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An event is a positive reinforcer if a behavior or stimuli increases the probability of an action occurring. Many events can positively reinforce behavior. However, it is important to remember what is positively reinforcing for one person, may not be for another. Food, water, and warmth can all be positive reinforcers. Social attention, praise, grades, weight loss, weight gain, a smile, and money can also serve as positive reinforcers. Also, anything that a client or staff member engages in with any regularity can be used as a positive reinforcer, such as sugary foods, caffeine drinks, cigarettes, treats of various kinds, and so on.
Positive reinforcement procedure: There are usually four steps in the therapeutic application of positive reinforcement.
A. First an agreement with your client or staff member regarding the behavior to be developed needs to be precisely defined. Thus, changes in frequency of occurrence can be easily monitored. There should also be some way to observe or have reported whether or not measurable changes are taking place in the direction of the target behavior. This should be an ongoing measure, not one that happens at the end of a therapy or a staff member's evaluation.
(1) Write an example of a target behavior you might have for a client or for a staff member. For example "to show up on time (not after 8:00 a.m.) for work for four weeks."
B. Secondly, construct positive reinforcers. For example, in the case of hospitalized psychiatric patient's cigarettes, access to recreation, the opportunity to leave facility, and so on have been used. In the case of outpatients, praise from the therapist and patient arranged contingencies have been employed. An example of a contingency would be, "the patient may go bowling only if a certain behavior occurs at a certain frequency that week." On the tape, the "P" in the P-R-I-D-E Method stands for recognizing actions that the receiver of the reinforcement sees as worthy of praise. The "D" in the P-R-I-D-E Method stands for stating specifically what is being done right.
Give an example of a contingency you might use with the target behavior you stated
above in question #1. For example, "increase the employee's promptness evaluation
rating, from "below average" to "average" for being on time
for three months."
C. The third step is to arrange conditions encouraging the behavior to be strengthened. On the tape, the "E" in the P-R-I-D-E Method stands for expressing reinforcement often. The arrangement of conditions may be done, for example, by giving instructions, by demonstration, or by observation of other clients or staff members performing the behavior in question; or through a gradual shaping producer. Shaping, by means of the method of successive approximations, involve reinforcing in sequence those behaviors leading to the target behavior. Shaping and successive approximations will be covered in further detail later in this Course.
The target behaviors ideally should be ones that are likely to be maintained by the environment. This concept goes back to your first critical step of choosing of the target behavior to reinforce. As you know, however, if the client or staff member is in an environment that fails to reinforce the desirable behavior, then it may be beneficial to involve, for example, family members or other staff members in the intervention or employee counseling session.
Reinforcement Delay: Research has often shown that immediate reinforcers are more effective than delayed reinforcers. For example, infants who receive reinforcement of their vocalizations by lightly touching their stomach, smiling and saying, "That's a good baby," had more vocalizations. On the tape, the "I" in the P-R-I-D-E Method stands for giving reinforcement immediately.
Negative reinforcers: Observation shows that when negative reinforcers are removed the behavior will increase. Generally, painful stimuli such as excessive heat, blows, noise, or social criticism are negative reinforcers.
Give one example of an object or event that acts as a negative reinforcer for
yourself. State your proof or your resulting observable behavior.
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