Principles of Reinforcement
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Principles of Reinforcement. Why principles of reinforcement are complex. People react differently to the same reinforcement. People are unable to repeat desirable behaviors. People receive different reinforcers in different situations. Approaches to Influencing Behavior.

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Principles of Reinforcement

Why principles of reinforcement are complex

People react differently to the same reinforcement.

People are unable to repeat desirable behaviors.

People receive different reinforcers in different situations.

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Approaches to Influencing Behavior


Focuses on rewarding appropriate behavior, which increases the likelihood of desirable responses occurring in the future.


Focuses on punishing undesirable behaviors, which should lead to future redirection of these inappropriate behaviors.

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Approaches to Influencing Behavior

Most coaches and instructors combine positive and negative approaches.

Sport psychologists agree that the predominant approach with physical activity and sport participants should be positive because the negative approach often instills fear in participants.

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Positive Reinforcement


Choose effective reinforcers (e.g., social material, activity).


Timing or schedule of reinforcement.

Early learning—continuous and immediate reinforcement desirable

Learned skill—intermittent and immediate reinforcement desirable


Shape or reinforce successful approximations of difficult behaviors.


Reward performance, as well as outcome.


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Reward effort.


Reward emotional and social skill.


Provide knowledge of results (feedback regarding the correctnessor incorrectness of an action).


Provide motivational and instructional feedback.

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Punishment can control and change behavior but 80 to 90% of reinforcement should be positive.

Drawbacks of punishment

Punishment can arouse fear of failure.

Punishment can act as a reinforcer.

Punishment can hinder learning of skills.

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Modifying Behavior in Sport

Behavior modification

Systematic application of the basic principles of reinforcement to change behavior.

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Modifying Behavior in Sport & Rehab. Settings

Behavior program principles

Target the behaviors; define targeted behaviors; record behaviors; provide meaningful feedback; state outcomes clearly; tailor reward systems.

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Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Rewards

Intrinsic motivation: Striving inwardly to be competent and self-determining.

Basic question: Do extrinsic rewards undermine intrinsic motivation?

Research shows that being paid for working on an intrinsically interesting activity can decrease a person’s intrinsic motivation for the activity.

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Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Rewards

Cognitive EvaluationTheory

How rewards are perceived is critical in determining whether intrinsic motivation increases or decreases.

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Cognitive Evaluation Theory

Controlling aspects: Rewards that are perceived to control a person or suggest the person is not competent decrease intrinsic motivation.

Informational aspects: Rewards that increase the information aspect and provide positive feedback about competence increase intrinsic motivation.

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How Extrinsic Rewards Affect Intrinsic Motivation in Sport

Competitive success and failure: Competitive success increases intrinsic motivation, whereas competitive failure tends to decrease intrinsic motivation.

Feedback: Positive feedback increases intrinsic motivation.

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Increasing Intrinsic Motivation

Provide for successful experiences.

Give rewards contingent on performance.

Use verbal and nonverbal praise.

Vary content and sequence practice drills.

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What types of things can you do as an athletic trainer that can help the motivation of athletes in the rehabilitation process?