Ethics of the Use of Extinction in Differential Reinforcement Procedures

Eligible for 2 BACB Learning CEUs!

Use of Extinction

The BACB requires BCBAs to understand and implement differential reinforcement to reduce maladaptive behavior (Task List G-14) and implement extinction (Task List G-15). The use of extinction produces some potentially concerning side effects. This course discusses practical and ethical considerations to guide you in choosing the right intervention and provides alternatives to the use of extinction.


Learning Modules


Introduction to Differential Reinforcement

Determining the Appropriateness of Extinction

Alternatives to Extinction

Intervention Selection


Learning objectives

  • Understand the role of extinction in differential reinforcement procedures
  • Identify alternatives to the use of extinction during differential reinforcement procedures
  • Pinpoint when the use of extinction during differential reinforcement procedures is warranted
  • Implement the least intrusive procedure likely to be effective (4.09 of the BACB Ethics Code)

you decide

Test your understanding of the use of extinction in differential reinforcement by completing this Choose Your Own Adventure story!

description of event

The BACB provides guidance to professionals to help them perform effectively and ethically in the best interests of their clients.  The BACB’s 5th Edition Task List requires BCBAs to “Use reinforcement procedures to weaken behavior (e.g., DRA, FCT, DRO, DRL, NCR)” (G-14) and to “Use extinction” (G-15).  Often these interventions are implemented together to maximize treatment effectiveness.  The Professionals and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts provides guidelines for selecting interventions.  The following sections of the Code will be reviewed as they apply to selecting differential reinforcement procedures to weaken maladaptive behavior:

2.09 Treatment/
Intervention Efficacy

(a) Clients have a right to effective treatment (i.e., based on the research literature and adapted to the individual client). Behavior analysts always have the obligation to advocate for and educate the client about scientifically supported, most-effective treatment procedures. Effective treatment procedures have been validated as having both long-term and short-term benefits to clients and society.

(c) In those instances where more than one scientifically supported treatment has been established, additional factors may be considered in selecting interventions, including, but not limited to, efficiency and cost-effectiveness, risks and side-effects of the interventions, client preference, and practitioner experience and training

4.09 Least Restrictive Procedures

Behavior analysts review and appraise the restrictiveness of procedures and always recommend the least restrictive procedures likely to be effective.



Amelia is a BCBA working with children and young adults with autism. She has been working in the field since 2009 and has worked in a variety of settings including homes, schools, the community and clinics. She previously taught young children in a variety of settings including Head Start. She has a passion for helping children and families reach their full potential.