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Research Desgin and Methods Terms and Definitions


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Any physical event or condition, including the organism's own behavior. A stimulus may have many functional relationships to an organism's behavior repertoire. Each stimulus is categorized differently on the basis of its function.
Any measurable instance of behavior
Three-Term Contingency
A temporal arrangement among three events: the occasion for a response, the response, and the consequence
Any response which is controlled by the stimulus that precedes it. Respondents are not learned; they are intact at birth. Also known as reflexive response. Rate of responding is dependent on the rate at which the eliciting stimulus is resented.
Eliciting Stimulus
A stimulus which evokes a reflexive response
Neutral Stimulus
Environmental events which bring about no change in the behavior of a specific organism.
Respondent Conditioning
The process by which a stimulus that previously had no effect (neutral stimulus) on a particular respondent acquires the capacity to elicit that respondent
Unconditioned Stimulus
An eliciting stimulus that evokes a response without having had to be paired with another stimulus in the past
Conditioned Stimulus
A stimulus which has gained the capacity to elicit a response by being paired consistently in the past with another stimulus already possessing those properties
Unconditioned Response
A response which is elicited (or evoked) by the unconditioned stimulus
Gradual decline in the magnitude of a respondent over the course of repeated elicitations
Operant Response
Any behavior whose rate, or probability of occurrence, is governed by its consequences
Operant Conditioning
The process by which the frequency or probability of occurrence of behavior is modified by the consequences for the behavior
Positive Reinforcer
Any stimulus, when delivered contingent on a specific response, increases the rate of probability of that response
Primary Reinforcer
A reinforcing stimulus which does not depend on history of conditioning for its reinforcing properties and is weakened only by satiation
Negative Reinforcer
Any stimulus, when removed contingent on a response, increases the rate or probability of that response
Any stimulus, when delivered contingent on a response decreases the rate or probability of that response
The reduction in the effectiveness of a reinforcer as a function of repeated presentations of that reinforcer
The withholding of a reinforcer previously contingent on a response which results in a decrease in the rate or probability of that response
Avoidance Behavior
Behavior which postpones an aversive event
Escape Behavior
Behavior which terminates an aversive event
Spontaneous Recovery
A temporarily higher rate sometimes observed at the beginning of an experimental session, following a session in which the rate has declined. This traditional term suggests that the earlier rate has "recovered".
Discriminative Stimulus
A stimulus in whose presensce a response is highly probable because the response has previously been reinforced in the presence of that stimulus

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