Using Resurgence to Your Advantage

Resurgence is commonly defined as the reappearance of previously reinforced behavior during extinction. This reappearance is governed by the animal's training history. If the target behavior is no longer reinforced, a previously reinforced alternative behavior will appear. If that alternative is not reinforced, a behavior from earlier in the animal's training history will appear.

Extinction is usually thought of as a procedure to reduce behavior. But, extinction is also a part of the process of differential reinforcement, which is at the core of shaping. Because trainers often misunderstand extinction, they dismiss it or misuse it during training. However, extinction, like reinforcement, is an orderly and predictable process.

Several types of phenomena are associated with extinction, such as extinction-induced variability, spontaneous recovery, and resurgence. If extinction is continued for too long, an animal can become frustrated or just give up. Knowledge of this process can be used to increase the efficiency of your shaping plan and can also suggest what to do to decrease the likelihood that unwanted behavior will reappear in the future. An understanding of how extinction works also helps trainers deal effectively with mistakes during training and prevents guessing on the part of the animal. Because of extinction, letting the animal offer lots of extra behavior (figuring it out on his own) during shaping can lead to accidental chaining and undesirable resurgence in the future.

This Session will describe the process of extinction and will focus on resurgence and how trainers can use resurgence to their advantage while shaping and capturing behavior.

Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz

Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz is an Associate Professor in the Department of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas. He obtained his Ph.D from the University of Kansas in 1995 under the direction of Dr. Donald M. Baer. He serves on several editorial boards, including the European Journal of Behavior Analysis and the International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy. His areas of interest include antecedent control of behavior, generalization, behavioral cusps, fluency-based teaching, treatment of autism, teaching of academic behavior, animal training, and rule- and contingency-shaped behavior.