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A 1 Page Term Paper on Reinforcement

Operant Conditioning is the term used by B.F. Skinner to describe the effects of the consequences of a particular behavior on the future occurrence of that behavior. There are four types of Operant Conditioning: Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Punishment, and Extinction. Both Positive and Negative Reinforcement strengthen behavior while both Punishment and Extinction weaken behavior.

In Negative Reinforcement a particular behavior is strengthened by the consequence of the stopping or avoiding of a negative condition
Positive Reinforcement, the term reinforcement always indicates a process that strengthens a behavior; the word positive has two cues associated with it. First, a positive or pleasant stimulus is used in the process, and second, the reinforcer is added (i.e., "positive" as in + sign for addition). In positive reinforcement, a positive reinforcer is added after a response and increases the frequency of the response. Since the consequence was added and the behavior was strengthened, the process is positive reinforcement.

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Example 1

Gregory is being reinforced using a token economy. When he follows a direction / command, he earns a point. At the end of each day, he can "buy" free time, TV, privileges, etc. with his points. When he misbehaves or does not follow a command, he loses points. Andrew used to call his mom names. Since he has been on the point system, his name-calling has been reduced to almost zero.
Since the consequence was subtracted and the behavior was weakened, the process is response cost.

Example 2

John does not go to the dentist every 6-month for a checkup. Instead, he waited until a tooth really hurts, then goes to the dentist. After two emergency trips to the dentist, John now goes every 6-month.

The concept of Negative Reinforcement is difficult to teach and learn because of the word negative. Negative Reinforcement is often confused with Punishment. They are very different, however.

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Negative Reinforcement strengthens a behavior because a negative condition is stopped or avoided because of the behavior.
Here are two examples of Negative Reinforcement:

1. A rat is placed in a cage and immediately receives a mild electrical shock on its feet. The shock is a negative condition for the rat. The rat presses a bar and the shock stops. The rat receives another shock, presses the bar again, and again the shock stops. The rat's behavior of pressing the bar is strengthened by the consequence of the stopping of the shock.

2. Driving in heavy traffic is a negative condition for most of us. You leave home earlier than usual one morning, and do not run into heavy traffic. You leave home earlier again the next morning and again you avoid heavy traffic. Your behavior of leaving home earlier is strengthened by the consequence of the avoidance of heavy traffic.

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