Tips for understanding and using reinforcement at home ~ Series 1 of 5
By: Thomas Altro
1. Reinforcement: What is it?
Professor Henry Schlinger (2016) recently proposed a wonderful definition of reinforcement:
An event “that follows a response and increases the probability of similar responses under similar circumstances.”
Sometimes this event be something preferred following an appropriate response, which increases those or similar responses. We refer to this a s positive reinforcement. Here, positive simply means that we are adding something following a response. Other times, we may remove something non-preferred following a response, which increases those or similar responses. We refer to this as negative reinforcement. The important thing to note is that reinforcement always results in an increase in the l responses. The terms “positive” and “negative” simply mean we are giving something preferred or removing something not preferred following the response.
Below are examples of both positive and negative reinforcement in common, everyday situations.
• Johnny has not had a cookie all day and usually wants cookies when he arrives home from school. Sometimes Johnny will fall to the floor and scream that he wants a cookie. Other times he will point in the direction of the cookie jar and say, “Cookie.” We can increase the behavior of Johnny asking for a cookie appropriately by giving Johnny a cookie only after he asks appropriately (response). Thelikelihood of Johnny asking appropriately will increase when he arrives home from school and wants a cookie.
• Sometimes when you are helping Jill with her homework she begins screaming and crying in order to get out of doing her work. Other times, Jill asks nicely for a break. We can increase Jill’s asking for a break appropriately by allowing her to take a break only after she asks nicely. The likelihood of Jill asking for a break appropriately will increase.