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Frequently Asked Questions about Reinforcement
 

Question 1: What is the difference between negative reinforcement and punishment?  >>


Question 2:  How do I know which type of reinforcement to use? >>


Question 3:   When using positive reinforcement, how do I know which type of reinforcement schedule to use? >>


Question 4: How do I know when to switch from continuous reinforcement to intermittent reinforcement?  >>


Question 5:  With what ages can token economy programs be used?  >>


1. What is the difference between negative reinforcement and punishment?

    The difference between these two procedures is that negative reinforcement is used to increase behaviors whereas punishment is used to decrease behaviors.

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2. How do I know which type of reinforcement to use?

Positive reinforcement (including token economy programs) may be used to teach virtually any skill. Negative reinforcement often is used to teach self-help skills and replacement behaviors to take the place of interfering behaviors. Negative reinforcement is often used only after other reinforcement strategies have not been effective at increasing the target skill.

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3. When using positive reinforcement, how do I know which type of reinfocement schedule to use?

When first teaching a skill, a continuous reinforcement schedule should be used to establish a clear relationship between a learner’s use of the target skill and the subsequent reinforcer. As learners become more proficient at using target skills, intermittent schedules of reinforcement should be used (i.e., ratio, interval). These types of schedules help learners maintain the use of newly acquired skills. Ratio reinforcement schedules are most helpful when you want to build a high response rate for a particular skill (e.g., raising hand rather than talking out in class). Interval reinforcement schedules are most often used when teaching a learner to engage in a particular behavior for a longer period of time (e.g., staying seated during class).

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4. How do I know when to switch from continuous reinforcement to intermittent reinforcement?

Generally, you switch from a continuous reinforcement schedule to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement when a learner has reached a preestablished performance criterion. For example, a learner with ASD is now able to stay seated for 5 minutes during class. Rather than providing reinforcement after the -5minute period, the teacher may provide reinforcement after 4 minutes or after 7 minutes.

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5. With what ages can token economy programs be used?

Token economy programs are most appropriate for learners in elementary, middle, and high school. Although they can be used with young learners with ASD, they may be too abstract to comprehend.

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