Schedules of Reinforcement: An Overview

Reinforcement is a key concept in behavioural psychology and is used to shape and maintain behaviour. A schedule of reinforcement is a set of rules that define how, when, and under what circumstances reinforcement will be given. The type of schedule used can have a major impact on the effectiveness of the reinforcement.

What is Reinforcement?

Reinforcement is a process in which a behaviour is strengthened by providing a reward after it is performed. The reward is used to increase the likelihood that the behaviour will be repeated in the future. Reinforcement can be positive (providing a reward) or negative (removing an aversive stimulus).

Types of Reinforcement Schedules

There are four main types of reinforcement schedules: continuous, fixed-ratio, variable-ratio, and variable-interval.

Continuous Reinforcement

Continuous reinforcement is the simplest type of reinforcement schedule. In this type of schedule, a reward is given every time the desired behaviour is performed. This type of reinforcement is often used when teaching a new behaviour or when the behaviour is first being established.

Fixed-Ratio Reinforcement

Fixed-ratio reinforcement is a type of reinforcement schedule in which a reward is given after a certain number of responses. For example, a reward may be given after every 5th response. This type of reinforcement is often used to maintain a behaviour that has already been established.

Variable-Ratio Reinforcement

Variable-ratio reinforcement is a type of reinforcement schedule in which a reward is given after a varying number of responses. For example, a reward may be given after every 5th, 7th, or 10th response. This type of reinforcement is often used to maintain a behaviour that has already been established.

Variable-Interval Reinforcement

Variable-interval reinforcement is a type of reinforcement schedule in which a reward is given after a varying amount of time. For example, a reward may be given after every 5 minutes, 7 minutes, or 10 minutes. This type of reinforcement is often used to maintain a behaviour that has already been established.

Benefits of Reinforcement Schedules

Reinforcement schedules can be used to shape and maintain behaviour. By providing rewards for desired behaviours and withholding rewards for undesired behaviours, it is possible to teach new behaviours and maintain existing behaviours. Reinforcement schedules can also be used to increase motivation and engagement in activities.

FAQs

What is the difference between positive and negative reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is the process of providing a reward after a behaviour is performed. Negative reinforcement is the process of removing an aversive stimulus after a behaviour is performed.

How do I know which type of reinforcement schedule to use?

The type of reinforcement schedule that is most effective will depend on the behaviour that is being reinforced. Continuous reinforcement is often used when teaching a new behaviour or when the behaviour is first being established. Fixed-ratio, variable-ratio, and variable-interval reinforcement are often used to maintain a behaviour that has already been established.

What are the benefits of using reinforcement schedules?

The benefits of using reinforcement schedules include the ability to shape and maintain behaviour, increase motivation and engagement in activities, and improve performance.