Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Difference between “Reinforcer” and “Reinforcement”

B.F. Skinner

B.F. Skinner insisted that the causes of behavior are outside the organism; they have to do with the consequences of actions. Thus, Skinner seeks to discover and describe the laws that govern interactions between the organism and the environment. To do this, Skinner relies on what he describes as the experimental analysis of behavior.
B.F. Skinner had done an extensive research on reinforcement. The concept of reinforcement is among the major contributions by Skinner, an American psychologist, to the behaviorism.

Skinner's experiment involves two kinds of variables--independent variables, and dependent variables. The independent variables are the factors that can be directly manipulated experimentally like reinforcement, whereas depended variables are those that are affected by manipulations of the independent variables like the rate of response.

The main independent variables in Skinner's system are the type of reinforcement and the reinforcement schedule (how reinforcement is presented).

Skinner made an important distinction between two related terms—reinforcer and reinforcement. In Skinnerian terms, a reinforcer is a stimulus, whereas reinforcement is the effect of this stimulus.
For example, candy can be reinforcer because it is a stimulus. Now, just think the other dimension, that is, a piece of candy is not reinforcement; its effect on a person can be an example of reinforcement.
Reinforcer is widely defined as: “It (reinforcer) is any stimulus that increases the probability that a response will occur. Now, it is evident from the definition that the effect of a stimulus determines whether it will be reinforcing. In other words, reinforcement (effect) requires the use of some reinforcer (stimulus) in the learning situation.

Reinforcers can be either positive or negative.

A positive reinforcer is a stimulus that strengthens the desired behavior and increases the probability of the occurrence of that behavior.  Positive reinforcers tend to be pleasant stimuli. For example, in the Skinner’s box, food pellets are pleasant stimuli that serve as positive reinforcer.

A negative reinforcer also strengthens a behavior, but it does so by eliminating something that is unwanted. For example, in the Skinner’s box, if a mild current were turned on in the electric grid that runs through the floor of the box, and if this current were turned off only when the rat depressed the lever, turning off the current would be an example of an aversive stimulus serving as a negative reinforcer.