Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

Demystifying the Motivating Operation

Caio Miguel (California State University, Sacramento)

Invited Tutorial



Biography:Dr. Caio Miguel is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Verbal Behavior Research Laboratory at California State University, Sacramento. He is also an adjunct doctoral advisor at Endicott College, MA. He is the past editor of The Analysis of Verbal Behavior and a former Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. Dr. Miguel's research focuses on the study of verbal behavior and stimulus control. He has given hundreds of professional presentations around the world, and has had 90 manuscripts published in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. He is the recipient of the 2013 award for outstanding scholarly work by the College of Social Sciences at Sacramento State, the 2014 Outstanding Mentor Award by ABAI, the 2019 Award for Excellence in Teaching Verbal Behavior, the 2019 Alumni Achievement Award from the Department of Psychology at Western Michigan University, and the 2020 Jack Michael Award for Outstanding Contributions to Verbal Behavior. He is the co-founder of Verbale - a firm that provides behavior-analytic consultation all around the world.



Motivating operations (MO) are antecedent variables responsible for the transitory effects of reinforcing consequences. The MO concept helped behavior analysts focus on environmental, rather than organismic variables when trying to predict and control someone’s wants and needs, as MOs can be defined, observed, measured, and manipulated. The MO also served to stimulate research and allow clinicians to better understand behavioral functions in clinical settings. Despite its obvious utility, the MO is a complex and controversial concept involving multiple origins, effects, and functions. The purpose of this talk is to describe the different types of MOs, differentiate between motivational and discriminative effects, and address some of the most common misconceptions about the concept regarding the utility of the value-altering effect, the direct nature of its control over behavior, its private nature, the multiple functions of MOs, and the need for the different types of Conditioned MOs.


Modifed by Eddie Soh