The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type




Degree Name

Applied Behavior Analysis: M.S.


Community Psychology, Counseling and Family Therapy


School of Health and Human Services

First Advisor

Benjamin Witts

Second Advisor

Odessa Luna

Third Advisor

Michele Traub

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

CMOS, motivating operations, preparedeness, behavior analysis, conditioned motivating operations, stimulus control


Research on the surrogate conditioned motivating operation (CMO-S) is sparce and typically produces unsuccessful outcomes. These failures suggest this concept may not be as simple as it is defined, and researchers must explore different strategies to produce the effect; in this case, without contriving for a motivating operation. Four participants recruited from a midwestern university were assigned to color or sound changing video games, in which certain colors or sounds were randomly assigned and then paired during conditioning sessions with specific edibles. Data were collected during probe sessions at the beginning, middle, and end of the study by recording the exact time an edible was selected; conditional probability analyses were then used to assess if participant responding began to outperform chance responding and thus suggest a CMO-S effect was developing. Data were analyzed on general and individual responding, meaning one analysis assessed any edible choice during any stimulus change, whereas additional analyses assessed a specific edible choice during its assigned intervals. Results show that a general effect likely occurred for two participants, one of which also showed a potential specific CMO-S effect. The two participants that failed to show an effect spur discussion on the role of preparedness in CMO-S designs; effects were demonstrated when edibles were paired with visual changes, but not when paired with auditory changes. Based on these results, more research is warranted to understand and explore how to effectively create the CMO-S effect and how it can be used to promote adaptive behavior change.

Keywords: surrogate conditioned motivating operation (CMO-S), motivating operations, conditional probability analyses


My sincerest thank you to my mom, friends, family, peers, professors, teammates, and coaches for supporting me through this process. To those who volunteered as test-pilots; thank you for your creativity and patience. I am confident this study would not have been successful without you and am thankful for how dedicated you were to ‘winning the game’ and showing me the various, and humorous, ways a participant can behave without clear session instructions. Thank you to my peers and professors, especially Dr. Traub and Dr. Luna, for providing feedback throughout this process and for challenging me to set a high standard for this study. Finally, thank you to all those who served as a sounding board for my rollercoaster of thoughts and complaints; you are all incredible and I would not have made it through without you.

To Dr. Witts, thank you for not giving up on this idea and encouraging me to pursue it. Your commitment to research and your students is admirable; there is absolutely no way this study could have succeeded without you. From programming and reprogramming the computer games, to suggesting a list of solutions to any problem I came up with, you made this possible. I hope you will take credit for your direct contributions, but more importantly, I hope you take credit for how you inspire others. I am honored and lucky to have learned from you; from the bottom of my heart, thank you.



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