THREE-TERM CONTINGENCY

Introduction
Three-term contingency is a term used to describe a set of three interrelated behaviors that form a chain of events. This type of contingency is commonly seen in psychological research and is used to explain how a behavior is affected by environmental stimuli or antecedents, as well as the consequences of that behavior. The three-term contingency consists of a discriminative stimulus (SD), an operant behavior (OB), and a reinforcing consequence (RC). This article will discuss the components of a three-term contingency, its uses, and applications in psychology.

Components of a Three-Term Contingency
The three components of a three-term contingency are the discriminative stimulus (SD), the operant behavior (OB), and the reinforcing consequence (RC). The discriminative stimulus is an environmental factor that precedes and signals the operant behavior. For example, in a classroom setting, the sound of a bell ringing may be an SD that signals to students that it is time to move to the next activity. The operant behavior is the action that follows the discriminative stimulus and is the target of the contingency. For example, the sound of the bell ringing may signal to the students that they should begin to transition to the next activity, such as packing up their materials. Finally, the reinforcing consequence is the result of the operant behavior and is used to reinforce the behavior. For example, if the students transitioned to the next activity after the bell rang, they may receive praise from the teacher or a reward for their efforts.

Uses and Applications
Three-term contingencies are used in psychology to explain how a behavior is initiated by an antecedent stimulus and reinforced by a consequence. This type of contingency is often used in behavior modification to promote positive behavior and discourage negative behavior. For example, in a classroom setting, a teacher may use a three-term contingency to encourage students to stay on task. The discriminative stimulus may be the teacher saying the student’s name, the operant behavior may be the student paying attention to the teacher, and the reinforcing consequence may be the teacher praising the student for staying focused.

Three-term contingencies are also used in research to understand the effect of antecedents and consequences on behavior. For example, a study may use a three-term contingency to understand the effect of different types of rewards on a behavior. In this study, the discriminative stimulus may be the sound of a bell ringing, the operant behavior may be the participants completing a task, and the reinforcing consequence may be the participants receiving either a verbal reward or a tangible reward. This type of study can be used to understand how different types of rewards may affect the participants’ behavior and performance.

Conclusion
Three-term contingency is a term used to describe a set of three interrelated behaviors that form a chain of events. This type of contingency consists of a discriminative stimulus (SD), an operant behavior (OB), and a reinforcing consequence (RC). It is commonly used in psychology to explain how a behavior is affected by antecedents and consequences, as well as to modify behavior and understand how different types of rewards may affect behavior.

References

Kazdin, A. E. (2017). Behavior modification in applied settings (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage.

Kohn, A. (2009). The brat-proof classroom: A positive approach to managing student behavior. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Skinner, B.F. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York, NY: Macmillan.

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