The method of extinction to change behavior in animals

In today’s world, many animal species are endangered and some of them are on the verge of extinction. Some academics have been looking at how to solve this type of problem. An interesting method, which unfortunately is rarely used, is the targeted extinction of certain animal behaviors.

Although extinction is often seen as a negative phenomenon, it can help ensure the continuation of a species. The ability to eradicate certain behaviors by reinforcing the negative consequences of those behaviors could be useful in ensuring the survival of an animal population.

The method of changing behavior through extinction is based on the theory of operant conditioning, which states that behaviors can be influenced by rewards or punishments. Animals learn through experience which behaviors have positive or negative consequences and adjust their behavior accordingly.

By selectively extirpating behaviors that have negative consequences, animals can learn to adapt their behavior accordingly and thus contribute to the survival of the species. Although this method sounds promising, it still needs to be used in a well-considered and ethical way.

What is extinction?

Extinction is a method of behavior modification used in behavior therapy and other settings. It is based on the principle of operant conditioning, after a person’s behavior is influenced by consequences. Extinction in this context means the deliberate alteration of the consequences that follow a particular behavior. This is to extinguish or change the behavior in the long term.

A typical example of the use of extinction in behavior therapy is the treatment of phobias. Confrontation therapies use the method of extinction to help individuals overcome their fear of certain situations or objects. By systematically and safely confronting the anxiety-provoking situation without the expected negative consequences, the behavior is gradually extinguished.

When using extinction, it is important that the behavior to be deleted is clearly defined and that the change in consequences is consistent and regular. Intermittent reinforcement of behavior can cause the behavior to be reinforced again. It is also important to note that extinction is not always the best approach and that other methods of behavior change may be more effective in some cases.

The method of extinction to change behavior in animals
  • Advantages of extinction:
  • – Can be effective in treating phobias and other behavioral disorders
  • – Change in behavior in the long run
  • – Usually a safe method
  • Disadvantages of Extinction:
  • – Can be time consuming
  • – Not always the most effective method for behavior change
  • – Requires a high level of discipline and commitment from all participants

How does extinction work as a method for behavior change?

Extinction is a method of behavior change based on the fact that a behavior is no longer rewarded. In this process, the behavior is slowly extinguished by a decrease in positive reinforcement. This method is often used to interrupt undesirable behaviors in animals or humans.

The goals of extinction can be different. For example, an aggressive or inappropriate behavior can be stopped. The principle of extinction can also be applied to addictive disorders by stopping a behavior that leads to alcohol or drug use.

However, extinction can also have side effects. When a behavior is no longer rewarded, the behavior may initially intensify. This is called extinction burst. The individuals or animals may try to intensify the behavior to compensate for the lack of positive reinforcement.

To counteract such a reaction, an alternative behavior is often rewarded. This can be the basis for successful behavior change. To increase the efficiency of the method, it is also tried to be applied as early as possible. An undesirable behavior can be stopped early and an alternative behavior can be established.

Extinction as a method of behavior change

Extinction is a method of behavior change that is used in many settings. It is the purposeful interruption of a behavior by eliminating the reward or punishment relevant to that behavior. In this way, the behavior pattern should disappear over time or at least be attenuated.

One of the biggest advantages of extinction is that it can usually be implemented quickly and easily. It does not require complicated techniques or expensive equipment. It is often enough to stop paying attention to the behavior. In addition, extinction is a common method in behavioral psychology and is therefore very well documented.

However, due to individual differences in behavior, each implementation of extinction is different. It may be that the method is faster and more effective for some people than for others. Also, successful implementation is dependent on the type of behavior and the environment in which it occurs. Nevertheless, extinction can be an effective tool for changing behavior patterns.

  • Other benefits of extinction include:
  • There are no side effects as with the use of medication
  • It is a respectful way to influence behavior, as no force or coercion is used
  • The method is also suitable for children and adolescents and can even be applied in the parent-child relationship

When extinction is not appropriate?

Extinction is a method of behavior change in which an undesirable behavior is no longer rewarded and thus decreases or disappears. This method can be very effective, but there are situations where it is not the best choice.

One situation where extinction is not appropriate is when the undesirable behavior poses a risk to the individual or others. In this case, it’s better to treat the behavior with another method to make sure no one gets hurt.

Another situation in which extinction is not advisable is when the undesirable behavior serves an important function. In this case, the behavior should be replaced with an alternative, acceptable method instead.

  • In summary, extinction can be an effective method of behavior modification, but is not advisable in some situations. If the behavior poses a danger or serves an important function, an alternative method should be chosen.


Extinction, as a method of behavior modification, has found use in a variety of settings. Although it can be an effective approach to eliminating undesirable behaviors, it is important to use it with caution because it can also have undesirable negative effects.

One of the most important applications of extinction is in behavioral psychology. Here it is used to reduce unwanted behaviors, such as aggression or addiction. By removing the reinforcement, the behavior is gradually extinguished. However, it must be noted that extinction does not cure the underlying problems and it is often necessary to use a combination of approaches.

Extinction is also a popular tool in the animal training industry. Here it is used to eliminate undesirable behaviors in animals and to promote the desired behavior. Careful application is necessary, however, to ensure that animals do not become frustrated or traumatized.

Overall, extinction is an effective approach to behavior change, but it should be used with caution and care to avoid undesirable effects. It is important that anyone using it has the proper training and experience to ensure it is used in the best way possible.

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