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Original comments[edit]

I'm an educated person, but I find this article virtually incomprehensible. Is there any way to make it clearer for the layperson, Wikipedia's intended audience? I realize that experts will think that it's dumbed-down, but the article is not for the experts. AverageGuy 01:05, 19 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Agreed, this is gobbledegook. We're not all sociology PHDs. BoneyMaloney 05:35, Mar 31, 2005 (UTC)

Is anyone willing to take a stab at simplifying this? If not, I'll try, but would rather leave it to someone more expert in the field. AverageGuy 02:37, 6 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Step 1: Where the censored are the pictures? Step 2: I think you are done. (talk) 12:32, 4 February 2013 (UTC)

Okay, I'm gingerly giving it a shot. Incidentally, I think the technical-sounding definitions here are not quite right anyway and the references cited (medical dictionary & animal training site) are not authoritative in behavioral psychology. If no one screams, I'll offer some re-workings of various sections over the next few days. –User:Duldan 23 Jun 2005

No one screamed, so I simplified and expanded quite a bit more. If anyone can help with that hack-job table, please do. –Duldan 28 June 2005 20:49 (UTC)

I'll lend a hand in this, I'm a psychology student (put emphasis on first-year though)--Janarius 1 July 2005 03:42 (UTC)

I have added an image that shows the different response rate of between the schedules of reinforcement, but I made it from scratch and does not look professional at all. Someone make or get a better one. Oh, where do I need to simplify? I mean I understand all of this, but I don't know where's the problem.--Janarius 2 July 2005 03:46 (UTC)

Janarius, I like your image. It's sharp & clear. So nice-looking I figured it might be cribbed, at first glance. A few thoughts:
  • The blue line is "FI" but I think you mean "FR"? If it is FR, it would characteristically be a sort of stair-step pattern with a plateau after each reinforcement.
  • For the y-axis label "Cumulative number of responses" might be less ambiguous? (Amount of response could seem like how hard the rat hits the bar.)
  • Could something say that each hatch mark is an occurrence of reinforcement? That could be said down in the caption.
I also like your additions re: gambling, the VI average, money, DRL, & DRA. I disagree with some other changes, but I'll comment on them later. I wanted to reinforce your image-making quickly. Oh, I agree: "Simplify" tag deleted. –Duldan 2 July 2005 22:30 (UTC)
Glad to be of service and I am very grateful for your observations over several of my mistakes. About Fixed ratio: Yes, I know... But then I'll have to explain why and the same about Fixed Interval. (sighs) --Janarius 3 July 2005 01:59 (UTC)
Well I updated my image. But, when I looked there was no change at all. I'll resubmit at a later time. Anyway, Duldan, I followed your recommendations and made the appropriate corrections and also my explanations over why FR is stair-cased and why FI is like that. But, I do need some help for FI. So anyone in psych. please help.--Janarius 5 July 2005 03:41 (UTC)

ratio strain[edit]

Concerning about ratio strain, I believe the effects were an increase in length of time in post-reinforcement pauses. However, I could not immediately verify because I lended my learning book (Paul Chance, 2003) to a friend. --Janarius 15:24, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

Quick Thanks[edit]

I normally wouldn't do this, but I just wanted to thank the authors of this piece for their clear understanding and articulation. Psychology is something I've studied a great deal of, and it's always frustrating to see this rampant misuse of "positive/negative reinforcement." --AWF

Maybe we should refer psych students to wikipedia instead of our expensive textbooks. But i'm just fooling around.--Janarius 14:23, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

"The Punishers"[edit]

I removed the following section, "The Punishers." It's barely more than an outline of a possible section, it's full of meaningless punctuation (what do those three brackets mean?), and it was in addition put in the middle of another section. As they say at the bottom of the edit page, if you want to experiment, use the sandbox. Once it's complete we can then see if it adds anything to the article.

=== The Punishers ===
Punishment causes the rate of the subject's behavior or extinguish. Positive punishment is addition of something, negative is the removal of something. A dog barking will cease barking when the bark is paired with a positive punisher, i.e. an electric shock. Negaitve punishment is the subtraction of something.
  • need example of negative punishment -- subtracting something causing a subject's behavior to decrease.

an example of negative punishment: Dog is jumping up on you (undesired behavior) when you are filling up his food bowl. You dump the food in the garbage when the dog jumps on you. (negative=take away or subtract) (punishment=makes a behavior less likely to occur in the future) so negative punishment in this case is take away the food which should lessen the jumping behavior. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Kurtva (talkcontribs) 01:49, 20 November 2011 (UTC)

      • needs revision bad and good are not neutral ***

John FitzGerald 04:09, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

The Reinforcers[edit]

And i removed this from "The Reinforcers":

Speaking colloquially, an aversive stimulus is something the animal finds "bad;" its removal is thus a "good" thing from the animal's point of view.

That isn't what an aversive stimulus is. I realize this is an attempt to make the ideas easier too understand, but one of the important points about reinforcement is that it does not require the invocation of mental states. I'm open to argument, though, which is why I preserved the passage here. John FitzGerald 04:08, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

In section 1.2, Secondary Reinforcers, there is this "sentence" at the end of the first paragraph:

reinforcers are given to the nedded as help the peaple needed of reinforcements can use them in any way seemed necesarry like sending them to the enemies to let the needed escape even at the cost of death

Would someone care to clarify this or, if need be, delete it? Thanks. Jeff -- (talk) 23:43, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

The authors of this section, and related ones really need to draft a more precise explanation of Postive and Negative reinforcement in the context of Positive and Negative Punishment. Methinks part of the problem with novice and hobby Psych. Students is not only the ambiguity with the use of the adjectives "positive" and "negative" but the burden of having to criticize half a century of this ambiguity in the terminology.
For example, if "Positive" reinforcement requires the application of a stimuli in response to a behaviour (Instrumental conditioning) then that stimuli can be rewarding or aversive. Conversely, although some earlier texts (eq.Psychology Silverman, Robert E. Prentice-Hall 1970) distinquish between aversive stimuli used for Negative reinforcement and Punishment, if the behaviour is altered when the punishment stimuli ceases or the anticipation that the punishment will cease, then it is crudely representative of a "negative" reinforcement..... non?
Some readers may have heard of the colloquial anecdote: "....It's like the guy standing on the street banging his head against a brick wall over and over again. When asked why he was doing it, he replied: 'I don't know, but it sure feels good when I stop......"[1](for example)
Whatever, my interest in this topic is the concept of random aversive effects presenting themselves as functional stimuli. The most extreme cases bordering on mild Post Trauma Stress.
For example, issuing a traffic fine for dangerous driving practices (a form of applied aversive punishment (?)) as compared to a subject being invoved in a vehicle collision (consequential (defacto) aversive punishment (?)). The resulting trauma may(?) lead to improved driving practices even if the subject was not at fault. In this case the "punishment" improves behaviour - better defensive driving - even though the previous behaviour was adequate. Nevertheless, the improved behaviour may be little consolation for the other less desirable post trauma effects.
As a postscript, an analgous ambiguity in terminology exists when describing Homeostasis and Control Systems in general. Positive feedback leads to unstable control systems, negative feedback provides the usually most desirable stable systems.
The longer a science takes to reconfigure it's basic terminology, the more difficult the task.
Pete318 (talk) 18:17, 15 February 2010 (UTC)


This article could really do with some laymans examples. Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, etc.

An example of positive reinforcement could be something as simple as saying "good job" after completion of a task. When offering positive reinforcement in elementary and secondary school, it is important to praise effort not accomplishment.

An example of negative reinforcement would be paying a fine or losing a privilege. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:17, 27 October 2009 (UTC)

Re: Examples[edit]

Your example of positive reinforcement is not detailed enough for an education classroom. You cannot just tell a child "Good job" for completing a task. You have to elaborate on that task. For example, if a child completes a math problem that they had been struggling with you should say, "Great job! I can see that you understand how to solve these types of problems>" This praises the child and encourages them to keep trying when they find something difficult.

A negative reinforcement would involve the removing of an aversive stimulus. For instance, a child continually gets sick right before they have to take a test and is sent home. This behavior allows the student to get out of taking the test, so getting sick is maintained through negative reinforcement. This is negative reinforcement because the test disappears and the behavior repeats. (talk) 18:21, 8 November 2009 (UTC)

Maybe this is not the right place, but I'm not sure where else the 'right' place would be. A different type of 'negative reinforcement' that I have not seen discussed (and perhaps that's why it's not here) is delivering a 'punishment' when the subject gives an incorrect response to a training exercise. I'm not sure that 'punishment' is a valid use of the word in this context in that it is not intended to punish in the conventional sense, but to trigger an adverse emotion to the original emotion that generated the incorrect response. For example, near the beginning of the movie 'Ghost Busters', 'Dr Venkman' is administering a psychic evaluation test to two subjects. Although in this scene he is clearly partial to the female (and even punishes the male when in fact he got one right), the point of the test is this: when the test subject 'feels' the value of the card and responds, they might be rewarded if correct, or receive a punishment (electric shock) when incorrect. The shock is not to simply punish, but to 'train' the subject that the emotion they 'felt' when they chose incorrectly was wrong, and by not being shocked, or by receiving a positive reinforcement when correct, to help the subjects recognize the 'correct' emotions. I am by no means a scholar in these topics, I am simply fascinated by the works of people like Skinner and Milgram, so I don't know how to explain it in technical terms, or even in layman's terms that make sense on this page. Guy.cooper (talk) 16:34, 11 December 2010 (UTC)

What about "intermittent reinforcement"?[edit]

Article is not well-written and gives no references or citations. KarenAnn 15:54, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

See this diff: [2], which i have just reverted. Circeus 15:40, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

Response rate[edit]

I'm taking out the statement at the beginning of Types of reinforcement recently changed without explanation by an anonymous user to assert that reinforcement may only increase response rate. I think I know what was meant, but if I'm right that only means that the initial definition in the article is superior to the one which appears in Types of reinforcement and there's no point confusing people. Anyway, if people want to restore the statement they're going to have to provide more detail about exactly what they mean. As the statement stands now, it's wrong. John FitzGerald 14:51, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

Looks good to me now, I moved the types of reinforcement section so it's right after the definition. The gap between the definition and the types caused by the schedules made it hard to remember the counterintuitive definition of reinforcement. Plus, I'd say types of reinforcement is more important than schedule and should come first. WLU 15:44, 13 November 2006 (UTC)


I'm not sure why punishment is in this article, it should be in punishment. I'm moving it. WLU 13:09, 19 February 2007 (UTC)

I surmised the reason is because there wasn't much info that makes punishment have its own page, but the added info in the new article is good work. Also, I'm going to copy-paste some text from punishment (psychology) into reinforcement in order to briefly explain positive and negative punishment just to keep the context intact.--Janarius 15:06, 19 February 2007 (UTC)
I think the context about reinforcement isn't about reward, but more like behavioural change.--Janarius 15:11, 19 February 2007 (UTC)

Premack principle[edit]

The Premack principle has its own page, but as a specific case of reinforcement, I think it's better off as a heading on this page. Any thoughts? WLU 19:04, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

I believe you are right. It's an aspect of reinforcement and there's no good reason for it to have its own page. John FitzGerald 14:51, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
I guess so, well it is a stub so why not. And merge reinforcement hierarchy too.--Janarius 15:09, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
Since the premack principle is regarded as the most widely accepted in the psychological community today, it merits a separate page.

Since it can never be expanded beyond stub, it should remain part of the R+ page. WLU 17:40, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

I agree with John FitzGerald in the sense that the Premack principle pertains specifically to reinforcement, and that it therefore should remain part of the original reinforcement page. Although I do feel, however, that the example could better, with a real would connection. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:42, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

I agree with the latter comment as well as relating it to a real-life example (IvanaPorcic (talk) 22:20, 28 February 2017 (UTC))

VR schedule[edit]

Variable ratio schedules are not most immune to extinction if you consider the response unit hypothesis of the partial reinforcement effect. Under that hypothesis, continuous reinforcement is the most immune to extinction. Also, it will vary dramatically by the emotional aspect of behavior in humans. Consider, for instance, situations where variable ratio schedules and variable interval schedules are hard to differentiate (e.g., in a situation of an abused spouse). I don't feel like going into it or writing up the whole thing, but I would say that such a broad statement about extinction and variable ratio schedules is only "potentially supported" by the literature at best and completely inaccurate at worst. 22:35, 10 April 2007 (UTC)BubbaLeeJohnson

As far as I understand, variable reinforcement are the most immune to extinction, and continuous reinforcement is the least. You need a source for that bub. WLU 12:25, 11 April 2007 (UTC)
No, Bubba is right. The response unit hypothesis makes a very good argument for continuous reinforcement being more immune to extinction. The hypotheis is a specific data organization and behavioral operationalization. I will write more on it with citations. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 21:03, 25 April 2007 (UTC).

comments for the newly merged section[edit]

I merged the article schedule of reinforcement into the section schedules of reinforcement.Any comments for the newly merged section for schedules of reinforcement?--Janarius 18:40, 12 April 2007 (UTC)

Overall looks good, the longer paragraphs could use some breaking up perhaps, there's some minor wording issues, and the section could do with some wikilinks, but a very solid start I think. I'll have a gander in the coming days if I think of it. --WLU 19:50, 12 April 2007 (UTC)
I re-worked the SoR section, trying to shorten and clarify it as much as possible. Also added two tags about merging in two orphan articles - Concurrent schedules of reinforcement and Superimposed schedules of reinforcement --WLU 17:44, 13 April 2007 (UTC)
Schedules of reinforcement with the other two articles would become long enough to be a separate article now. BTW, I agree with another user about merging reinforcement hierarchy. Kpmiyapuram 13:13, 1 May 2007 (UTC)

Change of definition[edit]

I started with a change of the definition. I "cited" but will add the cite to the reference section soon. If I didn't "wiki" it right, I apologize. I just was having students rely on the page, and some of the material was a bit misleading. --Nmfbd 17:56, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

There are some links on your talk page to help with formatting. You may also want to read WP:LEAD before doing too much more - the lead section is very long right now, and go into too much detail. The information you added looks good, but it should probably be in its own section with its own heading. WLU 18:23, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

Removed section[edit]

I removed the 'superstitious behavior' section - it was empty, and should not remain on the page until it can be filled with at least some text. Also keep in mind the need to avoid original research; such a section, though obvious to anyone with knowledge of behaviorism, would need to be referenced. I also removed a redlink - it should not be included in the article as a wikilink until the page exists. Though it could be argued that it should be on the page, as long as it merits its own page and is needed. Minor points of research pursued by a minority of academics should not be included, they should be mainstream topics. Also, please do not add text like 'coming soon' or 'will be added'. If desired, use a talk page sub page to compose the text. Sub pages are meant for exactly these purposes. WLU 15:34, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

I apologize if my Wiki-skills are not up to par. My main reason for changing the page was because, despite my insistence not to do so, my students sometimes use Wikipedia as a back-up reference. When I looked at the reinforcement page, there were several statements that were completely inaccurate, though notably minor. My goal was and is (there are other sections that need changes) to make the material accurate. Then I was going to go back, reword information, move to the "wiki tone" and add citations, etc. I still will make some changes on this page and have some on other pages. I'll try to keep the tone the same, but I will have to cite later. I will also try to find citations for some of the schedule stuff that other people have contributed. Anyway, sorry if stuff I'm adding causes formatting inconveniences. I think Wiki can be an excellent resource for students, so I figured I'd add to the information. --Nmfbd 17:11, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

No apologies necessary, everyone's got something to learn. I still haven't figured out how to make my user page pretty. To do a really good job adding to articles, you usually have to spend a fair amount of time at the outset reading up on policies and the Manual of Style. Again, if you are coming from a teaching perspective, remember that wikipedia is a reference manual, not a textbook (see here, point 6). You get the hang of it after a while.

Incidentally, wikipedia is a terrible source for students and should never, ever be in a references section. Or if it is, they should include a weblink to the specific version they are citing. Lazy buggers.

As a final note, dedicated conributors who are sincere about improving the pages are never inconveniences. Welcome! It's frustrating here. You eventually learn to hate anonymous IP addresses. I do notice that the vandalism has died down a lot since the beginning of exam time. WLU 17:43, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Moving contingent/contiguous stuff[edit]

This was moved under "other reinforcement terms." I don't think they should be there. They aren't reinforcement terms, and they really are ways to strengthen reinforcement likelihood. The original article that I decided to edit included contingency and contiguity as part of the definition of reinforcement--they aren't, but they are important in reinforcement. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Nmfbd (talkcontribs)

I moved them 'cause in my mind the article should read like a newspaper - most general and important information first, with specifics coming later. Those two terms are extra info about reinforcement, not the main event, so make more sense to me elsewhere than the definition section. Since they are important to reinforcement, they should definitely be in the article, but not in the main section.
I'm also of the opinion that the punishment stuff should be taken out - I'm not sure why it's even in the article considering there's a main page about it. WLU 17:31, 27 April 2007 (UTC)
Yeah, I was wondering about the punishment stuff. The only reason I could see it justified is that negative reinforcement and punishment generally occur together, but I was wondering why it was there. --Nmfbd 17:39, 27 April 2007 (UTC)
The terms contingency and contiguity are covered in operant conditioning, but they are relevant to reinforcement and it would be logical to include them here. However, I don't know what to include or exclude or what belong in here or in operant conditioning article.--Janarius 23:13, 27 April 2007 (UTC)
The terms still are on this page, just moved down a bit. --Nmfbd 07:33, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

Meaning Part 2[edit]

"Reinforcement is the behavioral operationalization of the effects of reinforcers" doesn't strike me as the introduction to the topic which is going to be the most useful to the person unacquainted with the topic. I'm open to argument about its use, though, which is why i haven't changed it. i am goig to go back and take out "In terms of behaviorism" from the same paragraph. Response and organism are scarcely terms restricted to behaviorism, and it is not necessary to understand any special meaning they may have in behaviorism to understand the rest of the sentence. However, beginning the sentence with "In terms of behaviorism" makes it seem to imply that you do require some special knowledge. John FitzGerald 14:21, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

i also changed the sentence to clarify that it is the strength of the response that is reinforced, although on reflection i have to admit that may have been an act of supererogation —The preceding unsigned comment was added by John FitzGerald (talkcontribs) 14:25, 14 May 2007 (UTC).

And isn't the first sentence just saying "Reinforcement is the result of using reinforcers"?. John FitzGerald 20:59, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

Ya, but reinforcement is a more useful term than reinforcer, so I'd leave it as is. It's clunky, but eh. WLU 01:20, 22 May 2007 (UTC)

I don't see the connection, but then I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Anyway, I don't agree that reinforcement is more useful than reinforcer, so I'm unpersuaded regardless of whether there's a connection or not. But perhaps further explanation of your point would be helpful. John FitzGerald 16:40, 22 May 2007 (UTC)

In order to define reinforcement (a concept), one must refer to a reinforcer (a thing; an action or object), so by necessity the term 'reinforcer' must be present in the article. However, beyond that initial required definition, the concept of 'reinforcement' is much handier than continually referring to 'reinforcers'; i.e. schedules of reinforcement rather than schedules of reinforcers. The two are incestuous and counterintuitive, and makes for a messy intro, but IMO it's unavoidable (though feel free to disagree!). Am I clearer? I can't really think of a better way to explain either my point or the article, but questions are always helpful. WLU 20:21, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

Well, my ideas of what's useful have been continually disparaged since I started this article (see above, includig the post in which someone dared to compare me to a...sociologist!), so perhaps I don't have a clue about this issue. I see your point, but I still don't see how saying reinforcement is the effect of reinforcers is informative. Well, a positve approach is sometimes the best, so I'll see if I can come up with a proposal for a new opening. John FitzGerald 15:02, 24 May 2007 (UTC)

Best thing is always to be bold, then clean up the mess when people scream :) I say have a kick at the can, and any regular contributors will doubtless have something to say. The worst that a sincere editor acting in good faith can do is make a factual error, and that'll be corrected. Best case scenario is you improve the page for a layreader, so have at it. WLU 20:14, 24 May 2007 (UTC)

I decided that in conformity with Wikipedia policy we should use the conventional definition of reinforcement, so I have restored it. This behavioral operationalization stuff smacks of OR to me. I also took out several purported examples of reinforcement and punishment which were not in fact examples, at least not without further explanation. If I had more time I'd go at this article with a scythe; there have been too many edits by people who don't seem to understand the concept. John FitzGerald 17:59, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

dogs and bathrooms[edit]

"a dog uses the bathroom outside" <-- Thanks, this made my day :) --JWSchmidt 16:11, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for pointing it out. Made my day,too. I have, however, been dutiful and changed it. John FitzGerald 16:25, 3 June 2007 (UTC)

Other Positive Punishment Examples[edit]

I came up with more examples of positive punishment: a bee sting, developing cancer from smoking, getting cut through the skin from carelessness with a sharp object, a rash from poison oak or ivy, sending nasty emails, and breaking a bone. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Cbsteffen (talkcontribs)

The purpose of the page is not to be exhaustive, it's to provide the most illustrative example. Which would you say out of all of those is the best? WLU 19:09, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
That's a trick question – none of them are, because none of them are examples of punishment in the sense in which it should be used in this article. John FitzGerald 00:39, 21 June 2007 (UTC)

How should they be used in the article? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Cbsteffen (talkcontribs)

They shouldn't be used at all, because they are not examples of the phenomenon. For example, what response is a bee sting punishing? John FitzGerald 17:05, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
Good point, they'd be more accurately described as unconditioned responses, gradually the objects/insects would become conditioned stimuli - operant rather than respondant conditioning. WLU 17:08, 25 June 2007 (UTC)

I already found out that "Punishment" should be its own article. Cbsteffen 01:21, 1 July 2007 (UTC)Cbsteffen

Punishment is its own article. WLU 13:32, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

Remove or Fix Section Entitled Controversies?[edit]

I vote that the short section labelled Controversies be removed. It currently reads:

The standard idea of behavioral reinforcement has been criticized as circular, since it appears to argue that response strength is increased by reinforcement while defining reinforcement as something which increases response strength. Other definitions have been proposed, such as F. D. Sheffield's "consummatory behavior contingent on a response," but these are not broadly used in psychology.

The first sentence makes little sense and the reasoning presented seems neither circular nor controversial but rather appears to merely restate the definition of reinforcement in two slightly different ways. If there is any real controversy here, these two sentences did nothing to enlighten me as to its nature.

Please sign your comments. This could be clearer I suppose, and I may have not stated it as accurately as I might have, but it is a criticism which has been made of the concept and therefore should not be removed from the article.
Incidentally, "restating the definition in two slightly different ways" seems to me to be what characterizes circular definitions. One point that might clarify this is Walker's that because the standard definition is circular it cannot account for failure to increase response strength by contingent presentation of a stimulus. Another relevant point is raised in the article – the failure of reinforcers to reliably increase response strength. Food won't reinforce a rat's responses if the rat is sated, for example.
Anyway, I'll do some more research and see if this section can be improved. John FitzGerald 17:07, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

I added an explanation of the circularity and a reference. I'll try to find a more recent reference, though. John FitzGerald 23:44, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

Josh.Pritchard.DBA's edits[edit]

I have reviewed your edits and I have questions and comments.

  • I guess the introduction is a simple matter of wording it right, but i would like to hear your reasons just to clarify my thoughts.
  • The strength of a reinforcer is dependent on several factors, such as contingency, continguity and reinforcer characteristics. Does it have to come immediately after a behaviour?
  • I don't get it why you removed escape conditioning, since it's often mentioned in psych classes.
  • I would keep punishment because the text needs to explain the table. But only briefly.

I'd be happy to discuss it with you!--Janarius (talk) 14:05, 25 December 2007 (UTC)

  • I reworded examples to be a little more applied (rather than using rats -- I used everyday things)...I also made the dog example simpler...I took out 'likelihood' as that is difficult to measure -- I'm seeing now that I need to change 'future behavior' to 'future frequency' -- and I can source it too (will make it a stronger article)
  • yes a reinforcer must immediately follow a response -- that's why a paycheck isn't really a reinforcer...the statement one makes to oneself immediately following something they did at work ('That's gonna earn me my paycheck') -- might serve that function...but yes, it must be immediate.
  • I meant to take out both avoidance and they're not a new type of conditioning...perhaps we could have them as 'avoidance' or 'escape' subheadings...I'll include them
  • I'll think on how to incorporate punishment...perhaps as a contrast -- I'll get my About Behavior out and source my statement as well...
Were there other questions that I'm not addressing? I'll be right back and start editing/sourcing things...lemme know when/if you plan to edit.Josh.Pritchard.DBA (talk) 16:35, 25 December 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for the clarifications and your help! I can see why reinforcers have to come immediately after, I must've been thinking about delayed gratification being related to reinforcement. But I guess it's not case. Perhaps avoidance and escape conditioning can be used as examples of negative reinforcement? In any case, your edits are much appreciated!--Janarius (talk) 13:54, 27 December 2007 (UTC)

Schedules of Reinforcement[edit]

I see there are multiple merge discussions occuring re: schedules...on one page it was recommended that schedules of reinforcement become its own does seem that that subsection is larger than the rest of the Reinforcement article...what are some comments? Josh.Pritchard.DBA (talk) 10:00, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

From the article size policy, I think it looks fine. But if you're planning on expanding to make it into its own article and by merging the other schedules of reinforcement articles into it, sure why not?

Oh, about the section "arbitrary and natural reinforcement", I have a hard time understanding, can you simplify it?--Janarius (talk) 13:45, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

Janarius, I'm most likely not going to put a lot of time currently into that just seems that while schedules are important, they're not as important as their space on the page would indicate...but, that's why I'd like to hear discussion on it to determine if that's what consensus is...also, there is the book by the same name for which we could create an article and merge them into it -- its definitely notable on its own, I think. I've edited the arbitrary section -- does that help? Josh.Pritchard.DBA (talk) 15:26, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
Sorry for the delay, your edits on the arbitrary section is very good. About the schedules, I'm not sure how much importance we give to schedules or anything. It really depends on how much you know and how you can clearly articulate that knowledge without confusing someone outside of the field. In my case as psych undergrad, it looks okay to me. But it might be different to you. So one of my advice would be not to write anything complicated for an outside reader.--Janarius (talk) 14:30, 14 January 2008 (UTC)


I reverted a few edits, but I didn't know whether to add ip 129.137...'s edit:

"*Continuous reinforcement (CRF) schedule is a special form of a fixed ratio. In a continuous reinforcement schedule, reinforcement follows each and every response."

cos it originally said continuous ratio thingy. I don't know what CRF is meant to actually stand for, but just thought I'd mention that good faith edit that was made. londonsista | Prod 13:57, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

Another change of definition[edit]

I changed the first sentence because response rate is not the only manifestation of reinforcement. As the next sentence or so says, it can be manifested in response latency. Increasing accuracy is another manifestation of reinforcement. Reinforcement increases response strength. So I changed rate to strength. John FitzGerald (talk) 00:12, 24 October 2008 (UTC)

Interesting change Flynneffects (talk) 14:14, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

Note some derivations from Skinner[edit]

I'll start right off by saying that this is not my particular specialty, but I have been reading up on some common misconceptions regarding the relationship between reinforcement and punishment. The article rightly presents the most commonly-held views, but so doing puts it at odds with Skinner's work.

In particular, the table in the Types of Reinforcement section reflects Azrin's & Holz's (1966) contributions more than Skinner (1938 or 1953). Holth (cited below) lays this out nicely: Skinner did not see punishment as related to reinforcement and therefore would have never present a table like the one in that section of the article. Azrin & Holz felt there was a symmetry between punishment and reinforcement, a relationship that the table captures nicely.

It's not that the table is wrong, but the organization of that section gives the impression that the table reflects Skinner's ideas, when (at least to my cursory reading) it does not. If I'm completely wrong, please tell me (with enough detail to help me correct my mistakes :) ).

Holth, P. (2005). Two Definitions of Punishment. Behavior Analyst Today 6(1), 43-47.

Jmbrowne (talk) 06:01, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

OK, no one brought up any issues with pointing out the derivations (it's been four months now), so I added it with three references. Also, I edited the paragraph that mentioned punishment to be more reinforcement-oriented (since this is an article on reinforcement, but punishment is listed in the table), and moved it before the table. Jmbrowne (talk) 15:57, 20 August 2009 (UTC)


i see this page has been tagged as too difficult for a layperson. However, no examples of passages that are difficult to understand are provided. It seems to me that an attentive layperson could follow this article easily. I may well be wrong, of course, but we need to see some examples of this hyper-technicality. John FitzGerald (talk)

What is needed is reinforcement fleshed out into real life examples. Psychological manipulation is based on reinforcement theory but there really needs to be some thing bridging the gap. Also of course gambling is a real life example of reinforcement. Also the simple schedules section Reinforcement#Simple_schedules looks qute scary. --Penbat (talk) 15:19, 1 September 2010 (UTC)


Under "Effects of different types of simple schedules" the article states "Variable schedules produce higher rates and greater resistance to extinction than most fixed schedules. This is also known as the Partial Reinforcement Extinction Effect (PREE)"

At least according to Domjan (2005) "Essentials of conditioning and learning" Gloassary the "partial reinforcement extinction effect" is "greater persistence in instrumental responding after partial (intermittent) reinforcement training than after continuous reinforcement training. Abbreviated PREE" i.e. this is not a difference between variable and fized schedules but between continuous and intermittent schedules.

Unless anyone disagrees, could someone who knows what they are doing move the reference to PREE from its current position and put it after "Partial reinforcement schedules are more resistant to extinction than continuous reinforcement schedules" lower in the same section please? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:46, 9 March 2012 (UTC)

too technical?[edit]

Reinforcement is a technical term. Why should this page be any simpler than this one: -florkle — Preceding unsigned comment added by Florkle (talkcontribs) 00:24, 15 April 2012 (UTC)

What is Wikipedia going to do with mechanical reinforcement?[edit]

There is need to disambiguate mechanical reinforcement from the psychological process. Reinforcement is a large concept beyond psychology. Need to change article to Reinforcement (psychology) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:21, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

Course Project - Positive and Negative Reinforcement[edit]

Hi all - I am working on the "positive and negative" reinforcement section of this page as a part of a psychology capstone course project. Everything that changes is a work in progress, and I am adding 5 new sources to the material in addition to re-ordering the layout and adding some examples of the type of reinforcement. Any suggestions would be much appreciated! Racolepsychcapstone (talk) 01:05, 26 April 2013 (UTC)

Current rough draft of the updated article can be found at: Racolepsychcapstone (talk) 01:05, 26 April 2013 (UTC)

Peer Review of Racolepsychcapstone's Progress[edit]

Below you will find my peer review for the page as seen in Racolepsychcapstone sandbox:

(A) 4.5

(B) I like that you condensed the main sections for Positive Reinforcement and Negative Reinforcement, transferring to the end of the section some of the the more confusing aspects of the material. This revised format allows readers to fully grasp/comprehend the basic concepts before moving on to more complex and nuanced examples.

I also like the distinction you included between the "mathematical" and "emotional" definitions of the terms positive and negative. This was a concise and simple way to illuminate a confusing concept.

(C) I saw that the examples you used were mostly already provided in the original article. There is one example that you might want to revise in order to better illustrate your point. In the last section, the third bulleted item, beginning with, "The increase in behavior is ..." is a little confusing. Is this example attributing the increase in behavior to the slap? I think I understand the point that is being made, but am not positive. Is the point that you are trying to make (again, I know this was the original example) that sometimes stimuli intended to decrease behavior may actually increase it? If so, maybe use an example that does not include physical abuse. There may be situations when this phenomenon occurs, but it just uncomfortable. Perhaps using the example of detention, which is intended as a positive punishment to decrease bad behavior can actually increase bad behavior (because the student sees it as an opportunity to get out of class). Thus, what may be seen as positive punishment is actually a positive reinforcer.

(D) Areas of improvement: I am sure you will do this when the material is transferred to the main page, but hyperlink key terms, such as "operant conditioning" and "punishment" to their respective wikipages. Additionally, these are minor edits just to help the reader with the flow of the page. After the Brief History section, I would create a heading for the short paragraph following, which essentially provides an overview of the following sections. I suggest this just to indicate the end of the history and beginning of a new section. Also, it may improve the aesthetics of the page to bullet point the examples in each section.(?)

(E) 4. - I think one more read through will catch any awkward sentences and small wikiproblems.

Great job so far :) HayRayLee (talk) 00:02, 3 May 2013 (UTC)

Final Draft of the "Positive and Negative Reinforcement" section[edit]

Hi all - I have been working on the Positive and Negative section of the Reinforcement page for a class project, and the link to my final edits is below. Thanks! Racolepsychcapstone (talk) 01:33, 12 May 2013 (UTC)

example on multiple superimposing concurrent schedules[edit]

"For example, a high school senior could have a choice between going to Stanford University or UCLA, and at the same time have the choice of going into the Army or the Air Force, and simultaneously the choice of taking a job with an internet company or a job with a software company. That is a reinforcement structure of three superimposed concurrent schedules of reinforcement."

I might not get it, but as it seems this is a poor example. They are only superimposing reinforcers of any interest if the same kind of action triggers each, right? but there is no single action which leads one to choose university, army branch and employer in a single go. I thought the example of the dog/spouse-attack was a good one. but this one not so much. sorry, i don't have an idea for an alternative.--DLommes (talk) 23:40, 3 December 2013 (UTC)

Overlap with Operant Conditioning[edit]

This article has a HUGE overlap with the page on Operant Conditioning, and the two should be combined. Db4wp (talk) 13:04, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

Operant conditioning is a paradigm that includes the consideration of antecedent events that acquire discriminative properties (discriminative stimuli), along with punishment - reinforcement is not the same thing as operant conditioning, it is just one component of it - sort of like the cardiovascular system just being one component of the biological systems that keep humans functioning. Wolololol (talk) 05:14, 14 March 2016 (UTC)Wolololol
Certainly not combine, this article is long enough. I think its more an issue of stripping out duplicated text in both articles. Incidentally Reinforcement#Intermittent_reinforcement.3B_schedules is very long and looks scarily complicated. I think it should be a separate article with just a summary here.--Penbat (talk) 13:51, 14 March 2016 (UTC)

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