What is An Example of Extinction Burst?

Discover the power of persistence with real-life examples of extinction burst and effective management strategies.

reuben kesherim
Ruben Kesherim
July 9, 2024

What is An Example of Extinction Burst?

Understanding Extinction Bursts

If you are a parent or a family member of a child with Autism, understanding the behavior patterns and responses, such as extinction bursts, can be beneficial for managing challenging situations. In this section, we will explore the concept of extinction in behavior and delve into the definition of extinction bursts.

Overview of Extinction in Behavior

In the context of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), extinction refers to the process in which a response is no longer reinforced or punished, leading to the fading and disappearance of the behavior. It is one of the five principles of operant conditioning, which also include positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment.

When a behavior that was once reinforced is no longer rewarded or punished, the individual may stop exhibiting the behavior entirely. This process is known as extinction. For a closer look at different types of extinction in ABA, you can refer to our article on types of extinction in aba.

Definition of Extinction Bursts

Extinction bursts refer to the expected and temporary escalations in the frequency, duration, and/or intensity of the maladaptive "target" behavior, such as tantrums. In simple terms, if a behavior that was once rewarded is no longer producing the desired outcome or reinforcement, the behavior may temporarily increase in frequency, intensity, or duration. This phenomena is known as an extinction burst.

For example, consider a child in a grocery store checkout line who misbehaves to obtain candy. If the reinforcement (the candy) is not provided, an extinction burst may occur, leading to a temporary increase in misbehavior before it eventually slows down and stops altogether.

Extinction bursts are a crucial concept in ABA and provide valuable insights into behavior patterns and responses. Understanding these bursts can aid in the development of effective strategies for behavior modification. For an in-depth understanding of extinction bursts in the context of ABA therapy, explore our article on extinction burst aba.

Causes of Extinction Bursts

Unraveling the causes behind extinction bursts is essential for understanding this behavioral phenomenon. There are two primary factors to consider: the behavioral response to the removal of reinforcement and the psychological factors involved.

Behavioral Response to Removal of Reinforcement

Extinction bursts occur due to the principles of operant conditioning. When a behavior has consistently been reinforced in the past, the individual learns that performing that behavior leads to a desired outcome. However, when the reinforcement is suddenly removed, it creates a state of frustration and confusion.

This phenomenon is commonly observed in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), where extinction bursts refer to an increase in the frequency, intensity, or duration of a behavior when it no longer produces the desired outcome or reinforcement [4]. These bursts are temporary and predictable responses that can occur during the behavior modification process.

When an individual experiences an extinction burst, they are essentially attempting to regain control and restore the reinforcing consequences they were previously receiving. This can manifest in various behavioral and real-life examples where behavior is influenced by reinforcement contingencies.

Psychological Factors Involved

In addition to the behavioral response to the removal of reinforcement, several psychological factors can contribute to the occurrence of extinction bursts. The process of extinction can be challenging, as it involves unlearning a behavior that was previously reinforced. This can result in heightened emotions such as frustration, anxiety, and confusion, which can further intensify the extinction burst.

Furthermore, if the individual perceives the removal of reinforcement as a loss of control, they may respond with an increase in the problematic behavior in an attempt to regain control. This is particularly common in situations where the behavior was previously effective in achieving a desired outcome.

Understanding the causes of extinction bursts is crucial for developing effective strategies for behavior modification. By recognizing the role of reinforcement and psychological factors, parents and caregivers can better anticipate and manage these challenging behaviors. For more information on managing extinction bursts, refer to our article on how to manage extinction bursts during ABA therapy.

Examples of Extinction Bursts

The concept of extinction bursts can be better understood through real-world examples and behavioral observations. By recognizing these patterns, one can develop effective strategies to manage and eventually eliminate unwarranted behaviors.

Real-Life Scenarios

An everyday example of an extinction burst can be seen in a grocery store checkout line scenario. Here, a child may misbehave or throw tantrums to obtain candy. If the parent does not yield to the child's demands, an extinction burst occurs, which leads to a temporary increase in the child's misbehavior. However, if the parent remains consistent in not providing the reinforcement, the misbehavior will eventually slow down and stop altogether.

Another scenario could be a child displaying aggressive or emotional behaviors, such as throwing a tantrum when the expected reinforcement is not provided. This sudden escalation in behavior is a classic example of an extinction burst.

Behavioral Observations

Extinction bursts are also commonly observed in animal behavior, particularly in training scenarios where positive reinforcement is used. For instance, an animal might be trained to exhibit a specific behavior in return for a food treat. When this reinforcement is removed, an extinction burst may occur, leading to an increase in the desired behavior before it eventually ceases [3].

In the realm of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), particularly in the context of children with autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability, extinction bursts often emerge during behavior modification interventions. An example is Functional Communication Training (FCT), an intervention that involves the extinction of problem behavior and reinforcement of an alternative communication response. The initiation of such a program could potentially trigger an extinction burst, with a temporary increase in the target response before the behavior gradually decreases [5].

Understanding these examples and observations can be instrumental in managing extinction bursts and fostering behavioral growth. For further insights on extinction bursts and their management during ABA therapy, visit our guide on how to manage extinction bursts during ABA therapy.

Managing Extinction Bursts

Managing an extinction burst can be a challenging process. However, knowing how to handle these situations effectively can help reduce the occurrence and intensity of these behavioral escalations. Key strategies include maintaining consistency and considering environmental factors.

Importance of Consistency

During an extinction burst, it is crucial to remain calm and consistent, sticking to the extinction procedure without wavering. As pointed out by Therapy Brands, "Consistency is key, as sporadic reinforcement can prolong the extinction burst and cause confusion for the individual."

This means that even when the behavior escalates, caregivers need to refrain from giving in. If a child used to receive a cookie for tantrums and you’re now trying to eliminate this behavior, it’s important not to give a cookie during an extinction burst. Doing so might unintentionally reinforce the escalated behavior, making it harder to eliminate in the future. For more detailed guidance, refer to our article on how to manage extinction bursts during ABA therapy.

Environmental Factors and Antecedent Interventions

Assessing environmental factors that may contribute to or reinforce the undesired behavior during an extinction burst is essential. These factors might include anything in the environment that triggers the behavior or reinforces it, such as attention from caregivers or access to preferred items.

Identifying and modifying these factors can reduce the occurrence and intensity of the burst, a strategy known as antecedent intervention. For instance, if a child often has tantrums when asked to clean up toys, an antecedent intervention might involve giving a warning before cleanup time or breaking the task into smaller, more manageable steps.

Managing extinction bursts effectively often involves a comprehensive approach, incorporating strategies such as Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and teaching functional communication skills. For a deeper understanding of these strategies, explore our articles on Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and strategies for behavior modification.

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) plays a significant role in addressing and managing instances of extinction bursts. This process aids in understanding the underlying causes and contributing factors of such behaviors, which can be particularly useful in the case of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or intellectual disability.

Role in Addressing Extinction Bursts

The FBA is a critical tool in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for effectively addressing extinction bursts. As explained by Therapy Brands, an FBA helps in identifying the antecedents (triggers), behaviors, and consequences that contribute to challenging behaviors. By understanding these elements, it becomes easier to comprehend the reasons behind the bursts, which is a fundamental step in developing appropriate intervention strategies. This understanding can be particularly useful when dealing with severe destructive behavior often displayed by children with autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability.

Developing Intervention Strategies

Once the FBA has identified the triggers and consequences of an example of extinction burst, the next step is to develop appropriate intervention strategies. One of the commonly used intervention strategies is Functional Communication Training (FCT). FCT involves extinction of the problematic behavior and reinforcement of an alternative communication response [5].

However, it's important to note that while function-based treatments like FCT are effective, they can also induce untoward effects when individuals experience periods of nonreinforcement at the start of treatment. These untoward effects may include a temporary increase in the target response, emergence of other responses, or increase in responses outside the response class.

The TWML (temporally weighted matching law) provides an explanation for why extinction bursts occur at the start of extinction and why they resolve shortly thereafter. The law suggests that extinction bursts occur when the relative value of the target behavior increases temporarily due to the absence of competing responses and the high value of the target behavior from its recent history of reinforcement [5].

In conclusion, the use of Functional Behavior Assessment in addressing extinction bursts is crucial. Understanding the underlying factors and developing tailored intervention strategies can significantly improve the effectiveness of ABA therapy and help manage the challenges associated with extinction bursts. For more information on how long an extinction burst can last in ABA, refer to our article on how long does extinction burst last in ABA?.

Strategies for Behavior Modification

Once you understand the concept of an extinction burst, the next step is to learn effective strategies for behavior modification. These strategies can help manage and decrease the occurrence of extinction bursts, and include developing functional communication skills and facilitating behavioral transition and growth.

Functional Communication Skills

One of the most effective ways to decrease challenging behaviors during extinction bursts is by teaching functional communication skills [6]. Providing individuals with alternative ways to communicate their needs and wants reduces their reliance on challenging behaviors, ultimately decreasing the occurrence of extinction bursts.

This can involve teaching the individual to use words, signs, or symbols to express their needs instead of engaging in challenging behaviors. For example, if a child typically throws tantrums to get attention, teaching them to say "look at me" or "play with me" can be an effective way to reduce tantrums.

Functional communication training is a key component of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, and is particularly useful in managing extinction bursts. For more information on this, check out our article on how to manage extinction bursts during ABA therapy.

Behavioral Transition and Growth

Extinction bursts are a natural part of behavioral change, and understanding this can help manage expectations during the process of behavior modification. It's important to remember that extinction bursts are temporary and usually subside within a week for tantrums in children [3].

During this transition period, maintaining a consistent response to the challenging behavior is crucial. This means not giving in to the behavior even if it temporarily increases during the extinction burst. Consistency helps the individual learn that the challenging behavior is no longer effective in achieving the desired outcome.

Moreover, focusing on teaching and reinforcing alternative behaviors can facilitate the growth of more appropriate behaviors. This could involve rewarding the individual for using functional communication skills or engaging in desired behaviors.

The process of behavioral transition and growth requires patience and persistence, but the results can lead to significant improvements in the individual's behavior and overall quality of life. For more insight into this process, visit our article about how long does extinction burst last in ABA?.

Through the development of functional communication skills and understanding the nature of behavioral transition and growth, managing extinction bursts can become a more navigable process. These strategies serve as vital tools in the journey towards effective behavior modification.


[1]: https://www.verywellmind.com/operant-conditioning-a2-2794863

[2]: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/psychology/extinction-burst

[3]: https://study.com/learn/lesson/extinction-burst-psychology.html

[4]: https://www.adinaaba.com/post/extinction-bursts-in-aba

[5]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9868065/

[6]: https://therapybrands.com/blog/how-to-manage-extinction-bursts-during-aba-therapy/