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Wendy Bourque

th Chapter 7 (February 28 ): Primary Reinforcers and Primary Punishers (Unconditioned Reinforcer and Unconditioned Punishers − The chapter is a return to operant conditioning, and specifically reinforcement and punishment − To be more specific, this chapter deals with those reinforcers and punishers that are biologically established − To put this another way, these reinforcers and punishers require no prior learning or conditioning. We are biologically programmed to find these stimuli either reinforcing or punishing (Ex: money is a secondary reinforcer, because we aren't born with the ideas that money is a reinforcer; requires learning) − Primary reinforcers and punishers can condition other stimuli to be reinforcers and punishers, if they are paired with them. These conditioned stimuli are called secondary reinforcers and punishers (they are not always fixed) − In a sense this is much like the way that CS’s are formed in classical conditioning.After a number of pairings of the UCS and the Neutral Stimulus, the Neutral Stimulus gains the ability to evoke the same type of response and becomes a CS − Intuitively, one would think that since primary reinforcers and punishers are biologically established they would fixed in their roles. In other words, they would always act as either a reinforcer or a punisher no matter what the situation. In fact this is not the case − Primary reinforcers and punishers are relative in nature in both their quality and degree. So any particular primary stimulus may in a given situation, be a reinforcer, a punisher or neutral stimulus, while in another situation assume an entirely different role − Example Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws...(it could be a reinforcer because it's delicious, but it could be a punisher if you eat too much) − So if you think of primary reinforcers and punishers as lying on a continuum, the context of the situation will determine where the stimuli will fall on the continuum − Having said all this, it is not an entirely arbitrary process. Generally speaking there are stimuli that have an inherent ability to reinforce and others that have an inherent ability to punish − Skinner said that this could be traced to natural selection, in that those individuals who had the ability to perceive food, water, sex and shelter as reinforcing, and cuts, burns and bruises as punishing, would be more likely to perpetuate their gene pools. They would be likely to repeat behaviours that they found reinforcing and avoid activities that were inherently punishing Unconditioned Stimuli: − So now we can see that unconditioned stimuli can serve two purposes... 1. To elicit unconditioned responses (reflexes) as in Classical Conditioning 2. To reinforce or punish operants which precede them − Order is important − What we have is a process, whereby an unconditioned stimulus elicits some type of reflexive response, and at the same time acts to either reinforce or punish the operant that precedes it − Example: − If we reach into a hot oven without oven mitts the burn that we receive will 1) elicit the reflexive response of drawing back your hand with a start and will be accompanied by a negative emotional response − 2) the burn will punish
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