior has reached that level through extinction or punishment, it may precipitously increase in strength by changing the context, allowing time to pass, presenting the reinforcer contingently or noncontingently, or extinguishing an alternative behavior. Behaviors that are not suppressed by extinction or punishment are not affected the same way. When predicting the strength of an operant behavior, what you see is not all there is. The behavior’s history counts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)