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Intermittent Reinforcement Theory Essay Sample 

The following essay sample is reflecting upon the intermittent reinforcement given under the operant conditioning process by the psychologist B.F. Skinner and the intermittent reinforcement schedules along with examples.

The psychologist B.F. Skinner in the year 1956 introduced the intermittent reinforcement theory of the operant conditioning process. It includes rewards & punishments for the conditioning of a behaviour or response.

Intermittent Reinforcement Theory Essay Sample

There are many reinforcements that can influence the behaviour of an individual for a longer period of time making it less vulnerable to extinction. It has been observed that continuous reinforcement results in a less conditioned response over time while irregular reinforcement causes a more desired behaviour.

When an individual knows that he is getting a continuous reward for his every action then he is less likely to work hard and there will be a decrease in his conditioned response.

If the timing of the reward is not certain and unpredictable then there will be more repetition of behaviour and the result will be joyful. In behavioural science, the intermittent reinforcement schedule is given not given for each performance.

Intermittent reinforcement and other reinforcement theories can be applied in the field of technology and business including machine learning and human resource management marketing. It can be applied in the area of behavioural psychology of people and animals.

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Examples of Intermittent Reinforcement Theory 

  • When there is a continuous reinforcement schedule mouse pulling the lever for receiving the food will get the food every single time pulling the lever.

While in an intermittent reinforcement schedule mouse would receive food randomly at any time which is unpredictable. The desired behaviour of the rat will continue for a longer period of time with intermittent reinforcement.

  • Gambling is another such example that can be counted under intermittent reinforcement where winning is a rare chance and it gives excitement.

The intermittent reinforcement in this situation of gambling causes a positive response in the brain which may lead to an addiction to gambling. The individual in this situation receives enough rewards for getting encouraged to continue playing.

Intermittent Reinforcement Schedule 

The intermittent reinforcement schedule is also known as the partial reinforcement schedule which is an element of operant conditioning which consists of an arrangement to determine when to reinforce the behaviour.

The reinforcement schedule can either be continuous or intermittent creating an impact on response rate and resistance to extinction of the behaviour.

The partial or intermittent schedules reinforce the desired behaviour only occasionally but not all the time and have a slower learning process. It produces a behaviour resistant to extinction.

For example

The slot machines at casinos works on the intermittent reinforcement schedule where the positive reinforcement is received after playing table an unpredictable number of times. It inculcates behaviour in the players to play more and gain more money in the next round and are hopeful to win more.

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Types of Intermittent Reinforcement Schedule 

The intermittent reinforcement schedule depends upon the number of responses that are rewarded and the time gap between the responses.

  • Fixed Schedule – The number of responses and the time gap between the reinforcements are set and fixed and the schedule can be predictable. There is an increase in the number of responses but the frequency of responses decreases immediately after reinforcement.

Example – A teacher giving a weekly quiz to the students in the class on every Monday. On the weekends there is a growing pressure of studies for the quiz. There is a positive reinforcement for studying and scoring good marks while the negative reinforcement is not to fail in the quiz. After the quiz on Monday they can relax as right after reinforcement frequency of responses declines.

  • Variable Interval Schedule – This reinforcement is given on the basis of the performance of a specific behaviour given randomly after a certain time passes. It has a low and a steady rate of response since the individual or an animal is not aware that when will they receive the reinforcers next time.

Example – A rat is kept inside the cage and to recieve food it rings the bell kept inside the cage. The food is given at any random interval so the response remains steady and cannot be predicted when the behaviour will be reinforced.

  • Fixed Ratio Schedule – In this particular schedule, the behaviour is reinforced after the specified number of responses. It has a high, persistent, and steady rate of response.

Example – A tailor who makes twenty dresses for $700 and after every twenty dresses recieves $500 as a positive reinforcement. After making the twenty dresses the tailor will relax and then again start tailoring dresses again for the next consignment.

  • Variable Ratio Schedule – It is a reinforcement in which behaviour is reinforced after every random number of responses. The rate of response is high and steady as they are hopeful to receive reinforcement in their next response.

Example – A child is given a chocolate after he writes first 3 pages then 7 pages and 2 pages etc. There is an unpredictable reinforcement that motivates the child to continue writing more even if he is not reinforced immediately after writing the first page.

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The above sample mentions the intermittent reinforcement theory in operant conditioning and reinforcement schedules.

Applied Psychology QQI Level 5, Behavioural Studies QQI Level 5, Psychology of People QQI Level 5, Healthcare QQI students can benefit from reading this essay sample and help in writing plagiarism-free essays.

We have assignments closely related to the topic of this essay. Some of the assignments that are available on our website are B.F. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning Theory, Pavlov Classical Conditioning Theory, Extinction in Psychology, Fundamental Principles of Behaviour Science, Functionalism Philosophy etc.

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