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

6.9 Establishing Operation vs. Discriminative Stimulus Part 1

The concept of an establishing operation for reinforcement is relatively new and can be difficult to understand. It is helpful to contrast an establishing operation with a discriminative stimulus. For a discriminative stimulus to be effective, the reinforcement must currently be effective. Imagine a water vending machine that costs nothing to use, but only works when the “water” sign is lit up.

An image of a water vending machine showing operation.
A vending machine on a white background.
Not Working

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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