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Psychology
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PSYC 1010
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Rebecca Jubis
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PSYC 1010 K (AB) October 25, 2012
** These notes are not a substitution to attending class, reading the textbook, or taking
your own notes**
OPERANT CONDITIONING
Operant Conditioning (Skinner)
‐ Behaving through consequences
3 components:
a) Stimulus (S)
b) Response (R - voluntary)
(operant behaviour)
c) Consequence: Positivereinforcer(Sr+)
Negative reinforcer (Sr-)
Positive punishment
Negative punishment
Positive Reinforcer (Sr+)
‐ When something pleasant is added to the situation and this increases the probability of
the R re-occurring
‐ Have to make sure the positive reinforcer is in fact positive for the person being
reinforced (e.g., if you give someone a chocolate cake as a positive reinforcer, but he/she
doesn’t like chocolate cake, this will not be a positive reinforcer for him/her).
Factors that influence the effectiveness of a Sr+
1) Magnitude of the Sr+
‐ the greater the magnitude of the reinforcer, the greater the chances that it will increase the
probability of the R re-occurring.
2) Immediacy of the Sr+
‐ How soon after the response is the reinforcer given. The sooner it is given, the more
effective it is.
3) Scheduling of the Sr+
‐ How do you give a reinforcer? (i.e., every time, every third time etc.)
Overview of Reinforcement schedules
1) Continuous Reinforcement schedule (CRF)
2) Intermittent, or partial, reinforcement schedules
a. Ration schedules
i. Fixed ratio (FR)
ii. Variable ratio (VR)
b. Interval schedules
i. Fixed interval (FI)
ii. Variable interval (VI)
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PSYC 1010 K (AB) October 25, 2012
1) Continuous Schedule
o R is reinforced EVERY time it occurs
o In real life, continuous reinforcement is not very common
o Encourages quicker learning
2) Partial schedule of Sr+
o A R is reinforced only SOME of the time
o Partial reinforcement schedule, compared to the continuous schedule, leads to
more persistent behaviours. That is, the behaviour is harder to get rid of.
Example
Tom – every time he makes his bed, he gets a dollar (continuous)
Joe – he gets a dollar only some of the times when he makes his bed (partial)
If you stop giving a dollar, Joe will be more likely to continue making his bed.
a) Ratio Schedules
Most basic schedules of reinforcement
i. Fixed Ratio Schedule (FR-18)
o The # of R needed for Sr+ is always the same, or Fixed
o Getting reinforced is dependent on the number of responses that occurred (e.g., if
you want a dollar, you have to do something 5 times)
o Notation – Example: FR-18 the 18 represents the number of R required to get
reinforced
o Patterns of Responding:
High rate of responding with FR (e.g., the more catalogues you deliver,
the more money you will get)
Responding is consistent (i.e., responding tends to be at the same pace/rate
all along)
Post-reinforcement pause (e.g., once the rat gets the food pellet, it will
pause for a bit before starting the response behaviour again. The longer the
need to engage in a behaviour before getting the reinforcer, the longer the
pause will be)
ii. Variable Ratio Schedule (VR)
o Reinforcer is given for an average number of R (unpredictability)
o Notation – Example: VR-10 Salesman has to approach 20 people, then 5, then
2, then 9, then 14 people to make a sale take average of these numbers = 10.
Therefore the notation will be VR-10
o If someone indicates that there is an “average number of R” or “about this many
R”, this indicates that we’re talking about a VR versus FR
o Pattern of Responding:
No reinforcement pause. This might happen because the salesman may
thing “the next person I approach might be interested in buying the
product.”
Gamblers playing on slot machines also respond the VR schedule
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PSYC 1010 K (AB) October 25, 2012
b) Interval Schedules
i. Fixed Interval Schedule (FI)
o Sr+ is given after a fixed time period
o How much time has elapsed plays a central role in when the reinforcement will be
provided
o Notation – Example: FI-2 min Example: the rat has to press the lever for 2
minutes before getting a food pellet. It doesn’t matter how many times the rat
presses the lever in those two minutes.
o Pattern of responding:
The rate of responding increases as the Sr+ approaches
Activity stops after Sr+ and

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