Study Guide For Chapter 4
CHAPTER 4: Developing and maintaining behaviour with conditioned
Unconditioned reinforcers: a stimulus that is a reinforcer without prior learning or
stimulus that is reinforcing without being conditioned. ! they are sometimes also called
primary or unlearned reinforcers.
!For example: food for a hungry person, water for a thirsty person, warmth for
someone who is cold and sexual contacts for someone who has been deprived of such
Conditioned reinforcers: a stimulus that is a reinforcer as a result of having been paired
with other reinforcers. This is because conditioning is needed to establish such stimuli as
reinforcers. ! they are sometimes also called secondary or learned reinforcers.
!For example praise, a picture of a loved one, books that we like to read, our favourite
television programs and clothes that makes us look good.
Backup reinforcers: a stimulus that causes other stimuli to become conditioned
reinforcers when they are paired with it; typically used to establish and maintain the
strength of conditioned reinforcers.
!For example: the type of training conducted with dolphins at Sea World. Early in
training, the trainer pairs the sound from a hand-held clicker with the delivery of fish to a
dolphin. A fish is a backup reinforcer, and after a number of pairings, the clicking
sound becomes a conditioned reinforcer. Later when teaching a dolphin to perform a
trick, the sound of the clicking is presented as immediate conditioned reinforcer, and
the clicker sound continues to be intermittently paired with fish. **Backup reinforcers
can be either conditioned or unconditioned reinforcers**.
**Positive reinforcers have a direct-acting effect on behaviours that immediately
** Direct-acting effect a principle of positive reinforcement where there is an increase in
frequency of response followed immediately by reinforcer. **
See example on page 52-53 [basketball & coach example]
Token: conditioned reinforcers that can be accumulated and exchanged for backup
Token System: A behaviour modification program in which individuals can earn token
for specific behaviours and can cash in their token for backup reinforcers.
! Token constitute one type of conditioned reinforcers. A common example, already
mentioned is “praise”. A mother who expresses pleasure at her child’s good behaviour is
simultaneously disposed to smile at the child, hug her, play with her, and give her a treat
or a toy. Praise is normally established as a conditioned reinforcer during childhood, but
it continues to be maintained as one for adults. When people praise us, they are generally
more like to favour us in various ways than when they do not praise us.
!The main advantage of using conditioned reinforcers in a behaviour modification
program is that they often can be delivered more immediately than the backup reinforcer
can. They also help to bridge delays between behaviour and more powerful reinforcers.
" Just as a stimulus that is paired with reinforcement becomes reinforcing itself, so
a stimulus that is paired with punishment becomes punishing itself. “No!” and
“stop that”! are examples of stimuli that become conditioned punishers because
they are often followed by punishment if the individual continues to engage in the
behaviour that provoked them.
Factors Influencing the Effectiveness of Conditioned Reinforcement
1. The Strength of Backup Reinforcer
! the reinforcing power of a conditioned reinforcer depends in part on the reinforcing
power of the backup reinforcer(s) on which it is based.
For example: suppose Coach Dawson had used only praise as a backup reinforcer for
those players who earned points. In that case, the points would have been effective
reinforcers only for the players for whom the coach’s praise was an effective
2. The Variety of Backup Reinforcers
! a conditioned reinforcer that is paired with a single backup reinforcer is calls
“Simple conditioned reinforcer”. In contrast, a stimulus that is paired with many
different kinds of backup reinforcers is referred to as a “generalized conditioned
reinforcer”. ! for example adult attention towards their kids such as “feeding them,
playing with them, wash them and etc.”
! the reinforcing power of a conditioned reinforcer depends in part on the number of
different backup reinforcers available for it. This factor is related to the preceding one
in that, if there are many different backup reinforcers available, then at any given time
at least one of them will probably be strong enough to maintain tokens at a high
reinforcing strength for any individual in the program.
3. The Schedule of Pairing with the Backup Reinforcer
! conditioned reinforcement is more effective if a backup reinforcer does not follow
each occurance of the conditioned reinforcer.
4. Extinction of the Conditioned Reinforcer
! For a conditioned reinforcer to remain effective, it must continue to be associated
with a suitable backup reinforcer, at least occasionally. Ceasing to provide backup
reinforcement for a conditioned reinforcer is called extinction of a conditioned
reinforcer and is similar to the procedure described in chapter 5 for extinguishing a
Pitfalls of conditioned reinforcement – How the principle can work against the
!One very common misapplication occurs when an adult scolds a child for behaving
inappropriately, but a) does not provide any type of “backup punisher” along with the
scolding, and b) does not reinforce desired alternative behaviour. The attention that
accompanies such negative verbal stimuli may even be highly reinforcing, especially for
individuals with development handicaps who often do not receive much attention from
!The classic example is the parent who spanks a child for misbehaviour and then
“feeling guilty” from the ensuing piteous crying, immediately hugs the child and gives
her ice cream or some other treat.
!extinction of a conditioned reinforcer can be unknowingly applied with unfortunate
results by those who are unfamiliar with this aspect of conditioned reinforcement.