What is a Schedule of Reinforcement?

A schedule of reinforcement is a protocol or set of rules that a teacher will follow when delivering reinforces (e.g. tokens when using a token economy). The “rules” might state that reinforcement is given after every correct response to a question; or for every 2 correct responses; or for every 100 correct responses; or when a certain amount of time has elapsed.

Broadly speaking there are two categories of reinforcement schedule, the first being a “continuous” schedule and the other being an “intermittent” schedule.

A continuous schedule of reinforcement (sometimes abbreviated into CRF) occurs when reinforcement is delivered after every single target behaviour whereas an intermittent schedule of reinforcement (INT) means reinforcement is delivered after some behaviours or responses but never after each one.

Continuous reinforcement schedules are more often used when teaching new behaviours, while intermittent reinforcement schedules are used when maintaining previously learned behaviours

Intermittent Schedules of Reinforcement

There are four basic types of intermittent schedules of reinforcement and these are:

Fixed-Ratio (FR) Schedule.

Fixed Interval (FI) Schedule.

Variable-Ratio (VR) schedule.

Variable-Interval (VI) schedule.

Fixed-Ratio Schedule (FR)

A fixed-ratio schedule of reinforcement means that reinforcement should be delivered after a constant or “fixed” number of correct responses. For example, a fixed ratio schedule of 2 means reinforcement is delivered after every 2 correct responses. The chosen number could be 5, 10, 20 or it could be 100 or more; there is no limit but the number must be defined.

Variable-Ratio Schedule (VR)

When using a variable-ratio (VR) schedule of reinforcement the delivery of reinforcement will “vary” but must average out at a specific number. Just like a fixed-ratio schedule, a variable-ratio schedule can be any number but must be defined.

Fixed-Interval Schedule (FI)

A fixed-interval schedule means that reinforcement becomes available after a specific period of time. The schedule is abbreviated into “FI” followed by the amount of time that must pass before reinforcement becomes available

Fixed-Interval Schedule (FI)

A fixed-interval schedule means that reinforcement becomes available after a specific period of time. The schedule is abbreviated into “FI” followed by the amount of time that must pass before reinforcement becomes available

 

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