Casting is a technique used to encourage learning, especially in children with special needs. It was first described by psychologist BF Skinner, the father of operant conditioning, and marked a milestone in the development of this behavioral paradigm.
In this article we will explain what is molding, also called “method of successive approximations” because it essentially consists in reinforcing a behavior selectively so that it ends up adopting a certain topography and a certain function. We will also talk about some of the operating techniques commonly used in conjunction with molding.
What is molding?
Casting is a framed learning paradigm in operant conditioning. In Applied Behavior Analysis, which was developed by Burrhus Frederick Skinner, behavioral molding is typically performed by the method of differential reinforcement by successive approximations.
These procedures are based on the progressive modification of an existing response in the behavioral repertoire of the learning subject. By selectively reinforcing behaviors more and more similar to those intended to be established, these are reinforced while less precise ones tend to die out due to the lack of contingency with the reinforcements.
like that, the fundamental mechanism of these behavioral techniques is the reinforcement, In particular the differential type. Since the mid-twentieth century, we have known that it is more effective to focus educational processes on reinforcing desirable behavior than on punishing incorrect behavior, both for ethical and purely practical reasons.
Casting is one of the surgical techniques used to develop behaviors. In this sense, it is akin to chaining, in which learning consists of combining simple behaviors present in the subject’s repertoire in order to form complex behavioral chains, such as starting a vehicle or playing a musical instrument. .
A special variation of this operating paradigm is self-molding, in which a conditioned stimulus is combined with another unconditioned stimulus without the behavior of the learning subject influencing the process. Therefore, self-molding is not included in operant or skinneria conditioning but classical or Pavlovian.
The method of successive approximations
To apply the casting and the successive approach method, it is first necessary to determine which is the final drive that the subject will have to learn to perform. Their repertoire of responses is then assessed, usually through behavioral testing, to identify one that may be a good starting point for learning.
More precisely, the objective is select a behavior that the subject can perform without problem and that it resembles the objective response as much as possible, as much in its topographic facet (pi type of muscular movements involved) as in the functional facet; this term refers to the objective or function that fulfills a given behavior.
The next step is to determine the steps that will lead from the initial behavior to the final behavior, i.e. successive approaches to objective behavior. It is advisable to test the sequence before applying it and, if necessary, it is also advisable to review it during the molding process in order to improve its effectiveness.
Molding has been used successfully in a number of different applications. Among the most relevant are special education (such as autism and functional diversity in general), motor rehabilitation after injuries and sexual dysfunctions; Masters and Johnson’s method of treating erectile dysfunction is a good example.
Techniques associated with work
In general, molding is not applied in isolation, but in a broader intervention context: that of the operative conditioning paradigm, and in particular in the analysis of applied behavior, which was developed by Skinner and in which many operating techniques which we now know arose originally. This was based on the association of certain actions with the stimuli produced by the effects that this behavior has on its application to the environment.
To improve the efficiency of the successive approximation method, this usually combined with other procedures. In this sense, it is necessary to emphasize the application of discriminatory stimuli that inform the subject that if he emits the correct conduct will obtain a strengthening and gradual attenuation of these.
The ultimate goal is that the target behavior is controlled by natural reinforcements, such as social behaviors (like smiles and even attentive looks), and not by discriminatory stimuli, which are a good way to develop behaviors, but not to keep them. This process can be referred to as “stimulus control transfer”.
Other exploitation techniques often associated with molding are modeling, Which involves learning by observing the behavior of others, verbal instructions and physical advice, which would be given when a psychologist moves the hands of the child she is helping to educate to instruct her on how to use a zipper.