Functions of Love

As Valentine’s Day passed, I wanted to help people use the principles of ABA to have a better love life. Over the last few years, especially when attending Church, I have heard people put more emphasis on the ideology of Love Languages. What people don’t seem to realize, is that Love Languages are perfectly applicable to the Functions of Behavior.

Love LanguageDescription
Acts of ServiceDoing helpful things for your partner
Physical TouchBeing close to and caressed by your partner
Quality TimeSpending meaningful time with your partner
Receiving GiftsGiving your partner gifts that tell them you were thinking about them
Words of AffirmationSaying supportive things to your partner

Love Languages and Their ABA Equivalents

While people have been learning to focus on the love languages of themselves and their partners, what people may not have realized is that these love languages mirror the functions of behavior. There are 4 Functions of Behavior (Attention, Escape, Access to Tangibles, and Automatic), of which 3 are essential to the love languages.

Love LanguageFunction of Behavior
Acts of ServiceEscape – Receiving removal of aversive stimuli by your partner performing the  tasks for you
Physical TouchSensory Stimulation – Reinforcement via physical and sensory gratification
Quality TimeAttention – Receiving physically attention from your partner
Sensory Stimulation – Automatic reinforcement from being physically close to your partner
Receiving GiftsAccess to Tangibles – Receiving preferred/desired items and/or activities.
Words of AffirmationAttention – Receiving vocal attention from your partner

Take Home Point

If you can find what reinforces the behavior of your partner …

  • You can focus on finding new ways to engage with them that are more likely to be effective. Meaning, you won’t have to worry as much about, “will they like this?”, because you’ll know going into it that this will give them the consequence that reinforces them more often.
  • You become more reinforcing yourself, as you become paired with reinforcing behaviors and consequences. This means you become the stimulus for happiness.
  • The behaviors will become easier to perform, as you will reinforce your own behaviors. By performing behaviors that cause your partner a higher level of happiness at a higher frequency, you will begin to increase the probability of you performing this behaviors to keep that consequence occurring.
  • Behaviorally, … you become the SD for the potential opportunity of receiving known reinforcing stimuli.

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