Target Behavior Example


Students sometimes find the concept of target behavior a little difficult. One of the main problems is that in day to day life we tend to speak generally of behavior, while in behavior modification we have to speak about specific behaviors. Keep in mind that the language of behavior is very precise. So we have to be precise when we are talking about behaviors as well.

We might say "eat your vegetables," and we all know what that means because the behavior is generally agreed on. You can probably get a good vision in your head about a kid sitting at a table with the last thing left on the plate being some string beans or spinach eating one bite at a time.

Let's suppose that I hate mushrooms and you like them. And you think if I ate them every day for a month that I would like them too. You feel so strongly about this that you are willing to pay me $100 if I eat mushrooms everyday for a month (face it you like to be right and it is worth $100 to prove your point).


This is a lot of money for you and you want to make sure that I actually eat the mushrooms every day so you have me video each time I eat mushrooms.

At the end of the month you come to my dorm fully expecting me to admit that I was wrong and to admit that mushrooms actually taste good. But to your surprise I look you straight in the eye and say they still taste bad. Not only are you mad that you are out of $100, you hate to be wrong and really can't let this be. You demand to see the video to prove that mushrooms were eaten each day.

Upon watching the video, you see that I technically ate mushrooms every day so technically I deserve the money. I really wanted to win the money (and I like to be right too), so what I did was to take a very small piece of a dirty old mushroom put it in my mouth and swallow it real quick without chewing. I only 'ate' that one small piece each time.

Burned and chagrinned, you still have a strong desire to be right so you again offer to pay me $100 to eat mushrooms every day for a month. But fortunately you just read a book on behavior modification and you know how to define a target behavior and you are not going to let me get off on a technicality this time. You are going to tell me exactly what I have to do in order to get paid the $100.

You now tell me that I have to eat one medium sized fresh portabella mushroom every day by washing it, sautéing it in butter, taking bite sized pieces and chewing them at least 20 times before swallowing. No washing down with liquids until I finish the entire mushroom. And you state - 'If you throw up the bet is off.' And you have to keep the video on for at least 30 minutes so I know you ate the whole thing and that you kept it down for awhile. You really don't trust me at all!

This is a very precise detailed description of what I have to do in order to win the $100 - a good target behavior, but will it work? Can I cheat on a technicality and get the $100 again. Perhaps, but it would be more difficult this time because there is a pretty specific target behavior governing what I do.

Target behaviors are used so there is agreement on the exact behavior that is going to be reinforced or punished. The more specific they are, the less likely there will be disagreement on whether the behavior happened or not.

There is no magic way to define a target behavior. One way to do it is to ask yourself, "what would that behavior look like if I saw it?" And if you saw it too would we both agree that it was the behavior we were interested in? What does it look like to eat veggies? What does it look like to wash dishes? What does it look like to do your home work? What does a good blog post look like? What does it look like to eat better? What does it look like to save money?

Describe the behavior so you get the specific / exact desired behavior each and every time. And when the behavior is emitted anyone that knows what the target behavior is will agree that it occurred.


Thank you for this! I guess what I really didn't know is if a target behavior could get TOO specific, but I'm assuming the more specific the better now.

This example was pretty funny, but it was really helpful. I thought I understood target behaviors when they were first introduced, but then had a difficult time coming up with examples because I thought they needed to be contained within one sentence. I now understand that the more descriptive the target behavior is, the easier it will be to identify that behavior.

Alright so the more descriptive and specific the target behavior is, the better? Right got it.
This example was helpful as well. Thank you!

This was very helpful!! Target behaviors need to be very precise and clear so everyone can understand it the same way. Like the example pointed out, people can think and have different ideas about a behavior, so it has to be described specifically enough so there will be no confusion between people!

Target behaviors are very important for self directed behaviors. I just got done reading about self directed behaviors so its important to make sure your target behaviors are realistic-something a person can actually accomplish, Make sure you have a time frame for your behavior, break your target behavior into smaller sub goals, make sure you have the ability to do the goal and can maintain the goal through out your life, and you have to make sure you have a good support group to encourage the behavior. So it's important to make sure the target behavior is precise enough to meet all those standards otherwise you'll experience extinction and lose the behavior all together.

1.The clip I found is a commercial for Tide about a fan who spills salsa on his jersey and the stain is shaped like Joe Montana. The news reporters call attention to it, people interview him, flock to his house, and look at pictures online of it. He sells merchandise and people are very excited to see the famous “miracle stain”. That is…..until he finds out his wife washed it.
2. The target behavior is washing the jersey.
3. The consequence of the behavior is that he gets mad because his wife washes his jersey, bringing an end to his fame.
4 The consequence involves the removal of something undesirable. This is because the wife washes the jersey because she doesn’t like the 49ers, she is a Ravens fan and her husband is getting all this fame for the stain that looks like the 49er’s Joe Montana. To her husband however- it is the removal of something desirable- his fame for having the stained Joe Montana jersey.
5. The antecedent is becoming famous because of the stained jersey.
6. The discriminative stimulus is eating chips and salsa while wearing the jersey and watching the game. This sets the stage and makes it appropriate for him to cheer on his team and accidently spill on his shirt.
7. The discriminative stimulus affects the target behavior because he spilled on his shirt because he was eating salsa and watching the game- and now there is a need to wash it!
8. Antecedent= Becomes famous because of Joe Montana stained jersey.
Behavior= Wife washes jersey
Consequence= He gets mad.
9. This is both positive and negative reinforcement. It is positive because the fan who spilled on his shirt became famous for the stain looking like Joe Montana. He received positive feedback from viewers, news reporters, and his friends who were watching online, interviewing him, and coming to his house to see and talk about the shirt. However it was also negative reinforcement because his wife didn’t like the 49ers (rather the Ravens) and so she punished him by washing it.
Terms Used: target behavior, antecedent, behavior, consequence, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, reinforce, discriminative stimulus

Part 2:
1)My target behavior was drinking at least one bottle of water per day. This is due to the fact that I really don’t drink water all that much, and I feel it would be beneficial to my body to do so.
2)I recorded the behavior by keeping a notepad on my desk and tallying how many bottles I drink per day. It worked fairly well- and depending on how much exercise I got that day, I could easily drink almost 2.
3)My keeping track of my behavior, I increased the amount of water I drank per day.

1) Once you have completed your search and explorations, I would like you to say what your topic is, how exactly it fits into the section we have covered so far, and why you are interested in it.

The topic I chose is Target Behaviors. A Target behavior is a behavior you would like someone to do, not the behavior you don’t want that person to do. The behavior should be positive. This relates to what we have learned in class so far because it is a way to manipulate behaviors. I am interested in target behaviors because I think focusing on the target behavior instead of the bad behavior is a good way to teach/learn.

2) What are three aspects of the topic you want to talk about for this assignment?

Three aspects of this topic I would like to talk about are defining the target behavior, what makes a good target behavior, and use in everyday life.

2) Next, I would like you to take the information you found from the various sources and integrate/synthesize* them into the three aspects of the topic, and then write about the topic.

People emit many behaviors every day, some good and some bad. When people want to change a behavior they tend to focus on getting rid of the bad behavior instead of working on a new, better behavior. The behavior that people want to achieve is the target behavior. A good target behavior is specific and has a specific goal. “You won’t talk while the teacher is talking” is a good example. The student might be allowed to talk to other students, so something vague like “no talking in class” is a bad example. I have noticed that my roommate does a lot of things to annoy me. At first I tried to ignore them, but some are too hard to ignore. Most of the examples or articles I found were about target behaviors in schools, or for kids with Autism. I think that they can be used at home too. One of my personal examples is I would like my roommate to put the toilet seat down. Instead of yelling at him to stop leaving the seat up I nicely asked him to please put the seat down. I found a more positive response. More people than just schools, teachers and psychologists can use this. I think if more people found a target behavior a lot of homes would run a lot smoother.

3) At the end, please include working URLs for the three websites.
Once you are done with your post make list of the terms and terminology you used in your post.
Target behavior, emit, psychologist, positive, modify,

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