How Do Schedules of Reinforcment Affect Learning?

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Skinner discovered schedules of reinforcement. Our book defines a schedule of reinforcement as "a specific pattern of presentation of reinforcers over time". Rather than giving a reinforcement (i.e. a food pellet) after every response (i.e. a lever press), Skinner fixed the operant conditioning chamber to give a reinforcement only after 2 or 3 responses. This is called a partial reinforcement schedule and is more resistant to extinction. Continuous reinforcement occurs when every instance of a designated response is reinforced. In laboratories this method is commonly used to shape and establish a new response before moving on to more realistic schedules involving intermittent reinforcement. Intermittent reinforcement occurs when a designated response is reinforced only some of the time. Intermittent reinforcement makes a response more resistant to extinction than continuous. There are four main intermittent reinforcement schedules. They are: fixed-ratio, variable-ratio, fixed interval, and variable-interval. In a fixed-ratio the reinforcer is given after a fixed number of non-reinforced responses. An example of this would be that it gives reinforcement after (5) responses. A variable- ratio schedule is when the reinforcer is given after a variable number of nonreinforced responses. An example of this would be when a rat is reinforced for every tenth lever press on the average. The exact number of responses required for reinforcement varies from one time to the next. In a fixes interval schedule, the reinforcer is given for the first response that occurs after a fixed time interval has elapsed. An example of this would be students can earn grades by taking exams every three weeks. Lastly, in a variable- interval schedule, the reinforcer is given for the first response after a variable time interval has elapsed. An example is if a person repeatedly dials a busy phone number (getting through is the reinforcer). In each of these different schedules you learn in...
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