Motivation is a vital variable when determining the capacity of an individual’s behavior. Motivating operations have been considered essential in ABA concepts that pay attention to the interior wants or procedures of a person by enhancing or changing the estimation of the specific stimulus. This change can enhance the estimation or adequacy of a specific reinforcer or can bring down their estimation. Therefore, motivating operations are what drives one to rely on a valuable stimulus that has been reinforced in the past, while the discriminative stimulus signals particular stimuli that are valuable (Catania & St Peter, 2019). This is utilized by picking up a reaction and expanding the likelihood of the reaction to occur. There are several similarities between the discriminative stimulus and the motivating operations and offer real-life examples of the antecedent variables and how they operate as either discriminative stimuli or motivating operations.
Both the motivating operations and the discriminative stimuli are antecedents and have an evocative function on behavior or action that has been previously reinforced. This means that both impact on the frequency and occurrence of specific behavior. Ideally, in both, antecedent motivation is required and has an evocative effect that can subside or induce responses (Edrisinha, O’Reilly, Sigafoos, Lancioni, & Choi, 2011). Both antecedents occur before the behavior or action of interest, and an understanding of the objective behavior is vital for both antecedents. The discriminative stimuli and the motivating operations both act as operant variables that control the occurrence of response since they have a relation in reinforcing consequences.
The difference between discriminative stimulus and motivating operations is that discriminative stimuli are linked to the differential readiness of an effective reinforcer for certain behavior. In contrast, the motivating operations are linked to the differential reinforcement of the effectiveness of a reinforcer. This means that the discriminative stimuli signal the availability of reinforcement while the motivating operations alter the effectiveness of a reinforcer. The two are varying in that the motivating operations have value impact that there is a need for a certain reinforcement at a specific time while the discriminative stimuli signals when the specific reinforcement is available.
The motivating operations transform the effects of a stimulus by making it negative or positive. In contrast, the discriminative stimuli regulate the behavior by identifying which behavior will be reinforced or punished (Poling, Lotfizadeh & Edwards, 2019). The motivating operations change the effectiveness of a stimulus. For instance, if the reinforcer raises the effectiveness, it becomes more valuable (establishing operations), but a decrease in effectiveness renders it less valuable (abolishing operations). The discriminative stimuli control the behavior since the action was reliably reinforced previously on the occasion of such behaviors.
I was hosting a cocktail tasting party and realized that I was running out of the cocktails. I wanted the guests to remain until the end of the party, but I realized that after the cocktails were done, most of the guests were leaving. The value of staying at the party longer led to the need for more cocktails. In such a case, the cocktails are valuable and are considered as the establishing operation since they have an evocative impact on the behavior of the guests. However, if the guests remained in the party until the end without the need for more cocktails, additional cocktails would be considered an ‘abative’ effect, thus becoming an abolishing operation.
The behavior of most drivers to step on the brake pedal occurs under the stimulus control of a stop sign when the car in fronts puts their brake lights on or in case of red light. Ideally, all these causes the behavior of stopping, which means that they are all discriminative stimuli. When the drivers stop the car due to these stimuli, it implies that they have relied on the valuable stimulus since the stimulus has reinforced the behavior of stopping a car before. Ideally, the stimuli have been used consistently to gain a certain response, which has increased the possibility of the desired response, which is to stop the car from moving. However, green lights or mere signs are stimuli in the environment that do not stimulate any response behavior or control over the driver’s behavior.
On a particular day, I abruptly recalled that my friend’s birthday was on the following day, and I was to work until late that day. Additionally, I needed to purchase the birthday gift a day before the birthday. Coincidentally, I saw an ad on the Television that was talking about jewelry and other special gifts for friends. A day after the birthday, I spotted a similar ad. In such a case, the need to purchase the gift can be considered as valuable since it had an evocative effect on actions that would result after giving my friend the gift, which makes the gift an establishing operation. The ad was a discriminative stimulus. The jewelry spotted a day after the birthday was no longer valuable since it had an abative effect on my behavior, making it an abolishing operation.
In summation, discriminative stimuli and motivating operation are interactive but distinguishable variables since they have an impact on behavior. Both are antecedent variables that have an evocative impact on behavior that has been reinforced and tend to alter the frequency of an action. The discriminative stimulus reinforces a behavior response while the motivating operations change the reinforcer effectiveness.
Catania, A. C., & St Peter, C. (2019). Establishing terms: A commentary on Edwards, Lotfizadeh & Poling’s “Motivating operations and stimulus control.”
Edrisinha, C., O’Reilly, M., Sigafoos, J., Lancioni, G., & Choi, H. Y. (2011). Influence of motivating operations and discriminative stimuli on challenging behavior maintained by positive reinforcement. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32(2), 836-845.
Poling, A., Lotfizadeh, A. D., & Edwards, T. L. (2019). Motivating Operations and Discriminative Stimuli: Distinguishable but Interactive Variables. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 1-7.