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3 Conditioned Motivating Operations – CMOs

What are conditioned motivating operations (CMOs)?  First we need to discuss motivating operations (MOs).  MOs  or sometimes called establishing operation (EOs) refers to a state that changes the value of consequences and elevates their status as reinforcers.  For example, not having eaten lunch in a while creates a state of hunger which is a motivating operation that elevates the value of food as a reward for doing work.   If someone is told that after they finish their homework, they will get a snack, they will work very hard to finish if they are sufficiently hungry.  The MO creates a state of value for the reward of eating the snack.  Conversely, if someone has just eaten a big lunch, they may not be very motivated to work for a snack, as there is little motivation to acquire that snack because one is satiated on food and it does not momentarily serve as a reinforcement.

Unconditioned motivating operations are the MOs that one naturally has acquired without being taught a value to them.  These are unlearned states of motivating operations and include states such as being tired, hungry, thirsty and wanting of activity.

Conditioned motivating operations (CMOs) are the MOs that one learns to place a value.  These are otherwise neutral states that now have value because they have been paired with a UMO, another CMO or with reinforcement or punishment in order to learn the value of the given CMO.  There are 3 types of CMOs: surrogate CMOs (CMO-S), reflexive CMOs (CMO-R), and transitive CMOs (CMO-T).

CMO-S (SURROGATE)
A stimulus that has acquired its effectiveness by accompanying some other MO and has come to have the same value-altering and behavior-altering effects as the MO that it has accompanied.  A pairing process has to take place here with another MO.

Example: Mom usually puts baby to sleep. One day, dad tried to put the baby to sleep, but the baby doesn’t fall asleep.  Mom usually wears a certain fuzzy house robe that the baby has paired with sleep.  Dad wears mom’s house robe and the pairing of the robe with dad helps the baby fall asleep.

CMO-R (REFLEXIVE)
A condition or object that acquires its effectiveness as an MO by preceding a situation that either is worsening or improving.  This signals to us that an aversive event may be occurring soon.  Achtung. It is exemplified by the warning stimulus in a typical escape-avoidance procedure, which establishes its own offset as reinforcement and evokes all behavior that has accomplished that offset.

Example: The punishing coworker. In the presence of this person you “can’t seem to do anything right” and are constantly punished. She is always finding fault with you.  Because of this, you want to spend less time with this person and you avoid her. Soon the office associated with her takes on these aversive qualities and you avoid going anywhere near where this person might be. Even hearing their voice down the hallway may signal you to take an early lunch and avoid running into them (and therefore avoid possible punishment).

CMO-T (TRANSITIVE)
An environmental variable that establishes (or abolishes) the reinforcing effectiveness of another stimulus and thereby evokes (or abates) the behavior that has been reinforced by that other stimulus.  You CANNOT have access to the stimulus you want until you solve the problem.

Example: Someone puts a lock on the fridge.  This establishes the reinforcing value of a key (key becomes the CMO-T) when access to food is valuable as a source of reinforcement.

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