The effects of operant conditioning, which is commonly utilized in everyday life such as in the classroom and in parenting, can be influenced by reinforcement schedules. Let’s look at some of the most popular sorts of schedules and how they’re used.
The technique of learning via association to enhance or reduce voluntary behavior using punishment and reinforcement is known as operant conditioning.
Reinforcement schedules are the rules that govern the timing and frequency with which reinforcers are delivered in order to enhance the probability that a target behavior will occur again, strengthen, or continue.
A contingency timetable is a reinforcement schedule. Because the reinforcers are only used when the intended action has happened, the reinforcement is conditional on the desired behavior.
Intermittent and non-intermittent schedules are the two primary types of schedules.
Non-intermittent schedules provide reinforcement after each right response or none at all, whereas intermittent plans provide reinforcers after some but not all correct responses.
Non-intermittent Schedules of Reinforcement
Continuous Reinforcement Schedules and Extinction are two forms of non-intermittent schedules.
The reinforcer is presented in a continuous reinforcement schedule (CRF) following each execution of the desired behavior. This timetable reinforces the target behavior every time it happens and is the most efficient way to teach a new habit.
- Animal training, for example, frequently use continuous reinforcement regimens. The dog is rewarded when the teacher teaches it new skills. When the dog does a new trick properly, it is rewarded with a treat each time (positive reinforcement).
- A continuous schedule is also effective for teaching simple habits such as toilet training to very young children. When toddlers use the potty, they are given sweets. Every time they achieve and are rewarded, their behavior is reinforced.
Reinforcement Schedules in Parts (Intermittent)
Once a new behavior has been taught, trainers frequently use a different sort of schedule – partial or intermittent reinforcement – to reinforce it.
A partial or intermittent reinforcement schedule rewards desired actions on an as-needed basis, rather than on a consistent basis.
Behaviour that is reinforced on a part-time basis is generally more powerful. It has a higher chance of surviving extinction (more on this later). As a result, once a continuous schedule has been used to acquire a new habit, an intermittent schedule is frequently used to sustain or reinforce it.
Intermittent schedules come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The four most popular forms of intermittent schedules are based on two dimensions: time elapsed (interval) and the number of answers received (ratio). Every dimension could be classified as fixed or variable.
The following are the four intermittent reinforcement regimens that resulted:
- Fixed interval schedule (FI)
- Fixed ratio schedule (FR)
- Variable interval schedule (VI)
- Variable ratio schedule (VR)
Schedule with Fixed Intervals
After a specific amount of time has passed since the previous reinforcement, interval schedules promote targeted behavior.
When a certain length of time has passed, a preset interval schedule gives you a reward. This schedule often teaches subjects, whether they are people, animals, or organisms, to pace the interval, slow down their reaction rate after reinforcement, and then swiftly raise their response rate at the conclusion of the period.
This sort of reinforcement plan is characterized by a “scalloping” pattern of break-run behavior. Every time the subject receives a reinforcement, the subject pauses, and then behavior accelerates as the next reinforcement approaches.
- The Fixed Interval schedule is exemplified by college students preparing for final examinations. In most universities, there is a set time between final exams. Many students whose grades are entirely dependent on exam performance don’t study much at the start of the semester but cram when exam time approaches. The exam result is the reinforcement given after the final exam at the end of the semester, and studying is the targeted behavior. Because exams occur at regular intervals, generally at the conclusion of a semester, many students neglect to study during the semester until test time arrives.
Variable Interval Schedule
After a variable length of time has passed since the previous reinforcement, a variable interval schedule distributes the reinforcer.
Because the timing of the next reward is unknown, this schedule generally creates a constant pace of performance and is believed to be habit-forming.
Students whose marks are based on their performance on pop quizzes throughout the semester study on a regular basis rather than cramming at the end of the semester. Students are aware that the teacher will administer pop quizzes throughout the year, but they are unable to predict when they will occur. Without knowing the exact schedule, the student studies consistently throughout the day rather than waiting until the last minute. In teaching and reinforcing behavior that must be done at a consistent rate, variable interval reinforcement plans are more successful than fixed interval reinforcement schedules.
Fixed Ratio Schedule
After a given number of replies, a set ratio schedule provides reinforcement.
Fixed ratio schedules create high reaction rates until a reward is given, after which there is halt inactivity.
Toys are made by a toymaker, and the retailer only buys them in batches of five. When a toy manufacturer creates a large number of toys, he earns more money. Toys are only necessary for this scenario once all five have been completed. When five toys are provided, toy-making is rewarded and promoted. People who stick to a set ratio plan generally take a vacation after being rewarded, and then the fast-production cycle starts all over again.
After a certain number of replies, variable-ratio plans provide reinforcement.
This plan results in a high and consistent response rate.
A typical example of a variable ratio reinforcement schedule is gambling at a slot machine or playing lottery games.
Gambling pays out in a variety of ways. The amount of lever pulls required for each victory is varied. Gamblers repeatedly pull the lever in the hopes of winning. As a result, gambling is not only habit-forming for some people, but it is also highly addictive and difficult to stop for others.
Extinction schedules (Ext) are a form of non-intermittent reinforcement schedule in which the reinforcer is removed from the equation, resulting in a gradual decrease in the incidence of the previously rewarded response.
How soon full extinction happens relies partially on the reinforcement schedules utilized in the initial learning phase.
The variable-ratio schedule (VR) is the most resistant to extinction among the four types of reinforcement plans, whereas the continuous schedule is the least.
Schedules of Reinforcement in Parenting
Many parents employ a variety of reinforcement techniques to teach new behaviors, enhance good behaviors, and eliminate undesirable behaviors.
When it comes to training a new habit, a consistent reinforcement schedule is typically the most effective. Intermittent reinforcement can be used after the response has been learned to reinforce the learning.
Example of Reinforcement Schedules
Let’s return to the potty-training scenario.
When parents first introduce the concept of potty training to their children, they may reward them with a treat every time they use the toilet successfully. That is a continuous timetable.
After a few days of continuous toilet use, the parents would switch to rewarding the behavior on an as-needed basis.
Parents may unintentionally promote undesirable behavior. Because such reinforcement is sometimes unintentional, it is frequently provided in a haphazard manner. The inconsistency acts as a kind of varied reinforcement schedule, resulting in learned behavior that is difficult to break even after the parents have ceased reinforcing it.
Example of a Variable Ratio in Parenting
Parents generally refuse to give in when their kid has a tantrum at the shop. But, if they’re sleepy or in a hurry, they could buy the sweets nonetheless, thinking that’ll be the last time they do it.
However, from the children’s perspective, such a compromise serves as a reinforcer, encouraging tantrums. Because the reinforcement (purchasing sweets) is given on a sporadic basis, the child ends up throwing fits on a frequent basis in anticipation of the next give-in.
This is one of the reasons why consistency in child discipline is so crucial.