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Evaluating Emotion as a Motivating Operation for Residential Staff Behavior




Anderson, Ashley

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Psychological Sciences

Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



Motivating operations offer a conceptual framework to understand and evaluate emotions within the context of behavior analysis. Emotions are antecedent variables that can have value- and behavior-altering effects on stimulus events as reinforcers and punishers, indicating they are antecedent variables with motivational properties. The conceptualization of emotions as motivating operations provides a framework for the assessment and treatment of behavior. Anger is an emotion particularly relevant in the use of harsh discipline by staff members for children and adolescents who reside in residential facilities. If behavior in response to the subjective feeling of anger is maladaptive it could result in deleterious outcomes for these youth. The current study utilized a translational approach to assess emotion as a motivating operation for staff members’ responses toward residents. Qualtrics randomized undergraduate students into one of three experimental groups. Two groups experienced an emotion induction procedure for either anger or happiness, and the third group recalled the details of their last 24 hrs (i.e., the control group). Directly following the writing procedures, the participants responded to four vignettes in one of four sequence orders depicting the behavior of a resident (two appropriate and two problem behaviors) from the perspective of a residential staff member. The results indicated the induced emotion did not significantly alter responses to resident behavior. Instead, the findings suggested that repeated resident behaviors and order sequences had the greatest influence on the participants’ responses. Additionally, responding to problem behavior had an association with reduced reinforcement for appropriate behavior.