Exstinction in Behavioral Psychology, and "Exstinction Bursts"

Alex, modified 4 Years ago at 10/10/19 8:38 PM
Created 4 Years ago at 10/10/19 8:38 PM

Exstinction in Behavioral Psychology, and "Exstinction Bursts"

Posts: 29 Join Date: 2/5/17 Recent Posts
"Hindrance attacks" is the term I have heard used for when the hindrances come up very, very strongly, usually on retreat.  It seems to be basically an "extinction burst".  See this wikipedia article, especially the section "Burst".:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extinction_%28psychology%29

More generally, the exstinction model in behavioral psychology has been a useful point of reference and guide in my own spiritual path.
shargrol, modified 4 Years ago at 10/11/19 6:40 AM
Created 4 Years ago at 10/11/19 6:40 AM

RE: Exstinction in Behavioral Psychology, and "Exstinction Bursts"

Posts: 2515 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts

Here's the quote from the wiki page...

"While extinction, when implemented consistently over time, results in the eventual decrease of the undesired behavior, in the short term the subject might exhibit what is called an extinction burst. An extinction burst will often occur when the extinction procedure has just begun. This usually consists of a sudden and temporary increase in the response's frequency, followed by the eventual decline and extinction of the behavior targeted for elimination. Novel behavior, or emotional responses or aggressive behavior, may also occur.[1]


Although not explained by reinforcement theory, the extinction burst can be understood using control theory. In perceptual control theory, the degree of output involved in any action is proportional to the discrepancy between the reference value (desired rate of reward in the operant paradigm) and the current input. Thus, when reward is removed, the discrepancy increases, and the output is increased. In the long term, 'reorganisation', the learning algorithm of control theory, would adapt the control system such that output is reduced.

The evolutionary advantage of this extinction burst is clear. In a natural environment, an animal that persists in a learned behavior, despite not resulting in immediate reinforcement, might still have a chance of producing reinforcing consequences if the animal tries again. This animal would be at an advantage over another animal that gives up too easily."
George S, modified 4 Years ago at 10/11/19 11:46 AM
Created 4 Years ago at 10/11/19 11:45 AM

RE: Exstinction in Behavioral Psychology, and "Exstinction Bursts"

Posts: 2722 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
That's very interesting Alex, thanks for sharing.

In my case, I used to suffer anxiety attacks in social situations I knew I couldn't easily get out of (like a lecture hall). I had mostly got over them in daily life, but when I started meditating heavily I had some very strong anxiety attacks. They seemed to be related to a fear of the void or death or some other kind of existential anxiety due to the mind experiencing itself/emptiness for the first time.

If I try to fit this into the burst model then I get something like this. In a normal panic attack the stimulus is a social situation and the conditioned response is anxiety because social situations can be dangerous (especially in olden times), so being aware of the possible need to escape from the situation would confer benefits. In meditation the stimulus is emptiness and the response is anxiety, but it doesn't confer any benefit because you know you are coming face to face with the fundamental truth of mind/reality and you can't run away from that (well you can try but you know it won't work). So because you don't get the benefit (possibility of escape) you keep pecking the button (getting anxious) in the vain hope an escape route will open up. Does that sound plausble or it's stretching the facts too far to fit the theory?

If you don't mind sharing, what type of hindrance burst did you experience and how do you see it fitting into this model?

Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Years ago at 10/12/19 2:13 AM
Created 4 Years ago at 10/12/19 2:13 AM

RE: Exstinction in Behavioral Psychology, and "Exstinction Bursts"

Posts: 7134 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
This happens to me. I find it rather comical, but it can be very unsettling, and frustrating at times.