Theory Of Reinforcement Essay Research Paper REINFORCEMENT

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Theory Of Reinforcement Essay, Research Paper REINFORCEMENT THEORY The one theory of influence almost everyone knows about is this one. And if you know only one approach, this can be good candidate. It works in a variety of situations, it can be simply applied, and it has just a few basic ideas. In fact, reinforcement theory boils down to a Main Point: Consequences influence behavior. Think about that for a moment. Consequences influence behavior. It means that people do things because they know other things will follow. Thus, depending upon the type of consequence that follows, people will produce some behaviors and avoid others. Pretty simple. Pretty realistic, too. Reinforcement theory (consequences influence behavior) makes sense. PRINCIPLES OF REINFORCEMENT There are

three basic principles of this theory. These are the Rules of Consequences. The three Rules describe the logical outcomes which typically occur after consequences. 1. Consequences which give Rewards increase a behavior. 2. Consequences which give Punishments decrease a behavior. 3. Consequences which give neither Rewards nor Punishments extinguish a behavior. These Rules provide an excellent blueprint for influence. If you want to increase a behavior (make it more frequent, more intense, more likely), then when the behavior is shown, provide a Consequence of Reward. If you want to decrease a behavior (make it less frequent, less intense, less likely), then when the behavior is shown, provide a Consequence of Punishment. Finally, if you want a behavior to extinguish (disappear,

fall out of the behavioral repertoire), then when the behavior is shown, then provide no Consequence (ignore the behavior). Now, the Big Question becomes, “What is a reward?” or “What is a punishment?” The answer is easy. What is a reward? Anything that increases the behavior. What is a punisher? Anything that decreases the behavior. Yipes, is this circular reasoning or what? Rewards increase a behavior and anything that increases a behavior is a reward. What is going on here? What’s going on is this: Reinforcement theory is a functional theory. That means all of its components are defined by their function (how they work) rather than by their structure (how they look). Thus, there is no Consequences Cookbook where a teacher can look in the chapter, “Rewards for Fifth

Grade Boys,” and find a long list of things to use as rewarding consequences. Think about this a minute. Many kids find candy to be rewarding. If they sit quietly in their chairs for five minutes and you give them each a sweet, those kids will learn to sit quietly. The candy (Consequence of Reward) is used to increase the behavior of sitting quietly. So, we have discovered a Reward and can put it in the Consequences Cookbook, right? And then the next time your spouse spends the afternoon cleaning up some grubby corner of the basement all you have to do is give them a candy bar and next week you’ll find ‘em in the bathroom scrubbing out the tub, right? Of course not. Candy functions as a reward in some circumstances, but candy has no effect in others. (If there was a

Consequences Cookbook, don’t you think the School Board would pay teachers with Smiley Face stickers instead of money?) The functional nature of reinforcement theory is important to understand. It explains why the theory sometimes appears to be incorrect. An example: when Sally Goodchild interrupts the class, Mrs. Reinforcer stops the class, tells Sally she’s a naughty girl who broke Rule 24 and now must leave the classroom and go to the principle’s office. Ouch! That really hurt Sally Goodchild. And Mrs. Reinforcer knows that when Sally returns, she will not interrupt. Mrs. Reinforcer then goes to the teacher’s lounge and sings the praises of this really great theory. Well, don’t you know that the other kids in the class watched this event with great interest. And when