Introductory Concepts
Elementary Relationships
Extensions of Verbal Behavior
Multiple Controlling Relationships
Building on the Elementary Relationships

6.13 Establishing Operation vs. Discriminative Stimulus Part 5

Likewise, the sign may be on, but you are not thirsty. Suddenly a small fire breaks out and you start pushing the button like crazy. The fire is an establishing operation. The fire is not a signal that you can now get water if you push the button; so it is not a discriminative stimulus. The sign is the discriminative stimulus. If the sign goes off, then you can’t get water; if the fire goes out (but the sign is still on), you can still get water. The sign discriminates between when button pushing will get water and when it won’t. The fire determines whether or not water would be an effective reinforcement for pushing the button.

A flame on a white background, establishing operation.
Establishing Operation
An image of a water vending machine showing operation.
Discriminative Stimulus

Establishing Operation

An environmental change or event with the following features:

Precedes the response to which it is functionally related

Increases the effectiveness of a particular stimulus change as reinforcement

The type of environmental event

The cause of the environmental event

The type of stimulus that gains reinforcing effectiveness

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