Psychology in Action

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B . Basic Principles - Reinforcement is anything that is likely to cause and increase in the response. Punishment is anything that is likely to cause a decrease in the response. Primary reinforcers satisfy an unlearned biological need and secondary reinforcers have learned value. Positive reinforcement occurs when something is added to increase the response rates. Negative reinforcement, which is different from punishment, occurs when something is removed in order to increase the response rate. There are several kinds of schedules of reinforcement. Continuous schedules reinforce each response. Partial schedules reinforce some, but not all responses. The major types of partial reinforcement schedules are fixed ratio, variable ratio, fixed interval, and variable interval. Shaping is the process of teaching a person or an animal a complex task by reinforcing successive approximations to a desired response. Instructor’s Resource Guide Chapter 6          Page   183
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There are also two kinds of punishment, positive and negative. Positive punishment occurs when something is given to decrease the response rate. Negative punishment consists of removing something to decrease the response rate. (It is helpful here to remind students to think in mathematical terms – positive (add) and negative (take away). Punishment has several serious side effects including increased aggression as well as learned helplessness. Psychology at Work: Why Can’t We Get Anything Done Around Here? - Students are given an opportunity to consider the effective use of reinforcement and punishment in a work scenario and keep the following tips in mind: (1) Feedback . Provide clear and immediate feedback when the person or animal makes the desired response; (2) Timing. Apply reinforcers or punishers as soon as possible after the response is made; (3) Consistency . Be consistent in applying both reinforcers and punishers; (4) Order of Presentation. Be sure to reinforce or punish after the behavior has been exhibited; and (5) Combine Key Learning Principles. As with classical conditioning, operant conditioning uses the following terms: stimulus generalization, stimulus discrimination, extinction, and spontaneous recovery. Extinction occurs when the reinforcement is withheld until the subject stops responding to the stimulus. Spontaneous recovery occurs when a previously extinguished response spontaneously returns. The difficulty in extinguishing a response is directly related to the schedule of reinforcement being used to strengthen the response. Critical Thinking/Active Learning: Using Learning Principles to Succeed in College - Students are presented with an active learning activity and asked to apply what they have learned about the principles of learning to their college experience.
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