13 Definitions That You Need To Know If You Want To Change Your Life

Daily Liberation - www.DailyLiberation.com #Behavior #Change #Blog

I may never use some of these terms in my blog posting, BUT I think it is important, for anyone who is interested in changing their behavior (or a child’s/pet’s behavior), to be acquainted with these basic terms of behavior.

Please note that these are basic definitions that I have created on the spot.

As I always say, if you need more, research more!



What happens before a behavior occurs.

Example: Before Betsy ate the whole pint of ice cream, she got into a fight with her boyfriend.

The fight with the boyfriend is the antecedent in this case and eating the ice cream is the behavior.


What you actually do or what actually happens.

Example: Eating a pint of ice cream, drinking 10 beers, drunk texting your ex.

Those are all behaviors, if not many behaviors tied together.


What happens after the behavior.

Example: After drinking 10 beers last night (behavior), Rich woke up hungover as shit.

The hangover in this case is the consequence.


The concept that a reinforcer (a motivating or pleasurable stimuli) is much more powerful if it is rarely used.

Example: If you allow only yourself a bowl of ice cream for going to the gym for 5 straight days, it wouldn’t be as motivating if it was daily.

I’m sorry if that is a shitty example!

Functions of Behavior/FBA

FBA stands for “functional behavioral assessment.”This the “why” of a behavior. People don’t just do things, just to do them. There is an underlying purpose or reason. This function is what the person “gets” from the behavior.

Example: Whenever I hang out with my friends and they aren’t talking with me, I bring up some juicy gossip so they will ask me questions. I think I am seeking attention.

Wanting their friend’s attention is the function of the behavior. Understand the function of our behaviors is…


Because if you don’t understand what eating a whole box of donuts is doing to/for you (for starters, all that sugar is releasing the pleasurable neurotransmitter dopamine), then you are doomed to repeat the same behavior, even with a different “behavioral delivery method.”


This is what you are going to do/doing to change a behavior.

Example: Cynthia is going to the gym to help her lose weight.

Going to the gym is the intervention.


Something that you are trying to avoid and therefore can help change your behavior. It also can be looked at as something that will decrease certain behavior.

Example: Julius was ashamed, disappointed, and embarrassed that he was unable to play with his grandchildren due to his weight. He is taking it as a wake up call to get back into shape.

His feelings (and probably social pressure) was a punishment and something he wants to avoid in the future, granted he changes his behavior.


Something that you are trying to obtain and therefore can help change your behavior. It also can be looked at as something that will increase certain behavior.

Example: Julius was so happy when he first played tackle football with his grandson again, after being unable to over the past few years due to his weight and overall health.

Now that he has been exercising and losing weight, he wants to stay healthy enough to be able to continue playing sports with them, so this is a reinforcer for him.

Negative Punishment

It has taken me years to understand the difference of the 4 following terms but I think I finally got it!

Negative punishment is the removal of something desirable/pleasurable when a “undesirable behavior” has occurred.

Example: Jodi didn’t come back at her curfew last night, so the next day her parents took away her phone and laptop.

Her negative punishment was the removal of her phone and laptop.

Positive Punishment

Conversely, positive punishment (which sounds strange) is the addition of an undesirable circumstance.

Example: Doug was talk throughout the entire English class, so Mrs. Bloomstein gave him a week of detention.

His positive punishment was the addition of 5 detentions.

Negative Reinforcer

Again, think in terms of negative meaning removal. Essentially, it is the removal (escape) or active prevention (active avoidance) of an aversive stimuli. With negative reinforcer, this sorta gets tricky though, because there are two sub-types of negative reinforcement. We won’t delve into all of that and we will keep it simple.

Example: On Monday morning, you leave the house early to avoid getting stuck in traffic and being late for class.

By leaving early, you are actively avoided the aversive stimuli which is being late for class.

Positive Reinforcer

This type of reinforcement is much more straightforward and is the type of reinforcement most people understand, if not employ, on a regular basis.

Example: The dog sits when commanded and is given a treat.

Example: Charlotte goes to the gym every other day for a month and reward herrself with some new shoes.

The treat and the new shoes are both positive reinforcers, for the dog and Charlotte respectively.

Target Behavior

This is what you have identified that you would like to change.

Example: Susie knew she can’t keep on eating cheeseburgers every meal, every day. The target behavior is eating cheeseburgers.

This sheep doesn’t have to do with this post necessarily, but homie looks tough and badass.

What do you think about these definitions?

Do they help you apply the science of behavior to your own life?

Leave a comment below and tell me what you think!

About The Author

Posh Gibson

Raised by poodles in the Yucatan Peninsula around 1933, Posh Gibson also almost won Academy Award for an uncredited role in Toy Story II.

He loves patty melts and dogs, so eventually he decided to do social work and community organizing, although he is working on his debut off-broadway in 2018.