Week #3 - Sec 1.5 Readings Comment (Due Thursday)


Please use this to comment on your reading for sec1.5. I'll leave it up to you about what and how you would like to comment, however I would ask that you attempt to write using behavioral terms. I will also use this as a way to 'time stamp' that you read the section on or before Thursday.

Let me know if you have any questions,

--Dr. M


For section 1.5, I will examine topographical vs. functional levels of behavior. Topographical behaviors involve the way the behaviors actually look while functional behaviors illustrate their actions and consequences.

My examples would be tackling in football. While most tackles look for the most part similar topographically, I would argue the functional behavior on the surface would be to bring the runner to the ground. However, if you look at it from a different perspective, the tackler may be trying to accomplish one of many things while tackling the runner. He could be trying to strip the ball and make the runner fumble, stop the runner before the first down marker, keep the runner in bounds to keep the clock running, or stand the runner up. So while the appearance may look similar (a tackle is a tackle), what they do or accomplish is dependent upon the context.

While reading section 1.5 this week, I learned how important target behaviors really are when you are trying to change a behavior. You want to be as specific as possible so there is no confusion in what you are trying to change. The example used in the book about the teacher, John, wanting to change disruptive behavior in his classroom, allowed me to think of a target behavior of my own. Instead of just saying, "I want to exercise more" it would be better to be more specific and say something such as "I am going to run a mile per day, everyday of the week." In behavioral terms, I could say, "I am going to emit a running behavior and do so for one mile everyday, and reinforce myself at the end of the week with ice cream." Context is also very important when defining your target behavior. The context could change the target behavior, depending on what it is specifically.

While reading about section 1.5 this week. I learned a lot about a few new terms. I learned how behaviors can be alike both topographically and functionally. It made sense that some behaviors may look different, but for the most part can serve the same function. I really liked the example in the book about how different people wave. Topographically it looks different, but for the most part the function is the same. Though the function can also be different as well – like waving goodbye or hello. Along with these two terms, I also learned a lot about target behaviors and how to increase or decrease a certain behavior through reinforement . It really is important to be very specific when you are trying to increase or decrease a behavior. For example, we all just recently decided to change something about our food intake. In order to make these changes we had to create a target behavior and a reinforcement. So some of us chose to cut out sweets, increase vegetables and fruits, or just stay the same. You might also have to be more specific than just adding in more fruits, you could even put in an amount that you would like to consume. In behavioral terms, you might say, “I am going to eat two cups more of fruit everyday and reinfore myself with ice cream at the end of the week.” From this reading I gathered that target behaviors, along with their context, can affect our everyday lives and can help us get to the place we want.

After reading over section 1.5 I learned how properly defining target behaviors and the context in which the behavior is used is important when wanting to correct behavior. These elements can help adults teach children about "inside" and "outside" voices and how to use them appropriately.

I also thought it was interesting how behaviors are classified (topographicaly and functionally).

Upon reading section 1.5 it had never really occurred to me until now that many behaviors might see similar in appearance (topographical) but ultimately each can individually stand alone in its functionality. The examples given in the reading on opening a door I thought was probably the best example of a topographical behavior. It seems easy to over-think the definitions of both these terms and to surpass any easy example that would be lying right before your eyes like turning on a light for instance. I have lights in my apt that are turned on by the flick of a switch, turning a knob, and also by pulling on a string. There's also lamps now that you simply touch the shade of the lamp and different levels of light can be emitted. It also seemed that a target behavior could simply be defined as the behavior you wish to manipulate. But this doesn't seem to be the case after reading section 1.5. It seems as though when describing a target behavior you must also give an operational definition of the behavior for which you wish to reinforce but also in doing so you must make sure to eliminate any possible descriptive biases from that target definition.

Before reading this chapter, I had not thought about the difference between topographical and functional behavior. It is interesting to think that some behaviors appear the same but have very different outcomes. One behavior I thought about was making a phone call. The consequence to this behavior could be many different things, from catching up with a friend to activating your credit card. However, it is important to consider that the antecedent behavior would be different for each behavior that would lead to a different consequence. Functional behaviors, however, seem to have a similar antecedent and consequence, but different behaviors. For instance, a person might have an antecedent of thinking they are out of shape. This could lead to many different functional behaviors, from running to rock wall climbing, yet they will all likely lead to the same consequence of getting in shape. The discussion on identifying behaviors very specifically was also helpful in realizing why so many behavior modification attempts do not work. When the behavior is not specifically defined, we are not sure how to change it or even know when we are doing the behavior.

What I took from Chapter 1.5:

I am still a little hazy with functional vs. topographical. I understand that topographical is more how it looks on the surface and functional is the purpose. What I don't understand is the example given. How can a wave be more topographical than functional when there are many functions for a wave just like there are many ways to wave? This is what confuses me.

For target behaviors, I have come to understand that the description and wording must be very detailed. Something that makes sense to me might not make sense to another person. When I was writing my examples, it was annoying on how detailed I felt I needed to be. To me, it was like writing directions to all age range audience that needs to understand what I am talking about. When it comes to creating studies, I am glad that it is a requirement to be so specific.

I read section 1.5 today and I have to admit I am a little confused. Alright I am very confused. At first I was understanding what was going on with the different types and classes of behavior. I think that yelling at someone should definitely be classified in the functional class because yelling at someone can be to get their attention, or if your angry at them, or if your team just won and you are super pumped. I understand the reinforcement thing also, where for example if I emit being nice to my sister, my dad will reinforce me with privileges to go out with my friends.

What I just seem to not be able to understand is the target behavior stuff. I just hope that maybe we can discuss this a bit more in depth for Tuesday's class because I am straight up lost. I do like how were reviewing stuff from section to section because it's reinforcing our memories :)

I am so glad you let me know that these were problem areas for you - This is in part why I had you'all post after the reading. It makes much sense to lecture on the material that we know people are having difficulty on than just guessing what it might be. I have a really good lecture on behaviors that I'll bring in for Tuesday.

Also keep in mind that you can come by tomorrow (Thurs) and we can go over anything you like if you don't want to wait.

Thanks again the feedback is important and extremely helpful!

Take care,

--Dr. M

After reading section 1.5, I am going to focus on target behaviors and the need for full clarification and detail about the behavior that is being modified. It is very true that when you want to modify a behavior, it needs to be clearly defined. As we have mentioned in class before, a New Years resolution should be cleary defined in order to see results. Simply saying "I want to lose weight" sets no specific goal that is to be reached. A complete target behavior should be stated as "I want to work out at least 3 times a week for an hour each time at the gym." This way the behavior is clarified, and a goal can be reached. A target behavior should also be reinforced. For instance, rewarding yourself for working out will make you more likely to want to continue your workout plan. If the target behavior is not clearly identified nor reinforced, it will fall to extinction, and the desired results will probably not be obtained.

I seem to be in compliance with the common theme of the current comments. I had not previously thought about the difference between topical and functional levels of behavior. However, now that I'm thinking about it, it makes perfect sense. An example could be something as simple as laughter: The woman received positive reinforcement from her friends for emitting a joking behavior, which caused them to laugh at her joke. One friend emitted a silent laughter and the other emitted a loud laughter. Both friends shared the same functional behavior class (Laughter), but topically their behaviors are different (because the look different.)

The idea of being specific with target behaviors was elicited to remember by the reader. This idea was emphasized because of it's importance. It is important to clarify target behaviors so their is consistency with reinforcement or consequences. Reinforced behaviors will become extinct if there isn't consistency and clarifications in describing target behaviors. Target behaviors will be better reinforced if defined specifically because there will be no discrepancy of what behaviors are being elicited.

Before reading section 1.5 it never occurred to me that behaviors might appear different on the surface yet serve the same function (functional behaviors) and likewise, behaviors that look the same on the surface may serve different purposes (topographical behaviors. This section also discussed target behaviors and emphasized the importance of operationally defining them in order to modify the behaviors through reinforcement or punishment. It is important to be as specific as possible and defining the behavior according to its topography, function and the context in which it occurs is necessary to either increase or decrease the frequency of occurrence of the behavior.

I work with people with disabilities and its not unusual for people with various Autism Spectrum Disorders to elicit various challenging behaviors including noncompliance, aggression, and repetitive actions. These all can have negative consequences and interfere significantly with an individual's daily life. Although these behaviors all appear topographically similar because they are destructive, autistic individuals display these behaviors for very specific purposes. For example, identifying an unwanted target behavior, such as as a non-verbal adult who engages in head-banging to obtain music for times when he needs calming. In order to modify this behavior, it is important to consider its topography, function, antecedents and context.

When reading 1.5 I related the ideas to goals that people commonly make: such as new years resolutions, dieting, and putting themselves on a budget. For example: if someone is trying to save money they are going to modify their spending behavior by going to the store less, only purchasing items they need, or by not using their credit cards a a form of payment. All of these target behaviors are similar topographically however, they can be different functionally. If someone changes the antecedent to the behavior (going to the store less) they may not be saving money, but spreading out the instances in which the spending (target behavior) is occurring; therefore, the consequence to the changed behavior might not be the desired outcome. Therefore-if an individual knows the desired target behavior, understands the antecedent that is preventing this target behavior from eliciting the desired consequence the personal will be able to attain their goal better than if the function of the behavior is not correctly identified.

I have to admit that I had to read the section twice before I fully started to grasp what everything was and what it all meant.

I understand the difference between topographical and functional, but I guess I am having a hard time thinking of examples where the two are topographically similar but do not share the sam function.

I do however understand what target behaviors are. For instance, a target behavior that is aversive is my sister not getting up on time in the morning. The behavior is that my sister is hitting the snooze button too many times, the context is that this is happening on mornings of school, and the behavior that I want her to admit is getting up on time. After my sister emits the right behavior, the consequence of getting up on time means arriving to school on time.

Before reading this section, I didn't how that behaviors were THIS complicated. For instance, I'll reuse the waving example.

A wave can be classified as a topographical behavioral class, a group of behaviors that are similar in appearance. This is because there are multiple ways to move your hand and still convey the same meaning. However, they could be a functional behavioral class, too, since they have different functions depending on the context of the situation. The same wave could mean "hello" or "good bye" depending when it occurs, at the beginning or the end of a conversation.

Also, the best method to obtain a target behavior is by starting with very clear goals before the behavioral intervention occurs. The more details, the better the results will be. This might explain why people's resolutions never last long after the New Year.

The distinction between topographical and functional behaviors is something a lot of people are familiar with, but not something most people really put thought into. An example of a general familiarity with the concept functional behaviors is the traditional saying "There's more than one way to skin a cat." You'll often hear this when people have different plans for reaching a goal in a sort of "Agree to disagree" manner.

With topographical behaviors, on the other hand, I had a harder time coming up with my own examples. The wave example made perfect sense, and all of the examples I could come up with were basically spinoffs to that idea, like winks/blinks and punches. Once I read the examples later in the chapter about exercise, overeating, and cheating, it sort of knocked me out of the rut of "physical motions that can be interpreted by others in multiple ways".

The bit about superstition makes complete sense, I don't think I would have actually linked behavior modification terminology to it. That's exactly how superstitions are developed, through reinforcement "resulting" from behaviors that didn't have any direct cause on the outcome.

I strongly agree with the importance of defining target behaviors. It gives you distinct, specific cues to identify and react to. It should remove ambiguity on the modify-ee's part, and if you specify the correct target behaviors (and the individual reacts as expected), then the aversive behavior the individual is emitting should be reduced.

Similarly to the functional behavior comparison I made earlier with the old saying about cat taxidermy, I linked the idea of extinction with the families that have 1 parent who is a sort of pushover and 1 parent who is a disciplinarian. The kid will act differently when each parent is present, and at the first sign of misbehavior with the disciplinarian, all it takes is 1 look before the kid will clean up his act.

I think this chapter really helped illustrate how in psychology you have to be very careful with the terminology that you use. I know we've been talking a lot about terminology and how to use it, learning new words and what they mean in psychology. To me this chapter really shows why it's so important to know. If you want to modify someone or your own behavior you just first understand it. terms like topographical and functional behavioral classes give us the ability to pinpoint what we want so we can come up with an operational definition. The operational definition then lets us act on our desire by developing an intervention around it. The words help shape our thought processes so it's easier for us to understand what we're doing and so we're not just willy nilly messing with people's behavior, there's a scientific process behind it.

I thought section 1.5 was really interesting for a number of different reasons. The paragraphs on topographical and functional classes made me realize how we categorize things without even thinking about it. I never thought that a wave would have so many meanings, or that a door could be opened so many ways. Generally, I just emit behaviors daily without stopping to think about them because I never realized how complex they could be. Going through life on "autopilot" is not always a good thing, but on the other hand, if we thought about the complexities of every action throughout the day we'd never get anything done!

I also thought the paragraphs on Target Behaviors were interesting because I didn't realize how specific they needed to be. I still have a hard time with specificity when I'm trying to pick a Target Behavior. I catch myself using a behavior that could be defined many different ways.

For example, I've always thought of cleaning a room as a behavior. Cleaning a room could consist of vacuuming, dusting, picking clothes up off the floor, organizing, and many other behaviors. This chapter really made me think about how I need to be specific with every part of behavior modification.

I was also very interested in this idea regarding superstitious beliefs. It shows just how important behavioral termonology is towards explaining a wide variety of seemingly unexplainable phenomena. Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, etc. are thrown around quite a bit such that it seems as though it is obvious when they are occuring, but it important to remember that perhaps they are happening without our knowledge. We are constantly emitting behaviors that have been elicited by stimuli in the environment.

Also defining a target behavior is incredibly difficult so it is easy to see why so many attempts at manipulating behavior are unsuccessful. A person may try to stop smoking; a functional class of behaviors that could include the patch, cold-turkey, nicorette, etc. They might think that cold-turkey is the only good option b/c "When it comes right down to it the real problem is putting the cigerette to your mouth." However, behaviors are much more complex than simply this, so there are a number of different ways in which you can implement reinforcers to change the target behavior.

This chapter also discussed the importance of context in behavior modification. My wife tried numerous times to quit smoking and was unsuccessful. Several months ago I asked her about her smoking habits and found out that she always failed when going back to work after a long break because everyone at her work smokes. Failing to take into account the contextual power of her work environment was preventing her from implementing a successful behavior modification program. Her preventative stratgies of postive self-talk (positive punishment) and removing smoke and smokers from her environment (negative punishment) were successful (and thus appropriate) in the context of her home life but not in the context of her work where she had less control.

It is necessary to keep all this in mind to be successful in behavior modification.

After reading section 1.5, I think the importance of defining target behaviors is very interesting. It had never occured to me that not being precise enough could give so many options to not only the behavior, but the reason for emitting the behavior as well. I found that the example with John and his students helped me to understand this concept much better. I, however, am still not sure I completely understand the idea of Functional vs. Topographical behavioral classes. I think it would help if we went over this particular topic in class.

This section had a lot of good vocabulary words that helped me increase my ability to speak the language of behavior modification. When describing behaviors I will now know to specify which behavioral class it may fall under. I also know the difference between topographical and functional behaviors. A topographical behavior in a soccer game would be kicking a ball. There are so many different ways and reasons to kick a ball in a soccer game but each one can be called a kick. A Functional behavior in a soccer game would be scoring a goal. there are many different ways to score a goal (kicking, heading, chesting, own goal) in a soccer game but each way has the same function.
I can use the knowledge from research methods to help understand the target behaviors section of section 1.5. Target behavior needs to be defined just as precisely as operational definitions do in a journal article. Doing so increases inter rater reliability and the validity of the research or intervention.

After reading 1.5 I learned that we need to understand both the topography and the functions of behaviors if we want to be successful at behavior modification.I learned how to change my own behavior by using self directed behaviors. I learned that a good target behavior is one that is defined clearly enough so anyone would recognize and understand it when they saw it. Punishment and reinforcement was baselines which is the starting point of success or failureof the behavioral involvement is considered . I felt that that was important to be discussed in this chapter.

After reading 1.5, I was most interested in the description of behavioral classes and the difference between a behavior's topography (appearance) and function (purpose). I found the section on waving particularly interesting because it made me think of hugs. I tend to be a very huggy and affectionate person and I hug people just to let them know that I care about them or as part of saying hello to someone. I also hug people when I am saying goodbye or when I just feel like it. To use behavioral terms, saying hello and saying goodbye are situations that typically elicit a hugging behavior in me. This section prompted me to think about the topography and function of my "hugging behavior." Obviously, my "hi, so glad to see you" hugs look a bit different than my "goodbye, I'm really going to miss you" hugs. Also, my hugs appear different depending on who I am hugging. I think who I am hugging acts as a discriminative stimulus because I feel comfortable giving really tight bear hugs to some of my friends, while there are other friends that I feel more comfortable giving a side hug. Hugging a good friend a being hugged back is a positive reinforcement for my hugging behavior. On the other hand, hugging someone who I am not as close to and not being hugged back can act as a punishment and make me less likely to hug that person the next time I see them

As far as the final part of the chapter, I found the portion on inter-observer agreement and the little diagram a bit confusing. Could we possibly go over it in class on Tuesday?

Terms used: topography, function, elicit, discriminative stimulus, positive reinforcement, punishment

After reading the chapter I was surprised at myself for not ever thinking about how such similar behaviors can be completely different. I guess I know this subconsciously but I've never actually thought about it. I was looking at the examples of topographical and functional behaviors and immediately started to try and find my own examples. For topographical for some reason the first thing that came to mind was pushing someone. No matter how you push someone or something it is going to look the same. I could push a person out of the way of a car, help by pushing them through a small space or if I'm mad push them to the ground. All of these are going to look the same but they are serving different functions. The example I thought about for functional was shifting in a car. Since each model of car is different there shifters are often in different places. Sometimes they are between the seats, sometimes they are by the steering wheel, and sometimes you have to push in a clutch. Each of these behaviors look different but serve the same function. After reading the chapter I feel like I'm starting to break down normal, everyday behaviors and looking at them completely different. It's actually kind of annoying.

Section 1.5 was very interesting in many ways. Functional and topographical classes were very interesting and I had never thought about behaviors that way before. Functional classes are a little confusing for me so I think it would be helpful if we went over that in class. The main focus of this section was target behaviors and why they are so important. In order to really modify our behaviors we need to be more specific and really underline what we are trying to achieve. By doing this, anyone should be able to understand clearly what we are trying to achieve and be able to categorize it. This chapter has done a great job explaining why sometimes trying to modify a behavior doesn't work and why targeting a behavior may help this process.

Section 1.5 gave me a better understanding of behaviors. I have never learned about functional vs. topographical behaviors. I hadn't put much thought into a simple behavior such as raising your hand. In this topographical class of behavior, we can look at raising your hand in a classroom (usually means your asking a question or making a comment). In the city, it might mean calling a cab. At an auction, placing a bid. I still have a difficult time trying to differentiate between functional and topographical behavior classes. Basically, I need to remember that they have different outcomes. Topographical behaviors look similar and functional behaviors have the same outcome. Identifying and defining target behaviors is a much easier concept for me.

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