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Chapter 4

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Zachariah Campbell

Chapter 4 – Reinforcement Reinforcement: the process in which a behaviour is strengthened by the immediate consequence that reliably follows its occurrence.  When a behaviour is strengthened, it is more likely to occur in the future. Thorndike’s Cat Getting the food was the consequence that reinforced (strengthened) the cat’s behaviour of hitting the lever to get out of the box. Defining Reinforcement When a behaviour results in a favourable outcome (contributes to well-being/survival of the animal), that behaviour is more likely to be repeated in the future in similar circumstances. Reinforcement may occur naturally, as a result from interactions with social/physical environment, or it may be planned as a part of a BMod program. Reinforcement is defined as: 1. The occurrence of particular behaviour 2. Is followed by an immediate consequence 3. That results in the strengthening of the behaviour. A behaviour that is strengthened through the process of reinforcement is called an operant behaviour. The consequence that strengthens an operant behaviour is called a reinforcer.  Child cries at night when she is put to bed. The crying = operant behaviour. The reinforcer was the attention that she got from her parents. The crying resulted in the immediate consequence (reinforcer) the child’s crying was strengthened. Terms You reinforce a behaviour, not a person. Positive and Negative Reinforcement Both positive and negative reinforcement both strengthen behaviour. Positive reinforcement: 1. The occurrence of a behaviour 2. Is followed by the addition of a stimulus (a reinforcer) or an increase in the intensity of a stimulus, 3. Which results in the strengthening of the behaviour Negative reinforcement: 1. The occurrence of a behaviour 2. Is followed by the removal of a stimulus (an aversive stimulus) or a decrease in the intensity of a stimulus, 3. Which results in the strengthening of a behaviour Stimulus: an object or event that can be detected by one of the senses and has the potential to influence the person. Positive reinforcer: the stimulus that is presented or that appears after the behaviour (in positive reinforcement) Aversive stimulus: Stimulus that is removed or avoided after the behaviour (in negative reinforcement) The difference between the two reinforcements, in positive reinforcement a reponse produces a stimulus (positive reinforcer). In negative reinforcement, a response removes or prevents the occurrence of a stimulus (aversive stimulus).  Negative reinforcement and punishment are not the same. Negative reinforcement strengthens or increases a behaviour. Punishment decreases or weakens a behaviour. When you have to anayze a situation and determine whether it illustrates positive or negative reinforcement: 1. What is the behaviour? 2. What happened immediately after the behaviour? (Was a stimulus added or removed?) 3. What happened to the behaviour in the future? (Was the behaviour strenghtened? Was it more likely to occur?) Social vs. Automatic Reinforcement Social Reinforcement: when a behaviour produces a reinforcing consequence through the actions of another person.  Example: asking your friend to bring you a bag of chips. (Positive) Asking your friend to turn down the TV. (Negative) Automatic reinforcement: when the behaviour produces a reinforcing consequence through direct contact with the physical environment.  Example: Getting the remote and turning down the TV yourself. (Negative) Premark Principle: A type of positive reinforcement involving the opportunity to engage in a high-probability behaviour (preferred behaviour) as a consequence for a low- probability behaviour (less liked behaviour), to increase the low-probability behaviour.  Having to do homework (low-probability) before going outside to play (high- probability). The child is more likely to do their homework so they can be able to go outside. Escape and Avoidance Behaviours When defining negative reinforcement, a distinction is made between escape and avoidance behaviours.  Escape: the occurrence of the behaviour results in the termination of an aversive stimulus that was already present when the behaviour occurred. The person escapes from the aversive stimulus by engaging in a particular behaviour and that particular behaviour is strengthened. o Example: a rat jumps over the barrier in order to exape from the shock. The rat then learns to jump over the barrier the instant the shock in applied.  Avoidance: the occurrence of the behaviour prevents an aversive stimulus from occuring. The person avoids the aversive stimulus by engaging in a particular behaviour and that behaviour is strengthened. o Example: A tone is presented before a shock is applied. The rat learns to jump over the behaviour at the sound of the tone, even before the shock is applied. Example of Avoidance/Escape Behaviours Escape: A person steps onto hot asphalt and immediately jumps off. Avoidance: A person puts on shoes before they step onto the hot asphalt. Conditioned and Unconditioned Reinforcers Natural positive reinforcers like food, water, etc. because they contribute to survival of the individual and the species. Natural negative reinforcers like escape from painful stimulation or extreme levels of stimulation (cold, heat, etc.) because the avoidance of these stimuli also contribute to survival.  These natural reinforcers are unconditioned reinforcers because they act as reinforcers the first time they are presented to most humans. No previous experience with stimuli is needed to make them reinforcers. Conditioned reinforcers: a stimulus that was once neutral (does not currently function as a reinforcer) but becomes establisged as a reinforcer after being paired with an unconditioned reinforcer or an already e
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