I talk about reinforcement in virtually every article I write. I figured it was time then that I write a posting devoted to reinforcement: what it is, why it’s important, how to do it.
What Exactly is Reinforcement?
Reinforcement can be thought of as a behavioural term for reward. Technically, reinforcement is defined by its effect on behaviour: a reinforcer is anything that makes a behaviour more likely to occur in the future. In other words, reinforcement maintains or strengthens existing behaviour. If you see a behaviour occurring, it’s because somehow, somewhere, in some way, it is being reinforced.
Reinforcement does not have to take the place of what we might think of as a traditional reward. A gold star can be a reinforcer, sure. But so can things like getting attention, getting to leave the room, or getting to do a favourite activity. Remember: anything that strengthens a behaviour is a reinforcer. So when you remember your gloves on a chilly Fall morning, the experience of having warm hands reinforces you for remembering your gloves. You’re more likely to remember them next time because the behaviour of remembering them was reinforced by the natural consequence that occurred when you wore them: warm hands.
What is a good reinforcer? Turn the page below to learn…