What is Extinction in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

Learn what extinction means in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Understand its role in behavior modification and its application for addressing challenging behaviors

What is Extinction in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?


Understanding the concept of extinction is crucial within the framework of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Professionals and caregivers in the ABA environment must comprehend the nuances of extinction and its significance in addressing challenging behaviors effectively.

Exploring What Extinction Means:

In the context of ABA, extinction refers to the deliberate removal of reinforcement that maintains a particular behavior. It entails withholding the consequences that previously reinforced the behavior, leading to a reduction or cessation of that behavior over time.

Application of Extinction in ABA:

Extinction serves as a fundamental technique in ABA for behavior modification. By strategically removing reinforcement for undesired behaviors, practitioners aim to decrease the occurrence of those behaviors. This approach encourages individuals to seek alternative, more adaptive behaviors to achieve their goals.

Practical Example:

For instance, imagine a child who exhibits tantrums to gain attention. If tantrums were previously reinforced by attention from caregivers, implementing extinction involves withholding attention when tantrums occur. Over time, as the child realizes that tantrums no longer yield the desired attention, the behavior diminishes.

Key Considerations:

It’s important to acknowledge that extinction may initially lead to an increase in the frequency or intensity of the targeted behavior, known as an ┬źextinction burst.┬╗ This temporary surge underscores the effectiveness of the extinction process and emphasizes the need for consistency in its implementation.


In summary, extinction plays a pivotal role in behavior modification within the ABA framework. By systematically removing reinforcement for undesirable behaviors, practitioners empower individuals to develop more adaptive and socially acceptable ways of interacting with their environment.

Understanding the principles and application of extinction equips professionals and caregivers with valuable tools to promote positive behavior change and enhance the quality of life for individuals within the ABA community.