Mark Pearl

Three types of responses

  • Neutral operants: responses from the environment that neither increase nor decrease the probability of a behavior being repeated.

  • Reinforcers: Responses from the environment that increase the probability of a behavior being repeated. Reinforcers can be either positive or negative.

  • Punishers: Responses from the environment that decrease the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. Punishment weakens behavior.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement strengthens a behavior by providing a consequence an individual finds rewarding.

Negative Reinforcement

The removal of an unpleasant reinforcer can also strengthen behavior. This is known as negative reinforcement because it is the removal of an adverse stimulus which is ‘rewarding’ to the animal or person. Negative reinforcement strengthens behavior because it stops or removes an unpleasant experience.


There are many problems with using punishment, such as:

  • Punished behavior is not forgotten, it’s suppressed - behavior returns when punishment is no longer present.
  • Causes increased aggression - shows that aggression is a way to cope with problems.
  • Creates fear that can generalize to undesirable behaviors, e.g., fear of school.
  • Does not necessarily guide toward desired behavior - reinforcement tells you what to do, punishment only tells you what not to do.

Schedules of Reinforcement

Two key elements

  • The Response Rate
  • The Extinction Rate

#@ 5 intervals of reinforcement

1) Continuous Reinforcement 2) Fixed Ratio Reinforcement 3) Fixed Interval Reinforcement 4) Variable Ratio Reinforcement 5) Variable Interval Reinforcement

Most effective one is variable ratio reinforcement Least effective is continous reinforcement


Simply Psychology Skinner Operant Conditioning Details

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