A procedure in which a behavior is followed by an event/item/activity that results in the strengthening of the behavior over time. By definition, the procedure MUST have the anticipated strengthening effect on the behavior for the intervention to be considered positive reinforcement. Much like positive punishment in which the “punisher” or punitive stimulus can be anything, the same goes for positive reinforcement. Smiles, candies, high-fives, “Good job!” and tokens can be reinforcers. Reprimands, time-outs, and losing a token can also be reinforcers. Again, this is another very important concept so it is recommended that you discuss this topic with your BCBA.
How Positive Reinforcement is Used Today
- parents use it with their children to encourage them to do chores
- teachers use it with their students to increase time-on-task
- employers use it with their employees to encourage them to be at work on time or to increase productivity
- clinicians use it with their patients/clients to increase desired target behaviors
There are 5 different reinforcement schedules to choose from (Positive Psychology):
- Continuous schedule: the behavior is reinforced after every occurrence (this schedule is hard to keep up since we are rarely able to be present for each occurrence).
- Fixed ratio: the behavior is reinforced after a specific number of occurrences (e.g., after every three times).
- Fixed interval: the behavior is reinforced after a specific amount of time (e.g., after three weeks of good behavior).
- Variable ratio: the behavior is reinforced after a variable number of occurrences (e.g., after one occurrence, then after another three, then after another two).
- Variable interval: the behavior is reinforced after a variable amount of time (e.g., after one minute, then after 30 minutes, then after 10 minutes).
The success behind Positive Reinforcement
Type of Reinforcers
- Edibles (fruit, popcorn, goldfish)
- Activities (art project, puzzles, reading a book)
- Tangible (clothing, toys, notebook)
- Social (praise, smiles, thumbs-up)
- Tokens (collect tokens to exchange for computer time, no homework, lunch with the teacher)
Don’t be confused between Positive Reinforcement and bribery.
Remember: Bribery is used to stop negative behavior. Positive Reinforcement rewards positive behavior.
- Good Job
- You Rock
- Well Done
- Thumbs Up
- You’re the man
- Way to go
The counterpart is Negative Reinforcement.