The Benefits Of Intermittent Reinforcement

  • Rewarding the behavior immediately may take time away from the behavior’s continuation.
  • It’s cheaper not to reward every instance of a desired behavior.
  • By making the rewards unpredictable, you trigger excitement and thus get an increase in response without increasing the amount of reinforcement.
  • Since the person is already adapted to not always being rewarded, they take longer to stopping the behavior when reinforcement is removed.

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The Psychology Of Behavior

In trying to change a behavior, reason will take you only so far, incentives must be taken into account as well. 

In psychology, operant conditioning is a type of learning in which the strength of a behavior is modified by its consequences, such as reward or punishment. This is the predominant theory on how humans behave.

Continuous Versus Intermittent Reinforcement

Studies on reinforcement revealed that the best way for us to learn complex behaviors is via continuous reinforcement, in which the desired behavior is rewarded every time it’s performed. Consistency and timing are the keys.

Nonetheless, some argue that intermittent reinforcement is the most efficient way to maintain an already learnt behavior. It consists of giving reinforcement only some of the times that the desired behavior occurs.

Scheduling the rewards on intermittent reinforcement can be used on various schedules, each with its own degree of effectiveness and situations to which it can be appropriately applied. Some of the schedules are:

  • Fixed-ratio: used to reward based on the amount of work done.
  • Variable-ratio: are unpredictable as the amount of work done between rewards varies. This normally produces more work than any other schedule. (Varying the intervals between rewards also makes it unpredictable, but that often makes people feel unappreciated.)
  • Fixed-interval: rewards people for the time spent on a specific task. Response rates on this schedule are low as effort is not rewarded.
  • It’s behavior suppressing powers usually disappears when the threat of punishment is removed.
  • It often triggers a fight-or-flight response and renders us aggressive if escape is not an option.
  • It inhibits the ability to learn new and better responses, often leading to responses such as escape, aggression, and learned helplessness
  • Punishment also fails to show subjects what they must do and instead focuses on what not to do.
  • It is often applied unequally as we are ruled by bias in our assessment of who deserves to be punished.
Motivational Alternatives To Punishment
  • Stopping rewards to an undesirable behavior while rewarding desirable behaviors.
  • Positively reinforcing a less preferred activity with a more preferred activities.
  • Giving a prompt, a stimulus that encourages the desired behavior. Then reinforcing any approximation to the target response; that’s called shaping. 

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RELATED IDEAS

Alfred Binet
  • He was a French psychologist who partially contributed to the formation of IQ test - the objective measurement for intelligence;
  • He studied physiology after getting his law degree in 1878, then worked at a neurological clinic in Paris in 1880s, then pursued a long term career in research and became a director of the Sorbonne; and
  • Has published over 200 books and articles on diverse subject matters;

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IDEAS

  • Biological Theories suggest genetics are responsible for personality traits.
  • Behavioural Theories suggest that personality is the result of interaction between the individual and the environment.
  • Psychodynamic Theories of personality emphasize the influence of the unconscious mind and childhood experiences on personality.
  • Humanist Theories emphasize the importance of free will and individual experience in the development of personality.
  • Trait Theories think personality is made up of several broad traits.

Procrastination is delaying an intended course of action despite expecting negative consequences for the delay.

Possible causes for procrastination:

  • Task unpleasantness. Boring, frustrating and aversive tasks.
  • Self-efficacy. Believing in your ability to do a task.
  • Task delay when rewards and punishments are more distant.
  • Impulsiveness. You are easily distractable and less able to resist it.
  • Organization. Being more organized is associated with less procrastination.
  • Achievement motivation. The higher you value achievement, the less you will procrastinate.

Learned industriousness claims that when you are rewarded for expending higher effort, the experience of effortful activity itself is reinforced, leading to a willingness to work harder for bigger payoffs.

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