When I was about 5 or 6, I wanted to be a pirate when I grew up, a proper swashbuckling, pistol-toting pirate. Now that I’m 21 that ambition has died, however should I ever end on a mighty sea vessel, full of 17th century pirates, here’s how behaviour analysis might help.
Lets say that my crew are always too sloshed on rum to get any decent plundering done. First off I’d make use of both response-cost and time-out punishment; if you’re caught drunk on rum you get sent to the brig and have your rum ration taken away for the next week. Hopefully this should get my crew into a more reasonable-sober shape, where after I can begin to make use of differential reinforcement to get some lasting results. Every time my crew is sober before a raid, they get a slightly increased slice of the loot. Logue, Peña-Correal, Rodriguez and Kabela (1986) found that monetary reinforcers were the most effective in increasing self-control and decreasing impulsiveness, suggesting a bigger slice of the pie would get my crew under control in the long run. By monitoring the effectiveness of raids by my crews sobriety, I would be able to determine whether my interventions would work.
However despite the prospects of more loot, my crew’s still drunk round the clock so I turn to extinction as a solution; remove all rum from my ship. Usually there would be a extinction-burst in which my crew would increase their rum intake even more (Thompson et al, 2003), however due to the isolated environment of the ship, this is unlikely. What is likely though, is an increase in aggression and anger, particularly towards me. So now I’m threatened with mutiny, at this point I may have to step beyond the realm of the behaviour analyst and use good old public execution to save my skin. In this line of work I’d be pirate first, behaviour analyst second.
Greg Vail - Blog 4
Logue, A. W., Peña-Correal, T. E., Rodriguez, M. L., & Kabela, E. (1986). Self-control in adult humans: Variation in positive reinforcer amount and delay. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 46(2), 159-173.
Thompson, R. H., Iwata, B. A., Hanley, G. P., Dozier, C. L., & Samaha, A. L. (2003). The effects of extinction, noncontingent reinforcement, and differential reinforcement of other behavior as control procedures. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis,36(2), 221-238.