What are the 4 functions of behavior, asked by a psychologist? The answer to that depends on the context. In one context it is understood to be the four basic functions we have to learn in order to survive and thrive as organisms in this world. In another context the function is understood to be the capacity to experience pleasure or enjoyment. In still another context the function is understood to be the faculty of imagination. And yet another way of looking at it is to see it as the faculty of knowledge or self-knowledge or rationality.
In fact the list can go on indefinitely. If we consider the individual person and their behavior in terms of these functionalities, we will find that there are indeed a great many functions. There are indeed processes, patterns of behavior, modes of communication, and systems of thought and social organization and so on.
Now it might be argued that one or another of these things is the proper thing to do, or at least should be what they are doing. But is this true? Are these things really necessary for us? And if they are then how come there are so many people and civilizations who don’t have them? Well, it turns out that the “function” they are referring to is the one that produces the knowledge of the particular thing or area of their lives. In other words, they use knowledge to create and live their particular lives and their social interactions with others.
That is the “function” of behavior, but the “knowledge” is what makes their behavior function in the first place. So to ask what are the 4 functions of behavior is to ask how knowledge makes behavior function. It’s a rather paradoxical but essential question that we must address as people think about what they are doing.
So, let’s assume that knowledge creates behavior by giving information about what is expected of the person who has acquired the knowledge. This may be behavior that the person does in line with what they were taught or might even be something completely different. But the point is that knowledge creates behavior and in the case of what are the 4 functions of behavior this knowledge can also be modified or changed.
For example, in line with this knowledge one could behave more responsibly in relation to money or with respect to their status in society. Or they might want to treat other people better because of the knowledge that money isn’t everything and that kindness and empathy and respect go a long way.
Or even the question what are the 4 functions of behavior might lead someone down a path where they have respect for others and they are willing to help when they are needed. Or they might take responsibility for their own actions and be willing to make changes because of the knowledge that no one else can do it. So it goes on. It is a basic human need to know what is going on around us and how we can interact with others. And knowing these basic things can change a behavior or alter a behavior that someone needs to deal with.
The 4 Functions of Behavior
The 4 functions of behavior are very well known and it can be said that they explain the way that humans take actions in a social world. They describe 2 primary functions: escape and gain then proceed to identify the mechanism of gain and the mode of escape (either socially mediated or direct). This approach provides an overall view to understanding the 4 functions of behavior. It can be said that each function has its own independent meaning, but then when they combine, they form the whole of the meaning of human behavior.
The first function of behavior is the direct one (the one that is taken as a direct result of the other) such as biting another animal, biting another person or child etc. The second function is related to the direct one but not in a direct way. For instance when a dog bites a child, the child might get angry and so she would push the dog away. In this context the function of getting angry would be associated with the biting. Therefore, both the behaviors must be engaged to make the meaning of the behavior complete.
The other functions of behavior described above are associated with internal processes. This means that there may be different mechanisms for each function. For example, there might be an automatic negative reinforcement for biting which would be given when the behavior is engaged. Then there could be a socially-moderated form of automatic negative reinforcement like punishment. And then there could be a more detailed form of automatic positive reinforcement like the Dr. Tim Vollmer.