Friday, June 11, 2021

Blog Post: Extinction and it's Side Effects

Hey all, Bella here a post on extinction: what is it and what are the side effects of it? I don't mean the definition of extinction in which animal and plant species that die out in this case. Extinction in behavioral psychology is the "non-reinforcement of a previously reinforced response, the result of which is a decrease in the strength of that response," (Powell, Honey, & Symbaluk, 2016). In classical conditioning, is a conditioned stimulus (CS) is present without an unconditioned stimulus (US), the conditioned response (CR) will eventually decrease in strength (Cherry, 2019). In Pavlov's study of dogs and Pavlovian conditioning, the salivation response would eventually become distinct when the bell was rung with a lack of food. Extinction may also occur through the procedure of extinction, when a previously reinforced behavior in non-reinforced. If a child learns that if he whines he receives candy, eliminating the candy will teach the child that whining no longer produces candy.

There are some side effects of extinction. The first is known as extinction burst. When extinction is first implemented, previously reinforced and learned behavior is temporarily increased. This is because the organism is attempting to regain the original reinforcement for the behavior (Walrath, 2011). The next is an increase in variability of behavior. When the learned behavior is not resulting in the expected reinforcement, the organism may try doing the behavior in a different way. Next is an increase in emotional behavior. The emotional responses that come with extinction are often frustration. As well as frustration, extinction can lead to aggression. In one study, pigeons who were conditioned to peck a response key in order to received food reinforcement also went through periods of extinction. In these periods of extinction, the pigeons began attacking each other and plush pigeons (Arzin, Hutchinson, & Hake, 1966). Another side effect is resurgence. This is the "reappearance of an extinguished behavior when an alternative behavior reinforced during extinction is subsequently placed on extinction," (Shahan, & Sweeney, 2011). Finally, the last side effect is depression. Extinction can lead to depressive-like issues (Powell, Honey, & Symbaluk, 2016). 

Below is a video from a channel that focuses on applied behavioral analysis. It gives an interesting look on how extinction is used in the field, and how it's not "just ignoring the behavior."

(How to ABA, 2019)


Arzin, N. H., Hutchinson, R. R., & Hake, D. F. (1966). Extinction-induced aggression. Journal of experimental analysis of behavior, 9(3), 191-204.

Cherry, K. (2019, May 6). How extinction is defined in psychology. Verywell Mind.

How to ABA. (2019, November 17). What is extinction? [Video]. YouTube.

Powell, R. A., Honey, P. L., & Symbaluk, D. G. (2016). Introduction to Learning and Behavior (5th edition). Cengage Learning. 

Shahan, T. A., & Sweeney, M. M. (2011). A model of resurgence based on behavioral momentum theory. Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior, 95(1), 91-108.

Walrath, R. (2011). Extinction Burst. In: Goldstein, S., Naglieri., J. A. (eds) Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development. Springer, Boston, MA.

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