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Vicarious Extinction

Vicarious extinction is a form of modeling in which a previously reinforced behavior is eliminated by withdrawal of consequences applied to a model. It is generally used within a therapeutic context as a method of reducing anxiety or fear but can also be used to eliminate other unwanted emotions or behaviors. Extinction refers to the elimination of all responsemaintaining reinforcers; after these reinforcers are eliminated, so is the undesired response. Vicarious extinction involves the individual observing another person performing the behavior without incurring the maintaining consequences.

For example, “Ryan” is an 8-year-old boy who is afraid of dogs. To eliminate this fear, Ryan's therapist has him view other children playing with a dog. The interaction has no adverse consequences. Furthermore, the positive consequences (i.e., ...

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