Brendan is a 17-year-old tennis player that wishes to improve his game. Brendan's coach referred him to a sports psychologist to assist him with improving his serve. Achieving his overall goal of serving with the correct speed and accuracy to help him win his matches is the target behavior that needs modification. I must admit before this chapter, I didn't even know that behavior analysis could help improve an athlete's game. It is rather fascinating.
The sports psychologist decided which behavior modification would best suit Brendan's needs by interviewing him, reviewing videotapes of his serve, and considering which strategy would fit him personally for the task he is performing. The result the psychologist chose was the strategy of behavior chaining. An alternative that he could have chosen was shaping reinforcement, but that is found to be time consuming and with Brendan's competitive drive, I am sure he wanted results as soon as possible. To help improve Brendan's serve, the psychologist would complete what is known as a task analysis of the components of the behavioral sequence or indentify all the different stimulus-response components in the chain. ("What is behavioral," 2011). With Brendan, it was determined that each step of his serve be broken down into separate units or steps. The units in this scenario include: the starting position, ball toss, swing of the racket back, acceleration of the racket, contact with the ball, and the final unit consisting of follow-through.
There are different behavior chaining methods, for determining which method to use for each individual you must decide which procedure to use to teach the new sequence of behavior. For Brendan, I believe forward chaining, teaching the chain from the beginning to the end are taught so it flows through its naturally occurring order so that he receives training on each step as he proceeds to the next. You could use total-task chaining, being taught all at once when reinforcement depends on completing the entire chain, but with this case it is best to get each step broken down to work on each one individually.
A behavior chain is a sequence of certain responses; it can be broken down into smaller steps using task analysis. It involves reinforcing individual responses that occur in a sequence that are linked together to achieve a certain behavior and produce a terminal outcome. After the initial unit has been reinforced, known as the primary reinforcement, then each response in the chain simultaneously serves as a secondary reinforcer for the response that produced it and as a discriminative stimulus for the next response in the chain (Cooper, Heron, & Howard, 2007).
Each step of this chain must be followed in its naturally occurring order for this task. Once each unit of the task has been achieved, then reinforcement has been acquired for that behavior in the sequence and then going on to the next unit until reinforcement has been made for each of the units in the chain. If the targeted skill has been achieved, then the procedure is considered to be effective. Effectiveness and efficiency of teaching can be determined to be critical factors in evaluating chaining procedures. Efficiency is defined as the number of learning trials or time it takes to reach the criterion performance, as well as the number of errors that occur in order to achieve acquisition (Gast, Doyle, Wolery, & Ault, 1991). If there is difficulty with mastering...