Sociology Index


Reinforcement is a process in which a behavior is strengthened, increasing the probability that a response will occur by either presenting a contingent positive event or removing a negative event. Reinforcement is the central concept and procedure in the experimental analysis of behavior and much of quantitative analysis of behavior. Reinforcement Theory was published by behaviorist Burrhus Frederic Skinner in 1957. Skinner argued that reinforcers are defined by a change in response strength, and that which is a reinforcer to one person may not be to another. Positive reinforcement is an increase in the future frequency of a behavior due to the addition of a stimulus immediately following a response. Negative reinforcement is an increase in the future frequency of a behavior when the consequence is the removal of an aversive stimulus.

Avoidance conditioning is a form of negative reinforcement that occurs when a behavior prevents an aversive stimulus from starting or being applied. Operant Conditioning is the process by which an individual's behavior is shaped by Reinforcement or by Punishment. Historical and contemporary theories of reinforcement and clinical application of reinforcement principles to behavior modification and therapy, are being critically analyzed and discusssed.

What Is a "Schedule of Reinforcement"? - W N Schoenfeld, B K Cole. Abstract: Ambiguities impede the accurate analysis of laboratory procedures, and prevent reliable communication among researchers. This paper focuses on the term schedule of reinforcement. It points out that two distinguishable operational rules are implicated in the term: in the case where reinforcement is of the so-called response contingent type, the "schedule" is really a rule to identify the response to be reinforced; in the case of non-contingent reinforcement, the "schedule" is truly a rule for delivery of reinforcement. Other terminological ambiguities that are encountered in a discussion of this term include "reinforcement" and "intermittency." A resolution of these problems will necessarily involve the procedures of non-contingent reinforcement, and the parameter of reinforcement probability.

Origins of Antisocial Behavior - Negative Reinforcement and Affect Dysregulation of Behavior as Socialization Mechanisms in Family Interaction - James Snyder, Lynn Schrepferman, Wichita State University. Carolyn St. Peter, Arizona State University - Behavior Modification, Vol. 21, No. 2, 187-215 (1997).
Two social-familial mechanisms, negative reinforcement and affect dysregulation, to the development of child antisocial behavior were tested using a sample of 57 8-to 13-year-old boys referred for treatment of conduct problems. Negative reinforcement of boys' aggressive behavior and boys' affect dysregulation were found to covary with the boys' irritability toward parents and siblings. Reinforcement of aggression and affect dysregulation during family interaction can play complementary role in the development of antisocial behavior by fostering the use of coercive means of dealing with social conflict perspectives.

Behavioral Momentum - Implications and Development From Reinforcement Theories - Joseph J. Plaud, George A. Gaither, University of North Dakota, Behavior Modification, Vol. 20, No. 2, 183-201 (1996). Recent studies have addressed the persistence of behavior under altered environmental conditions and reinforcement contingencies. Issues such as generalizability and relapse prevention have major implications for the type and length of behavioral intervention strategies employed. The behavioral momentum model analyzes operant behavior not only in terms of its response rate and in relation to its persistence under changed environmental constraints. The authors discuss the applicability of this recent addition to reinforcement theories.

Reinforcement in behavior theory - William N. Schoenfeld
Abstract: In its Pavlovian context, reinforcement was actually a descriptive term for the functional relation between an unconditional and a conditional stimulus. When it was adopted into operant conditioning, reinforcement´┐Ż became the central concept and the key operation, but with new qualifications, new referents, and new expectations. Some behavior theorists believed that reinforcers comprise a special and limited class of stimuli or events, and they speculated about what the essential nature of reinforcement might be. It is now known that any stimulus can serve a reinforcing function, with due recognition of such parameters as subject species characteristics, stimulus intensity, sensory modality, and schedule of application. This paper comments on these developments from the stand-point of reflex behavior theory.

Response Latency as a Function of Amount of Reinforcement - W C STEBBINS
J Exp Anal Behav. 1962 Jul;5(3):305-7. Abstract: Food-deprived rats were trained to press and hold down a telegraph key in the presence of a light. Subsequent release of the key during a tone was followed by 0.15 ml of a 20-percent sucrose solution as reinforcement. The Ss were subsequently shifted to a 0-percent and to a 5-percent solution from the 20-percent base line. The median RT and the variability of RT increased markedly as a result of the shift to the lower sucrose concentrations. For all Ss, the change in median and variability was greater for the shift to the 0-percent solution than for the shift to the 5-percent solution. It is probable that median RT and variability of RT are inversely related to amount of reinforcement.

Response Latency at Zero Drive After Varying Numbers of Reinforcements - D ZEAMAN, B J HOUSE
J Exp Psychol. 1950 Oct;40(5):570-83.