Posted November 13, 2013                                              |

Use Unpredictable Rewards to Keep Behavior Going

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2024-06-18 12:30:09

Posted November 13, 2013 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

In my last blog post, I wrote about using a continuous reinforcement schedule when you want to establish a new behavior. And I hinted that you should change that schedule after the behavior is established.

One of the reward “schedules” that B.F. Skinner researched is called a variable ratio schedule. It’s called “variable” because you don’t reward the behavior every time. You vary how often the person gets a reward when they do the target behavior. And it’s called “ratio” because you give a reward based on the number of times a person has done the behavior (rather than, for example, rewarding someone based on time—for example, giving a reward the first time the person does the behavior after 5 minutes has elapsed).

In a variable ratio schedule, you may decide that you are going to reward the behavior, on average, every five times the person does the behavior, but you vary it, so sometimes you give the reward the third time they do the behavior, sometimes the seventh time, sometimes the second time, etc. It averages out to every five times.

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