Increasing Cooperation Using Behavioral Momentum

How can you teach a skill to someone who will not cooperate with instructions? What can you do to motivate someone to do something they don’t want to do? Uncooperativeness and lack of motivation are issues that many service providers and parents face when working with individuals with and without disabilities. One way to combat these issues is to use behavioral momentum.

Behavioral momentum is a behavioral strategy that involves making requests that are easy (high-probability requests) for the individual before making requests that are more difficult (low-probability requests). By delivering a series of high-probability requests before the target request (low-probability request), you increase an individual’s motivation to cooperate because you are building in many opportunities for success.

Behavioral momentum is used in a variety of settings. This behavioral strategy is often used by staff in classroom and vocational settings, as well with therapists and parents in the home setting. You can use behavioral momentum when teaching just about anything. The key is having the “momentum” of success prior to the more difficult request. This will increase the likelihood that the individual will cooperate with the more difficult request.

Behavioral momentum is quite simple to implement and can be used to assist in increasing cooperation and motivation for individuals of all ages. The first step in implementing behavioral momentum is to identify both easy and difficult tasks/requests for an individual. Form here, a pre-determined number of easy requests will be presented in close succession. Cooperation with each request will be met with praise or another type of reinforcement. After the easy requests are delivered and cooperation was met with reinforcement, the difficult task will be delivered. Cooperation with the difficult task will also be met with praise or another type of reinforcement. When introducing a behavioral momentum program, we recommend beginning by presenting three easy requests before delivering the difficult request.

Cooperation and motivation are vital components in skill acquisition for individuals. Cooperation has also been associated with decreases in challenging behaviors. Using the evidence-based strategy of behavioral momentum has been shown to both increase cooperation and motivation while decreasing challenging behaviors.

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