Types of the Reinforcement Schedule

There are two types of reinforcement schedules-

1. Continuous Reinforcement

In continuous reinforcement., the desired behavior is reinforced every single time it occurs. This schedule is best used during the initial stages of learning in order to a strong association between the behavior and the response. Once the response if firmly attached, reinforcement is usually switched to a partial reinforcement schedule.

2. Partial Reinforcement

In partial reinforcement, the response is reinforced only part of the time. Learned behaviors are acquired more slowly with partial reinforcement, but the response is more resistant to extinction.

There are four schedules of partial reinforcement:

  • Fixedratio schedules are those where a response is reinforced only after a specified number of responses. This schedule produces a high, steady rate of responding with only a brief pause after the delivery of the reinforcer. An example of a fixed-ratio schedule would be delivering a food pellet to a rat after it presses a bar five times.
  • Variable-ratio schedules occur when a response is reinforced after an unpredictable number of responses. This schedule creates a high steady rate of responding. Gambling and lottery games are good examples of a reward based on a variable ratio schedule. In a lab setting, this might involve delivering food pellets to a rat after one bar press, again after four bar presses, and the third pellet after two bar presses.
  • Fixed-interval schedules: re those where the first response is rewarded only after a specified amount of time has elapsed. This schedule causes high amounts of responding near the end of the interval but much slower responding immediately after the delivery of the reinforcer. An example of this in a lab setting would be reinforcing a rat with a lab pellet for the first bar press after a 30-second interval has
  • Variable-interval schedules occur when a response is rewarded with an unpredictable amount of time has passed. This schedule produces a slow, steady rate of response. An example of this would be delivering a food pellet to a rat after the first bar press following a one-minute interval, another pellet for the first response following a five-minute interval, and a third food pellet for the first response following a three-minute interval.

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