Lecture 4 operant conditioning reinforcement theory
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Lecture 4: Operant Conditioning/Reinforcement Theory. Dr. Arra. Reinforcement Theory and Learning. Reinforcement contingencies associated with a behavior have a lot to do w/ whether the organism actually performs the behavior; organisms do not just avoid pain and seek pleasure

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Reinforcement Theory and Learning

  • Reinforcement contingencies associated with a behavior have a lot to do w/ whether the organism actually performs the behavior; organisms do not just avoid pain and seek pleasure

  • Thorndike: Law of effect- learning only occurs if there is reinforcement

    - refuted; learning does occur w/out reinforcement (Tolman > Latent Learning)


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Reinforcement Learning based on Rational Behavior Theory

  • Organisms learn behavior consequences from exploring the environment

  • Organisms tend to behave rationally using the contingencies they have learned in the environment; they select the behavior that creates the best state of affairs for them

  • Rational behavior does not imply conscious deliberation on the organisms part

  • Simple associative mechanisms (e.g., S>R, R>S) often produce highly adaptive behavior


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Operant Conditioning (Skinner, 1938)

  • Basic Principle of Operant Conditioning- a response followed by a reinforcer is strengthened and is therefore more likely to occur again

  • Reinforcer- a stimulus that increases the frequency of a response it follows

    - Must follow the response, Must follow immediately (contiguity, tied to response), Must be contingent on the response

  • Primary and Secondary Reinforcers


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Kinds of Reinforcing Stimuli

  • Tangible – food, toys, stickers

  • Social – smile, hug, pat on back, verbal

  • Activity – opportunity to engage in favorite activity (Premack)

  • Intrinsic – engage in activities for own personal good feelings

  • Extrinsic – behavior is externally motivated; engage in activities for approval (to please) of others


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Operant Conditioning - Terms

  • Operant – voluntary response that has an effect on the environment

  • Free operant level – frequency of an operant in the absence of reinforcement

    (Baseline)

  • Target behavior – behavior that you wish to change

  • Terminal behavior – what you want outcome behavior to look like (form, frequency)


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Operant Conditioning - Terms

  • Extinction – do not reinforce behavior, behavior returns to baseline level

  • Extinction Burst – brief increase in behavior before it extinguishes

  • Shaping- differential reinforcement of successive approximations of a desired behavior

  • Chaining- specific sequence of responses, each associated w/ a particular stimulus

    - task analysis, B>R, BB>R, BBB>R

    - total task presentation: training on each step of the task analysis during every session


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Reward and Punishment

  • Positive reinforcement- stimulus presented after a response increases the likelihood of the behavior reoccurring

  • Negative reinforcement – removal of an (aversive, unpleasant) stimulus increases response

  • punishment- an event that suppresses a behavior; acts immediately; behaviors can reappear when punishment stops or punisher is absent

    - 2 types: present an aversive (verbal, physical) or withdraw a positive event (timeout, response cost)

    - pros and cons of punishment


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Reward and Punishment

  • Factors that effect punishment:

    - delay between response and punishment

    - severity of punishment (stronger=suppression)

    - consistency of use


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Premack’s Theory of Reinforcement (Premack Principle)

  • Premack (1959)

  • All behaviors have value to the organism

  • Therefore, more valued behavior reinforces a less valued behavior

  • Thus, more desirable behaviors are made contingent upon less desirable behaviors

  • Example: classroom


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Schedules of Reinforcement

  • Continuous vs. Intermittent

  • Ferster & Skinner (1957)

  • 4 basic schedules:

  • Fixed Ratio – reinforcer presented after a set amount of responses

  • Variable Ratio – reinforcer presented after a varying # of responses

  • Fixed Interval – reinforcement contingent on 1st response emitted after a fixed time interval has elapsed

  • Variable Interval – reinforcement contingent on 1st response emitted after varying time interval


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Differential Reinforcement

  • Strengthen alternate behaviors to replace inappropriate behaviors

  • Shaping: reward one, punish another

  • D.R.I. (incompatible) Behaviors: if seeking to reduce out-of-seat behaviors, reinforce in-seat behaviors

  • D.R.A. (alternate) Behaviors: if seeking to reduce sleeping in class, reinforce academic work


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Differential Reinforcement

  • D.R.O. (other) Behaviors: reinforcement for any behavior except for a certain response

    Ex: everyone who does not talk during movie gets a treat

    - not talking is being reinforced

  • D.R.L. (low rates of responding) Behaviors: reinforce 1st response after a time period in which no response has occurred

    Ex: reinforce question asking after a period of quiet working

  • D.R.H. (high rates of responses) Behaviors: reinforce only after large # of responses

    Ex: the more my dog begs, the greater likelihood of a reinforcer


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Differential Reinforcement

When using D.R. be sure to consider:

  • When choosing alternate/incompatible responses choose behaviors that the child regularly engages in

  • Consequences must be reinforcing

  • Continuous > Intermittent Schedule

    - baseline> increase intervals over time

  • Use with other reductive procedures


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Antecedent Stimulus

  • Do not elicit response; rather set occasion for a response to be reinforced

  • Discriminative stimulus: when an antecedent stimulus influences the likelihood that a response will occur

  • Stimulus control: you are under stimulus control when a particular response is acceptable under certain conditions

    - bell rings > class leaves


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Antecedent Stimulus

  • Stimulus Generalization: when an organism responds to a range of stimuli; based on initial pairing

  • Generalization gradient: tendency for organisms to generalize more readily as stimuli become more similar to the discriminative stimulus


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Antecedent Stimulus

  • Stimulus Discrimination

  • Learning when a response will and will not be reinforced

  • Process of learning the conditioned response R>S

  • Ex: child sees a baseball bat and calls it a bat: reinforced child sees a bucket and calls it a bat: no reinforcement

    - If this is done, child should eventually learn to discriminate between bat and bucket


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