11 July 2015

Types of Reinforcement and Punishment

The effects of reinforcement and punishment were discovered by B.F. Skinner through his experiments using his operant conditioning chamber. The operant conditioning chamber, also known as the Skinner Box, is a box big enough to contain a laboratory animal, such as a rat or pigeon. The box is equipped with devices that either reinforce or punish the behavior of the animal. Skinner developed the box while he was a graduate student at Harvard in the early 1930s.

Skinner discovered that by using reinforcement and punishment, he could train his animals to perform certain behaviors. He called this type of conditioning operant conditioning. Operant conditioning formed the foundation of Skinner's theory of radical behaviorism and led to him becoming one of the most important psychologists of the 20th century.
Diagram of a Skinner Box, Types of Reinforcement and Punishment, Schedules of Reinforcement, Dangers of Punishment, CTET 2015 Exam Notes, KVS, DSSSB Study Material, CTET, NET PDF NOTES DOWNLOAD.


Reinforcement is any reaction to a behavior that encourages the research subject to increase that behavior. There are two types of reinforcement - positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement is what we might refer to as a reward; it is something desirable that is given to the research subject after it performs the behavior. If you are trying to develop a healthy eating and exercise routine, you may want to reward yourself after a week of meeting your goals by going out with friends or buying a small gift for yourself. Once you have learned that your good behavior will result in this reward, you are more likely to continue the good behavior - this is positive reinforcement.
Negative reinforcement, on the other hand, results when an undesirable thing or action is taken away after a behavior is performed. Imagine you always get cold when you go to a particular movie theater. After a couple of experiences of being uncomfortably cold while watching the latest movie, you may start to bring a sweater with you. The negative element of the cold is removed and you are likely to continue bringing a sweater with you. The absence of the cold reinforces your behavior.

Schedules of Reinforcement

One of Skinner's greatest contributions was discovering that the frequency of reinforcement greatly affects how quickly and how permanently a behavior is reinforced. These frequencies are called schedules of reinforcementReinforces are more effective when they are given as soon as
possible after a student performs the target behaviour. In continuous reinforcement like this, a student learns very rapidly but when the reinforcement stops, the behaviour decreases rapidly too. Therefore, the schedule of reinforcement was developed. The schedule will determine when a behaviour will be reinforced. There are 4 types of schedule of reinforcement, they are fixed-ratio schedule, variable-ratio schedule fixed, fixed-interval schedule, and variable-internal schedule.
Look at  to understand the meaning of these schedules. 
Fixed-ratio schedule
• A behavior is reinforced after a set number of responses have occurred.
• For example: A student may be given a bar of Kit Kat chocolate for every ten mathematical problems solved.

Variable-ratio schedule fixed: 
• On a variable-ratio schedule, the number of responses needed to gain the reinforcement is not constant.
• For example: Rewards could be given after 3, 5, 9, and 15 mathematical problems solved.
• On a fixed-ratio schedule, a behavior is reinforced after a set number of responses have occurred.
• For example: A student may be given a bar of Kit Kat chocolate for every ten mathematical problems solved.

Fixed-interval schedule
• A behavior will be reinforced after a certain period of time. No matter how often it occurs, the behavior will not be reinforced until the time is up.
• For example: Students are given a quiz every Wednesday.

Variable-internal schedule
• Also based on time passing but the time period keep changing.
• For example: Students are given pop quizzes.

Dangers of Punishment

Punishment presents the fastest way to changing behaviour. However, punishment might be dangerous  to an individual. Among of the effect of punishments are:
•    Punishment can be abusive.
- For example, a teacher might become so aroused when he is punishing a student that he becomes abusive.
•    Punishment may create a new problem, that is aggression.
-  Students commonly react to physical punishment by learning to dislike the punisher and perhaps  by reacting aggressively toward that person.
Thus, punishment does not convey any information about what an alternative and more appropriate  behaviour might be. It may suppress one inappropriate behaviour only to be replaced by another one. 
Punishment can turn out to be reinforcing. A student might learn that misbehaving will get the teacher’s attention.
As a conclusion, punishment should be used only as the last option. Do not use positive physical punishment. Use negative punishment, instead. A teacher should first positively reinforced appropriate behaviours to take place of the inappropriate behaviours he is trying to eliminate.

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