Establishing OperationWhat is an Establishing Operation?

An establishing operation (EO) is a condition of deprivation or aversion that temporarily alters (usually raises) the value of a particular reinforcer. It is a motivating operation that increases the effectiveness of a reinforcer (i.e., some stimulus, object, or event). Establishing operations have two effects: they result in a change in the reinforcing effectiveness of some stimulus, object, or event, and they result in a change in the frequency of the behavior that has been reinforced by that stimulus, object, or event (Michael, 1982; 2000; Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). For example, food deprivation creates an establishing operation for the need to consume food.

Why is an establishing operation important?

An establishing operation is especially important in mand training (vocal requesting) for children with autism. Behavior analysts will likely optimize vocal mand training in order to promote the likelihood that the child will emit mands/requests in order to receive food. When there is a strong establishing operation in place, there is a greater likelihood that the behavior, the mand, will be emitted in order to access the reinforcing consequence.

Client Reviews (2)

My son has been receiving ABA at NSPT4Kids for a year and a half. The staff is extremely knowledgeable, caring, and understanding. They have been great working with our insurance company. My son has completely opened up. He now seeks his older sister to play – something he never did for the first four and a half years of his life. He looks at me when he talks to me. We have conversations. It is amazing. I never would have thought ABA could do this. I am so thankful for NSPT4Kids!


Our son has been in the ABA program at North Shore for almost two years now. The gains his therapists have made with him have been without a shadow of a doubt wonderful and remarkable. Everything they do in session, we always reinforce at home to help him continue his gains. The ABA therapists are always quick to update the kids individual program to continue to challenge the kids, even if they are having a rough time that session. We are grateful of what North Shore has done for our son both past, present and moving into the future. As we get ready to send our son into Kindergarten, the North Shore ABA team gets a lot of credit helping to make this milestone happen for him. I highly recommend North Shore for all of their services.

Tom J