Versions Compared

Key

  • This line was added.
  • This line was removed.
  • Formatting was changed.
Comment: added reference to video under schedules of reinforcement

OUTLINE

Anchor
top
top

Overview of Reinforcement Theory      

Law of Effect

Quantitative Law of Effect

Types of Reinforcement

Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement

Negative Reinforcement

Avoidance

Reinforcement and its Role in Undesirable Behavior: Substance and/or Alcohol Abuse

Negative Punishment, Extinction, and Positive Punishment

Positive Punishment

Extinction

Negative Punishment

Guidelines to Ensure Effective Workplace Punishment

Ramifications of Ineffective and Inappropriate Punishment

Schedules of Reinforcement

The Differences Between Reinforcement and Punishment

Shaping

Research on Reinforcement Theory

Strengths and Weaknesses of Reinforcement Theory

Application of Reinforcement Theory in the Workplace

Useful Tools for Reinforcement Theory in the Workplace

Alternatives to Reinforcement Theory

References

 

Anchor
overview
overview

back to top

Overview of Reinforcement Theory 

...

Anchor
lawofeffect
lawofeffect

back to top 

Law of Effect 

Economists and psychologists commonly assume that behavior is shaped by its consequences, known as the Law of Effect. Psychologists understand that animals try different behaviors, assess the effects, and respond by doing more of the things that result in positive results versus negative. This states that people engage in behaviors that have pleasant outcomes and avoid behaviors that result in unpleasant outcomes. (Thorndike, 1913). From this view, the important consequence of a behavior is the information it provides about behavioral outcomes. The effect of the information is to alter policy (Gallistel, 1998).

...

Anchor
quantitativelaw
quantitativelaw

back to top

Quantitative Law of Effect

...

Anchor
typesofreinforcement
typesofreinforcement

back to top

Types of Reinforcement

According to Huitt & Hummel (1997), four methods are employed in operant conditioning: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment.  The table below is derived from the table created by Huitt & Hummel (1997): 

...

Anchor
positiveandnegativereinforcement
positiveandnegativereinforcement

back to top

Positive and Negative Reinforcement

...

Anchor
positivereinforcement
positivereinforcement

back to top

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is "Any pleasant or desirable consequences that follows a response and increases the possibility that the response will be repeated" (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2005). 

...

Anchor
negativereinforcement
negativereinforcement

back to top

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is a "psychological reinforcement by the removal of an unpleasant stimulus when a desired response occurs" (Negative Reinforcement, n.d.).

...

B.F. Skinner used the rat to demonstrate positive reinforcement, but he also utilized the same test to prove negative reinforcement. Skinner placed an electric current inside the box which was an unpleasant stimulus for the rat. The rat inadvertently hit the lever and learned that this turned the electric current off. Through several trials, the rat learned that if it went straight to the lever, it would turn off the current (McLeod, 2007).

Anchor
avoidance
avoidance

back to top

Avoidance Learning

Avoidance learning acts similarly to negative reinforcement, except "the desired behavior serves to prevent the onset of a noxious stimulus, or in a variant, terminates such a stimulus that already exists" (Miner, 2007). Criticism from a supervisor could serve as a noxious stimulus. While avoidance learning can serve to be effective in some cases, positive reinforcement is often preferred (Miner, 2007). Avoidance learning can be seen in the workplace when an employee exhibits the desired behavior in an effort to avoid the consequence, such as being criticized by one's supervisor.

...

Anchor
reinforcementrolesubstanceabuse
reinforcementrolesubstanceabuse

 

back to top

Reinforcement and its Role in Undesirable Behavior: Substance and/or Alcohol Abuse

...

Anchor
negativeextinctionpositivepunishment
negativeextinctionpositivepunishment

back to top

Negative Punishment, Extinction, and Positive Punishment

...

Anchor
positivepunishment
positivepunishment

back to top

Positive Punishment

The type of punishment most people are familiar with is positive punishment. Positive punishment is easier for people to identify because it is common in society. It is usually called “punishment” or “punishment by application” (D. Hockenbury & S. Hockenbury, 2010). Positive punishment occurs when a stimulus is presented following an undesired behavior and subsequent occurrences of the undesired behavior are reduced or eliminated (Cheney & Pierce, 2004). Using the example of a chatty co-worker, the employee could be orally reprimanded for spending too much time conversing with co-workers. It is important to realize that even though consequences such as suspension, demotions, etc. induce dislike, they do not qualify as punishments unless they lessen or eliminate the undesired behavior.  

...

Anchor
extinction
extinction

back to top

Extinction

Extinction, on the other hand, involves withholding the pleasing stimulus that is maintaining the unwanted behavior each time the behavior occurs. This happens until the behavior gradually decreases to zero or the desired level (M. Sundel & S. Sundel, 2005). Using the above example of the disruptive employee, his supervisor instructs his co-workers to ignore his non work-related comments and not respond to them.  The response from his co-workers is the pleasing stimulus maintaining his behavior.  Without it, the employee no longer chats about non work-related business and becomes more productive as a result. It is important to remember that extinction is not permanent and that the behavior may return after the extinction process is complete, a process called spontaneous recovery (Coon, 2006).

...

Anchor
negativepunishment
negativepunishment

back to top

Negative Punishment

Negative punishment involves removing a pleasing stimulus other than the one maintaining the behavior in order to decrease the frequency of the behavior. Normally, the behavior decreases immediately (M. Sundel & S. Sundel, 2005).  An example of negative punishment might be an office worker who disrupts his co-workers by constantly chatting about non work-related subjects.  His co-workers usually respond to him and are polite, which is the pleasing stimulus maintaining his disruptive behavior.  His supervisor informs him that, if he remains disruptive, he will not receive his yearly pay raise.  Another form of negative punishment could be the removal of his desk from his co-workers and placement in a more isolated area.  The removal of the pay raise and the loss of the prime location in the office space are the negative punishment in his example because they are pleasing stimuli, but not the one directly maintaining his behavior (M. Sundel & S. Sundel, 2005).  According to D. Hockenbury and S. Hockenbury (2010), negative punishment may also be referred to as punishment by removal.

...

Anchor
guidelinestoensureeffectivepunishment
guidelinestoensureeffectivepunishment

back to top

Guidelines to ensure effective workplace punishment:

...

Anchor
ramificationsofineffectivepunishment
ramificationsofineffectivepunishment

back to top

Ramifications of Ineffective and Inappropriate Punishment

...

Funder (2007) notes that rewards can have the opposite effect.  A good worker will always seek to impress the boss by presenting at every opportunity their positive actions, for which the boss reciprocates. Through this communication he finds himself more in tune with the inner workings of his office.  This behavior is to be noted in children as well. A child who expects reward will consistently attempt to impress their parents with their good behaviors, whereas a child who is constantly under attack and living in fear of punishment will attempt to sever communication as much as possible with the punisher.  In the words of Funder, "punishment works great if you apply correctly -- but to apply it correctly, it helps to be a genius and a saint" (Funder, 2007, p.494).

 

back to top

 

Schedules of Reinforcement

...

Anchor
differences
differences

back to top 

Differences Between Reinforcement and Punishment

...

(Lisasgar3461, 2011)


Anchor
shaping
shaping

back to top

Shaping

Skinner developed a method of shaping or “method of successive approximations” to provide guidance on acquiring more complex types of behaviors.  Shaping with successive approximations is used to elicit a behavior that has never been displayed, or rarely occurs, by building the desired behavior progressively and rewarding each improvement on the behavior until the desired behavior is reached.  According to M. Sundel and S. Sundel (2005), the following steps must be taken to shape a behavior:

...

Another example involves Skinner and his students at Harvard University. The story is legendary albeit anecdotal: Skinner's students decided to try out the shaping technique on Skinner himself by making him give his lectures from the door, with one foot in the hallway instead of from the podium. When Skinner was lecturing from the podium, they pretended to be disinterested by looking bored and shuffling their feet. As soon as the instructor took one step away from the podium, they pretended to pay attention and showed keen interest in the lecture. When Skinner became conditioned to lecturing one step away from the podium, students raised the criterion for their attention to two steps away from the podium. Eventually, by raising the criteria, each time further and further away from the podium, they were able to make Skinner give his lectures from the door, with one foot in the hallway. He would occasionally run to the podium to look at his notes and then return to the door to continue his lecture. When one of his colleagues asked him why he was lecturing from the door, Skinner replied:  "Don't you know, the light is much better in the doorway." This example can serve to illustrate the effectiveness of behaviorism as well as its somewhat manipulative nature (Funder, 2010).
     

Anchor
research
research

back to top 

Research on Reinforcement Theory

...

Anchor
strengthsandweaknesses
strengthsandweaknesses

back to top

Strengths and Weaknesses of Reinforcement Theory

...

Anchor
application
application
 

back to top

Application of Reinforcement Theory in the Workplace

...

Anchor
usefultools
usefultools

back to top

Useful Tools for Reinforcement Theory in the Workplace

...

Anchor
alternatives
alternatives

back to top

Alternatives to Reinforcement Theory

...

Anchor
references
references

back to top

References

Addiction Intervention (2013) Both Positive and Negative Reinforcements Can Create Behavior Changes.  Retrieved on February 1st, 2013 from http://www.addiction-intervention.com/current-events/addiction-news/both-positive-and-negative-reinforcements-can-create-behavior-changes

...

Van Wagner, K.  (2010b).  Schedules of reinforcement.  Retrieved January 24, 2010, from About.com: Psychology:  http://psychology.about.com/od/behavioralpsychology/a/schedules.htm

Walsh, J. (2013). Operant Conditioning: Schedules of Reinforcement. Retrieved September 19, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ofbt16AJgg

What Makes a Good Leader.  (n.d.).  Managing Change in the workplace.  Retrieved September 13, 2009, from http://www.whatmakesagoodleader.com/Managing-Change-in-the-Workplace.html

...