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Lecture Note For Chapter 6, come and see

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Christian Campbell

Chapter 6: Developing Behavioral Persistence through the use of intermittent Reinforcement Intermittent reinforcement refers to maintenance of behavior by reinforcing it only occasionally (i.e. intermittently) rather than every time it occurs i.e. student is reinforced after a fixed number of responses had occurred therefore encouraging her to work at a very steady rate Schedule of reinforcement: rule specifying which occurrences of a given behavior, if any, will be reinforced Simplest schedule of reinforcement is continuous reinforcement (crf) Many behavior in everyday life are reinforced on a crf Opposite of crf is called extinction; on an extinction schedule no instance of a given behavior is reinforced; effect is that the behavior eventually decreases to very low level or ceases altogether Between these two extremes lies intermittent reinforcement Any rule specifying a procedure for occasionally reinforcing a behavior is called an intermittent reinforcement schedule Unlimited number of such schedules Because each produces its own characteristic behavior, different schedules are suitable for different types of applications Certain schedules are more practical than others (e.g. some are more time consuming or labor intensive than others) While a behavior is being conditioned or learned, it is said to be in the acquisition phase; after it has become learned, it is said to be in the maintenance phase Usually its desirable to provide continuous reinforcement during acquisition and then to switch to intermittent reinforcement during maintenance Intermittent schedules have several advantages over continuous reinforcement for maintaining behavior: (a) The reinforcer remains effective longer because satiation takes place more slowly (b) Behavior that has been reinforced intermittently tend to take longer to extinguish (c) Individual work more consistently on certain intermittent schedules (d) Behavior that has been reinforced intermittently is more likely to persist after being transferred to reinforcers in the natural environment The 4 types of intermittent schedules for increasing and maintaining behavior: ratio, simple interval with limited hold and duration; each is subdivided into fixed and variable, giving 8 basic schedules Free-operant procedures is one in which the individual is free to respond repeatedly, in the sense that there are no constraints on successive responses e.g. in Jans math class, when Jan was given a worksheet containing a number of arithmetic problems to solve, Jan could have worked at various rates Discrete-trials procedure: distinct stimulus is presented prior to an opportunity for a response to occur and be followed by reinforcement rate of responding is limited to the rate at which successive stimuli at the beginning of each trial are presented e.g. if Jans teacher presented a math problem and waited a brief time for Jan to solve it, following which another problem was presented to Jan and so on, then this would be a discrete trial procedure Ratio Schedules Fixed-ratio (FR) schedule: reinforcement occurs each time a set number of responses of a particular type are emitted Schedule increased in steps If steps are not taken then behavior might be deteriorated and appear as though it were on extinction This deterioration of responding from increasing FR schedule too rapidly is sometimes referred to as ratio strain Optimal response requirement differs for different individuals and for different tasks Higher the ratio at which an individual is expected to perform, the more important it is to approach it gradually through exposure to lower ratios Optimal ratio value that will maintain a higher rate of response without producing ratio strain must be found by trial and error FR schedules, when introduced gradually, produce a high steady rate until reinforcement, followed by a post-reinforcement pause Length of post-reinforcement pause depends on the value of FR- higher the value, longer the pause FR schedule also produces higher resistance to extinction Examples: football coach telling team to do 20 push ups- that would be FR 20; paying an industrial worker for a specified number of completed parts (called piece-rate pay) Variable-ratio (VR) schedule: number of responses required to produce reinforcement changes unpredictably from one reinforcement to the next Number of responses required for each reinforcement varies around some mean value, and this value is specified in the designation of that particular VR schedule Like FR, it produces a high steady rate of responding; produces no (or at least a very small) post- reinforcement pause E.g. Salesperson can never predict exactly when a sale will occur and is likely to continue making house calls right after a sale Difference b/w FR and VR: VR schedule can be increased somewhat more abruptly than an FR schedule without producing ratio strain, the values of CR that can maintain responding are somewhat higher than FR and VR produces a higher resistance to extinction than FR schedules of the same value Examples of VR schedules in natural environment: asking some1 for a date; slot machines unpredictable events; cant guess what will happen Ratio schedules are used when one wants to generate a high rate of responding and can monitor each response (since it is necessary to count the responses in order to know when to deliver
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