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Published on 17 Nov 2012
- Reinforcement: the process in which a behavior is strengthened by the immediate
consequence tht reliably follows its occurrence. When a behavior is strengthened it is more
likely to occur again the future. Ex: Thorndike’s law of effect with the hungry cat in the cage
hittng level with paw to open it to get food
Defining Reinforcement
- When a behavior results in a favourable outcome (one tht contributes to the well being or
survival of the animal), tht behavior is more likely to be repeated in the future in similar
- It is defined as the occurrence of a particular behavior, is followed by an immediate
consequence, and tht results in the strengthening of the behavior (the person is more likely to
engage in the behavior again in the future)
- We can determine tht a behavior is strengthened when there is an increase in its frequency,
duration, intensity or speed (decreased latency).
- Operant behavior: a behavior is strengthened through the process of reinforcement. An
operant behavior acts on the environment to produce a consequence and in turn is ctrlld by or
occurs again the future as a result of its immediate consequence. The consequence tht
strengthens an operant behavior is called a reinforcer. Ex; child crying at night to gain parent’s
- It is correct to say u reinforce a behavior (or a response). You are strengthening a behavior by
reinforcing it. It is incorrect to say u reinforce a person.
Positive and Negative Reinforcement
- Both are processes tht strengthen a behavior, both increase probability tht the behavior will
occur in the future. They’re only distinguished only by the nature of the consequence tht
follows the behavior.
- Positive Reinforcement: the occurrence of a behavior, addition of a stimulus (a reinforcer) or
an increase in the intensity of a stimulus and which results in the strengthening of the behavior
- Negative Reinforcement: occurrence of a behavior, removal of a stimulus (an aversive stimulus)
or a decrease in the intensity of a stimulus and results in strengthening of the behavior
- Stimulus: an object or event tht can be detected by one of the senses and thus has the
potential to influence the person (stimuli is plural). It can be behavior of the person or of others
- In positive reinforcement, the stimulus that is presented or tht appears after the behavior is
called a positive reinforcer ( a pleasant, desirable, or valuable tht a person will try to get). In
negative reinforcement, the stimulus tht is removed or avoided after the behavior is called an
aversive stimulus- unpleasant, painful or annoying tht a person will try to get away from or
avoid. Pos reinforcement, a responses produces a stimulus whereas in negative reinforcement,
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a response removes or prevents the occurrence of a stimulus; in both cases, the behavior is
more likely to occur in the future
- negative reinforcement nd punishment; negative (removal or subtraction) reinforcement (like
positive reinforcement) increases or strengthens a behavior. Punishment decreases or
weakens a behavior.
- Reinforcement is alwys defined by the effect it has on the behavior: Functional definition. Ex:
child completes school wrk nd teacher congratulates him and pats him on his back. It can be
positive if the praise leads the child to complete more school tasks in the future. Hwever
teacher’s attention may not be reinforce for every children so u have to try it out and measure
its effect on the behavior. Ask urself 3 questions when analyzing a situation and determine
whether it illustrates positive or negative reinforcement; 1. What is the behavior; 2. What
happened immediately after the behavior (was a stimulus added or removed); 3. What
happened to the behavior in the future (was the behavior strengthened? Was it more likely to
Social vs. Automatic Reinforcement
- When a behavior produces a reinforcing consequence through the actions of another person,
the process is Social reinforcement. Ex; social pos reinforcmnt might involve asking ur
roommate to bring u bag of chips. Social neg reinforcmnt involve asking ur roommate to turn
down the TV when it is too loud. In both cases consequence of behavior was produced through
the action of another person.
- When the behavior produces a reinforcing consequence through direct contact with the
physical environment the process is automatic reinforcement. Ex: automatic pos reinforcement
would be if u wnt to kitchen nd got chips for urself. Automatic neg reinforcmnt would be
getting remote and turn dwn the tv volume by urself. In both cases, the reinforcing
consequence was not produced by another person
- Premack priniciple: a type of positive reinforcement involves the opportunity to engage in a
high probability behavior (a preferred behavior) as a consequence of a low probability behavior
(a less preferred behavior), to increase the low probability behavior. Ex; doing hwk before going
to play
Escape and Avoidance Behaviours
- Escape behaviour: occurrence of the behavior results in the termination of an aversive
stimulus tht was already present when the behavior occurred. The person escapes frm the
aversive stimulus and tht behavior is strengthened.
- Avoidance behavior: occurrence of the behavior prevents an aversive stimulus from occurring.
The person avoids the aversive stimulus by engaging in a particular behavior and tht behavior is
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- both escape and avoidance are types of negative reinforcement; therefore both result in
increase in the rate of the behavior tht terminated or avoided the aversive stimulus.
Conditioned and Unconditioned Reinforces
- Escape from painful stimulation or extreme levels of stimulation is naturally negatively
reinforcing because escape from or avoidance of these stimuli also contributes to survival.
These natural reinforcers are called unconditioned reinforcers because they function as
reinforcers the first time they are presented to most human beings; no prior experience with
these stimuli is needed for them to function as reinforcers. Unconditioned reinforcers are
sometimes called primary reinforcers.
- Conditioned reinforcers: also called secondary reinforce. It is a stimulus tht was once neutral
(it cnt influence the behavior tht it follows) but became established as a reinforcer by being
paird with an unconditioned reinforcer an already established conditioned reinforcer. Ex; money
to obtain other reinforcers
- Token: It can be used as a conditioned reinforcer to modify human behavior. It is presented to
the person aftr a desirable behavior and later the person exchanges the token for other
reinforcers (backup reinforcers) because the tokens are paired with the backup reinforcers and
become reinforcers for the desirable behavior
- Generalized conditioned reinforcer: when a conditioned reinforce is paired with a wide variety
of other reinforcers. Ex; money, praise, or tokens in token economy
Factors That Influence the Effectiveness of Reinforcement
- Time btwn occurrence of a behavior and reinforcing consequence is important. For the
consequence to be most effective as a reinforcer it should occur immediately after the
response occurs. The longer the delay btwn esponse and consequence, the weaker the
connection btwn the two. If its too long then there will be no contiguity and consequence wont
have effect on the behavior.
- Response: one instance of a behavior
- If a response is consistently followed by an immediate consequence, tht consequence is more
likely to reinforce the response.
- When the response produces the consequence and the consequence does not occur unless the
response occurs first, we say that a contingency exists between the response and the
consequence. When contingency exists, the consequence is more likely to reinforce the
response. Ex; u turn key and car starts
Motivating Operations
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