Schedules of reinforcement - VCE Psychology notes

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Especially when learning a new behaviour or response, continuous reinforcement (where we reinforce behaviour every time it occurs) is very effective. However, it is not always practical to do this and it can also mean that the reinforcer becomes ineffective. Lastly, a behaviour that is reinforced using continuous reinforcement is much more likely to be extinguished if the reinforcement stops.

To combat these issues, partial reinforcement (where we reinforce behaviour only some of the time it occurs) can be used.

There are four kinds of partial reinforcement.

1. Fixed ratio – where behaviour is reinforced for a set number of times it occurs. (i.e. for every 5 times you buy a coffee, you get one free.)

2. Variable ratio – where behaviour is reinforced for a number of times it occurs, but this number changes unpredictably. (i.e. every now and then when a student completes their homework beautifully, they will receive a Lyndhurst Card.)

3. Fixed interval – where behaviour is reinforced for a set length of time, provided the behaviour has occurred at least once. (i.e. every Saturday you will receive your allowance if you have cleaned your room.)

4. Variable interval – where behaviour is reinforced for a length of time in which the behaviour has occurred, but this length changes unpredictably. (i.e. Once a week, but on different days, I will check your room and if it is clean, you will receive your allowance.)

Reinforcement is anything that will increase the likelihood of a behaviour occurring, whilst punishment will decrease the likelihood of a behaviour occurring. There are two kinds of each:



Addition of a stimulus

Positive reinforcement – Getting an allowance

Positive punishment – Smacking a child

Removal of a stimulus

Negative punishment (also called response cost)

– Grounding a child (taking away freedom)

Negative reinforcement – Taking Panadol to remove pai

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