ABA Jargon: Response Cost


So today's term is "response cost." Tada! Okay, now, this is going to be something that's a little bit more familiar with us. I talk on the show all the time about, we talk about ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis, because we know that when teaching things, it's the most effective strategy to teach something for anybody, but it really is very effective for our kids as well, right?

And that it's a new way of thinking of things. Broaden your horizons and think of things. And typically we're thinking of how do we reinforce good behavior. So we know that rule number one is if you do something and you do it over and over and over again, it's because there's something about it that's reinforcing. And we're trying to get away from this thing of punishment and taking away, right? Except that sometimes there are exceptions to that, right? So this is a more familiar concept for us.

Let's take a look at what our actual definition for response cost is. Response cost - when a stimulus is taken away as a consequence of behavior and the effect is to reduce the frequency of that behavior. All right, as our actual definitions go, it's not impenetrable, right? We can understand it. But let's go to our working definition here, working definition of response cause - another way to make behavior less frequent. It is the name given for removing reinforcement from children when they exhibit inappropriate behavior or fail to comply.

So we talked the other day about a token economy, right? And a token economy can work in two different ways, just like life can work in two different ways, right? I tend to want to look at the glass half full because things get done easier that way, but every once and a while, it is more effective to take something away.

So for instance, for a token economy, I gave the example the other day about when we went to the zoo and I had a pen, and I was marking off 'cuz I didn't want to have stickers or anything and I didn't even want to have my phone, but I said to my son, "Get 30," I think, it was 30 hash-marks on my hand, "and I'll take you to In-N-Out," right?

So that was a token economy, the token was the little hash-mark on my hand. That if I saw him, I wanted to catch him, he was at an age where I wanted to catch him doing good behaviors. So he was being kind to Jack Riley, 'cuz we were there with The A-Word folks, I would give him a little hash-mark. If he showed good eye contact, I would do a little hash-mark. Thirty and he got to go to In-N-Out, right? So that's the reinforcer.

Now, for response cost, what I could do is say "I'm going to give you X-number of tries, 'cuz I don't expect you to be perfect, but I only want to have to, across the entire visit to the zoo, I only wanna have to give you three warnings. So you've got three stickers to start with, or three hash-marks to start with on my hand, and if I have to give you a warning, then I'm going to put a line through one, you're losing that sticker. And then if you run out of them, you don't get your reward," right?

So there is a cost for having, it's not necessarily a punishment, but there is a cost for having done a behavior that we don't want to see as frequently, right? And sometimes, that can be more effective. It can result in the thing being taken away, but that, we start to get into punishment, right? And what we know about punishment is that it isn't as effective, right? I find, for me and for my son, in my little experiments, that it's more effective.

If I threaten him, please don't think that I never have done this or that I never do this, but if I threaten him and go, "If you do that, you're going to lose X, Y, and Z. I'm a human being, and I forget what I know on a daily basis," ask Kelby, he'll tell you, and I will say that. My sister has an expression about, "Don't write checks your body can't cash," right? Or, "Don't have your mouth write checks that your body can't cash." So I'll say to him, "If you do that, then there's no TV for the night."

And as soon as I know that, I know that I am mentally unwound, I have forgotten everything that I know, because it never is effective for me. It just never is. If I really want to get to good behavior, and I give him an option of, "I'm going to give you three different opportunities and I'm going to give you a warning," I only ever usually end up using one and we get the good behavior. And honestly, that's really where our heads should all be, is how do we get to the good behavior, not how do we punish the Dickens out of the kid to hopefully, at sometime, when they're 35, have a light switch go on and realize, right? And that's with your typical kids and with kids who are on the Autism spectrum.

So response cost, it's not something to use, unless you've tried other things. And I would really encourage you to be using this with an expert because it's very easy for it to go into punishment land. And as we know, punishment - not as effective. And I don't know about you, I want to be effective. So response cost, our jargon of the day.