Extinction Procedure and Misbehavior

There are different options that analysts use to reduce inappropriate actions and behaviors of children and adults. One of such methods is an extinction procedure that withholds reinforcement rather than adding or removing a cause of the issue. This essay will discuss the concept of extinction and provide real-world examples that can be addressed by applying the extinction method of misbehavior treatment in various cases.

Extinction is a phenomenon of reducing the frequency of behavior demonstration as a result of a termination of its reinforcement (operant extinction) or combination with an unconditional stimulus (classical extinction) (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). The absence of reinforcement relates to the extinction procedure as the termination of reinforcement allows extinction to be practical.

According to scientists, a method of extinction excludes reinforcement and, as a result, it contributes to the reduction in the frequency of inappropriate behavior (Miltenberger, 2008). Applied behavior analysts researched the extinction method and divided it into two main variations: procedural extinction or ignoring, and the functional extinction or retaining of reinforcers (Lerman & Iwata, 1996). There are three primary forms of extinction behavior management: positive, negative reinforcement, and automatic reinforcement (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). Depending on the situation, people may choose different forms, which will be discussed further with examples.

One of the examples frequently happens with children that leads to their fears. A small girl Karley was entering the kitchen when the neighbor, wishing to make a joke, put a basket on her head and hissed loudly. From that time, Karley was afraid of baskets, and did not want to go into the kitchen. To stop the fear, it could have been offered to her to play a game, asking her to be a mother. The professional could tell her that she needs to buy food.

After giving Karley products and a small basket to bring food, the professional and parents could show how they carry toys in baskets. The girl could take the basket and put products in it. Further, Karley could be offered to bring the basket on shoulders and, finally, to put it on her head. Positive reinforcement, step by step enlargement of the basket, and passion for the game would help the girl to get rid of fear.

Another example of an extinction happened with a young woman. Mary ate her favorite ice cream before eating a burger, after which she got food poisoning. After that, Mary got an induced aversion to ice cream because she ate burger. She wanted to taste her favorite food again without unpleasant sensations. To overcome the unpleasantness, it could be suggested to force Mary to eat ice cream again and again. Mary could feel dizzy because of the conditioned reaction, but eventually, a woman’s conditioned nausea should disappear, and she could be able to eat ice cream without disgust. Negative reinforcement that should be proposed would help Mary to reduce the frequency of inappropriate sensations with her favorite food.

Extinction procedure was useful when dealing with a pupil who misbehaved. A boy, Mark, was making jokes and produced sounds that made other pupils laugh during several classes. When teachers drew attention to Mark’s inappropriate behavior, pupils continued laughing. To address the situation, the psychologist asked all pupils in the class to ignore Mark’s jokes in a change of absence of homework for them. Mark continued joking and making strange sounds for a week; however, children ignored him. After several trials, Mark stopped to misbehave due to a lack of attention from other peers. Positive reinforcement ensured the change in a child’s behavior and proved the success of the extinction method in the case.

To make a conclusion, one might say that depending on specific characteristics of a person’s behavior that must be changed, it is essential to evaluate what options professionals have to reduce unwanted actions. Extinction can be an effective procedure to remove inappropriate responses of people by using the termination of the reinforcement or the combination of several stimuli to ensure the emergence of acceptable behavior.


Cooper, J., Heron, T., & Heward, W. (2007). Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.). London, UK: Pearson Education.

Lerman, D., & Iwata, B. (1996a). Developing a technology for the use of operant extinction in clinical settings: An examination of basic and applied research. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 29, 345–382. Web.

Miltenberger, R. (2008). Behavior modification: Principles and procedures. Belmond, CA: Thomson Learning.

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1. PsychologyWriting. "Extinction Procedure and Misbehavior." September 22, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/extinction-procedure-and-misbehavior/.


PsychologyWriting. "Extinction Procedure and Misbehavior." September 22, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/extinction-procedure-and-misbehavior/.