What are the different schedules for reinforcement in operant conditioning?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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If you are talking simply about the timing of reinforcement, there are two different types of schedule.  One is called a fixed interval schedule and the other is called a variable interval schedule.  There are also two other kinds of schedules.  These are fixed ratio schedules and variable ratio schedules.

In fixed interval schedules, the reinforcement is given at a set time.  For example, a rat could be reinforced once every minute.  A variable interval schedul reinforces at random times.

A fixed ratio schedule reinforces a behavior every X number of times that it is done.  For example, a rat might be reinforced every time it pushes a lever 10 times.  For a variable ratio, the reinforcement is connected to the behavior, but it takes a more random number of behaviors to trigger the reinforcement.

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Yojana_Thapa | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Reinforcement schedules

Continuous Reinforcement

Occurs when the reinforcement is given every time the behavior is down; reinforcing the desired response every time it occurs.

Extinction may occur; when we stop delivering food every time the rat presses the bar (the behavior soon stops)

Partial (intermittent) reinforcement

Reinforcing a response only part of the time; reinforcement is not given after every behavior; much greater resistance to extinction

 Fixed-Ratio schedules

Reinforces a response only after a specified number of responses (after a set numbers of behaviors; ratio)

Variable- Ratio Schedule

Reinforces a response after unpredictable number of responses, produces high-rate of responding; reinforcers increase as the responses increase

Fixed-interval schedules

Reinforces a response only after a specified time elapsed

Variable-interval schedules

Reinforces a response at unpredictable time intervals; slow steady responding

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