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University of Information Technology & Sciences (UITS) An Assignment On Reinforcement Submitted By: Rafiqul awal ID: 09410066 Student of BBA. UITS. Submitted To:
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University of Information Technology & Sciences (UITS)

An AssignmentOn


Submitted By:

Rafiqul awal ID: 09410066

Student of BBA. UITS.

Submitted To: Instructor Name: Sadia Tanzeem Lecturer, School of Business, UITS.

Submission Date: 1 June, 2011.

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Shaping Behavior

When a systematic attempt is made to change individuals’ behavior by directing their

learning in graduated steps, it is called shaping behavior. There are four methods of

Shaping Behavior. They are as follows:

1. Positive reinforcement - This is the process of getting something pleasant as a

consequence of a desired behavior, to strengthen the same behavior. For example, one get

a commission, if he/she achieves sales target.

For example, i) Bonuses paid at the end of a successful business year are an example of

positive reinforcement. ii) Employees will work hard for a raise or a promotion. iii)

Salesmen will increase their efforts to get rewards and bonuses. iv) Students will study to

get good grades, and v) In these examples, the rises, promotions, awards, bonuses, good

grades, are positive reinforces.

2. Negative reinforcement - This is the process of having a reward taken away as a

consequence of a undesired behavior. For example, scholarship is withdrawn from the

student who has not done well on the examination. Just as people engage in behaviors in

order to get positive reinforces, they also engage in behaviors to avoid or escape

unpleasant conditions. Terminating an unpleasant stimulus in order to strengthen or

increase the probability of a response is called negative reinforcement.

3. Punishment - is causing an unpleasant condition in an attempt to eliminate an

undesirable behavior. This is the process of getting a punishment as a consequence of a

behavior. According to B. F. Skinner, punishment is still the most common technique of

behavior control in today’s life. When a child misbehaves, he is spanked. If a person does

not behave as the society or law wants him to do, he is punished by arrest and jail.

Example: Loss of pay for coming late to office. Punishment can be accomplished either

by adding an unpleasant stimulus or removing a pleasant stimulus. The added unpleasant

stimulus might take the form of criticism, a scolding, a disapproving look, a fine, or a

prison sentence. The removal of a pleasant stimulus might consist of withholding

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affection and attention, suspending a driver’s license, or taking away a privilege such as

watching television. Accordingly, in situations where punishment is desirable as a means

of behavior modification, certain guidelines would make it more effective thus

minimizing its dysfunctional consequences. a) Praise in public; punish in private. b)

Apply punishment before the undesirable behavior has been strongly reinforced. Thus,

the punishment should immediately follow the undesirable behavior. c) The punishment

should focus on the behavior and not on the person.

4.Extinction - An alternative to punishing undesirable behavior is extension ± the

attempt to weaken behavior by attaching no consequences (either positive or negative) to

it. It is equivalent to ignoring the behavior. The rationale for using extinction is that a

behavior not followed by any consequence is weakened. However, some patience and

time may be needed for it to be effective. This type of reinforcement is applied to reduce

undesirable behavior, especially when such behaviors were previously rewarded. This

means that if rewards were removed from behaviors that were previously reinforced, then

such behaviors would become less frequent and eventually die out. For example, if a

student in the class is highly mischievous and disturbs the class, he is probably asking for

attention. If .the attention is given to him, he will continue to exhibit that behaviour.Both

positive and negative reinforcement result in learning. They strengthen a response and

increase the probability of repetition. Both punishment and extinction weaken behavior

and tend to decrease its subsequent frequency.

Schedules of Reinforcement:

A schedule of reinforcement determines when and how often reinforcement of a behavior

is given.  Schedules of reinforcement play an important role in the learning process of

operant conditioning since the speed and strength of the response can be significantly

impacted by when and how often a behavior is reinforced (Van Wagner, 2010b).  Two

types of reinforcement schedules are:  continuous reinforcement and intermittent


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     Continuous reinforcement is when a desired behavior is reinforced each and every

time it is displayed.  This type of reinforcement schedule should be “used during the

initial stages of learning in order to create a strong association between the behavior and

the response” (Van Wagner, 2010b). Continuous reinforcement will not generate

enduring changes in behavior, once the rewards are withdrawn, the desired behavior will

become extinct. A good example of continuous behavior is the process of using a vending

machine.  For example, a soda machine will give a soda every time you feed it money. 

Every so often you may not receive the soda and you are likely to try only a few more

times.  The likelihood that you will continuously keep adding money when not receiving

any reward is extremely low so this behavior is often stopped very quickly. (Durell,


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Intermittent reinforcement is when a desired behavior is reinforced only

occasionally when it is displayed.  In this type of reinforcement schedule behaviors are

obtained more gradually; however, the behaviors are more enduring (defying extinction). 

Intermittent schedules are based either on time (interval schedules) or frequency (ratio

schedules) (Huitt & Hummel, 1997).  Ratio reinforcement is the reinforcement of a

desired behavior after a number of occurrences; while, interval reinforcement is the

reinforcement of a desired behavior after a period of time.  Consequently, four types of

intermittent reinforcement schedules exist: fixed interval schedules, variable interval

schedules, fixed ratio schedules and variable ratio schedules.  

     Fixed Interval Schedules: A reinforcement of appropriate behavior that is delivered

after a specified interval of time has elapsed (Smith, 2010). Heffner offers an appropriate

example of an employee performance review for a raise every year and not in between

(Heffner, 2001). However as the reinforcement is delivered only after a specified amount

of time has passed this reinforcement type of schedule tends to produce a scalloping

effect between intervals as displayed in the figure example below (Huitt & Hummel,


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Only directly before the interval time has elapsed is the desired behavior displayed so as

to look good when the performance review comes around (Heffner, 2001). After which a

dramatic drop-off of behavior immediately after reinforcement occurs (Huitt & Hummel,

1997). The fixed interval schedule is a form of continuous schedule and works well for

punishment or learning a new behavior (Heffner, 2001).

     Variable Interval Schedules: This is a reinforcement of appropriate behavior that is

delivered after an average interval of time has elapsed (Smith, 2010). Once the behavior

has been reinforced, a new interval of time, either shorter or longer, is specified with the

sum total of interval times equaling the average (Huitt & Hummel, 1997). This is best

expressed in the example of a corporate random drug testing policy. The policy may

dictate that a random drug screening will be conducted every 3 months or so, however

because it is random the screening may happen sooner at 2 months or later at 4 months

with the average interval time equaling around 3 months. Because of the variable nature

of this schedule the scalloping effect between intervals is reduced (Huitt & Hummel,


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As shown in the figure above the variable interval schedule tends to consistently

produce more appropriate behaviors (Heffner, 2001).  This schedule of reinforcement is

best used when fading out a fixed interval schedule or reinforcing already established

behaviors (Smith, 2010).

     Fixed Ratio Schedules: A reinforcement of a desired behavior occurs only after a

given number of occurrences (ex. Factory employees who are paid on piecework or a

fixed “piece rate” for every piece produced or performance-related pay).  Because the

fixed ratio schedule is methodical, it produces a high, steady rate of response.  The fixed

ratio schedule is also a form of continuous schedule and works well for punishment or

learning a new behavior (Heffner, 2001).

Variable Ratio Schedules:  A reinforcement of a desired behavior occurs after a variable

number of occurrences (ex. Employees who contribute to a lottery pot, a various number

of tickets will win a various amount of money, which is put back into the pot for the next

week).  The variable rate schedules tend to be more effective than fixed ratio schedules

because they generate a higher rate of response and resist extinction (Redmond, 2010).

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The chart below is a recording of response rates of the four reinforcement

schedules (Huitt & Hummel, 1997).  The rates of responses are recorded on a device

created by Skinner, called the “cumulative recorder” (Van Wagner, 2010a).

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A chart demonstrating the different response rate of the four simple

schedules of reinforcement, each hatch mark designates a reinforcer being given

(Huitt & Hummel, 1997).

Research on Reinforcement Theory

Research on Reinforcement Theory, like any other research, must be conducted using

rigorous methods (Redmond, 2010).  According to Stangor (2007), the set of

assumptions, rules and procedures that scientists use to conduct research is called the

scientific method. The scientific method increases objectivity by placing the data under

the scrutiny of fellow scientists and informs them of the methods used to collect the data.

This allows other scientists to make their own conclusions about the data and even ask

new questions that inspire new research, thus building on the accumulated knowledge of

the specific phenomena/subject (Stangor, 2007).

    One interesting contemporary example of Reinforcement Theory, in real life

action, comes from an article by Richard Burger (2009) entitled, "The Marvelous Benefits

of Positive and Negative Reinforcement". The example took place in a college

psychology class where most of the students had decided to test the principles of

reinforcement on their own professor. The students had noticed that the professor had the

annoying and distracting habit of pacing back and forth in the front of the classroom

during his lectures. Using the principles of Reinforcement Theory, they set out to end this

habit. To do this, the students who were in on the experiment sat in the first two or three

rows of the classroom as the lecture began. When the professor stood in the center of the

classroom, the students in the experiment would act as though they were immensely

involved in the lecture, eyes locked in. When the professor would wander off center, they

acted disinterested and uninvolved.  A quarter of the way through the semester the

professor's habit was gone and he lectured only in the center of the classroom.

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     Reinforcement Theory was clearly in action in this example. As the professor

wandered to the sides of the room, he was punished by students who became

disinterested in his lecture. This was clearly negative punishment.  As he made his way

back to the center of the room, where the students wanted him to stay, he was rewarded

by the students becoming involved and interested, or positive reinforcement. Whether the

professor knew it or not, he was becoming conditioned, down to extinction*, *to standing

in the front of the room by the rewards and punishments the students gave him.

     In a study by Del Chiaro (2006), the use of verbal positive reinforcement as a means

of improving employee job satisfaction was examined. Five supervisors were trained in

the use of verbal positive reinforcement. The supervisor's employees then completed job

satisfaction surveys following job training during a baseline, intervention, and post-test

phase (Del Chiaro, 2006).

     Analysis of the results of the employee surveys revealed no clear patterns, but when

the means of all the supervisors were added, there was a small increase in job satisfaction

ratings. Since the validity data the supervisors submitted was incomplete, the small

increase could not be solely attributed to the verbal positive reinforcement (Del Chiaro,

2006). Del Chiaro (2006), however, concludes that, based on the data, "training

supervisors in the use of positive verbal reinforcement has no negative effect on

employee job satisfaction" (p. 3434).  According to this study, verbal positive

reinforcement may increase job satisfaction slightly, but it is more likely that it does not

decrease job satisfaction.

     For example, in one seminal study on reinforcing effects of stimulants in humans,

doses of intravenous cocaine were available on an FR 10 schedule (Fischman & Schuster,

1982). Under this schedule, cocaine dose-dependently increased responding relative to

placebo, indicating that cocaine functioned as a positive reinforcer (Stoops, 2008).

     (Raj, Nelson, & Rao, 2006) conducted two field experiments in the Business

Information Technology Department of a major retail industry to analyze the impact of

positive task performance reinforcers. The groups created consisted of employees that

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either: performed complex tasks or performed relatively simple tasks. Each group was

then broken into subgroups for a total of 4 groups. The complex group was reinforced

with money and paid leave and outcome and process feedback. The simple group was

reinforced with an informal dress code and flexible working hours.


     There were 36 employees that made up this group and their daily jobs were to develop

new software, train employees on the new software, accounting, and auditing. One

subgroup (18 employees) received discounts on products sold by the company and were

offered paid leave for an additional half day every month. The monetary reinforcer

worked well and employee purchases at the retail store almost doubled after the

reinforcers were used. The second subgroup (18 employees) of group G1 received

outcome and process feedback. Outcome feedback communicated to the employee what

their performance level was against the set standard. (Raj, Nelson, & Rao, 2006) Process

feedback conveyed to each employee how the performance was executed, and, more

importantly, as to what should be done in future to improve their performance. (Raj,

Nelson, & Rao, 2006) 


     This group of employees (40 in number) performed simple task. They were allowed to

choose their own reinforcers along as they weren’t monetary. All of the 40 employees

were asked to list what would motivate them and make them feel comfortable in their

work spot, which in turn would lead to an increase in their performance. (Raj, Nelson, &

Rao, 2006) The biggest reinforcer chose was informal dress code. Out of 40 employees,

23 of them selected this reinforcer. They believed it wasn’t necessary to have a dress

code because they didn’t deal with the customers. Plus, the formal dress code made them

very uncomfortable because of the weather in India.    

     The remaining 17 employees that made up G2 viewed working hours that were

flexible would be the best reinforcer. They suggested that management allow them to

leave early in lean seasons as soon as the task assigned to them for that day was

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completed. (Raj, Nelson, & Rao, 2006) When the season was at its peak the same

workers would work longer hours to ensure all tasks were completed before leaving.



     The aggregate behavior of G11 came down from 809.06 during the intervention period

to 723.89 during the post intervention period, whereas the aggregate behavior of G12

showed a slight increase 832.72 during the intervention period of 835.39 during his post

intervention period. (Raj, Nelson, & Rao, 2006)

      Money and social recognition are better reinforcers than feedback for less complex

tasks according to previous literature. This experiment shows that providing suggestions

and information for future improvement has a more enduring benefit than does the use of

monetary discounts combined with increased paid leave. (Raj, Nelson, & Rao, 2006)


     After the experiment was over G2’s performance decreased after 6 months. However

it didn’t return to the baseline frequency level. (Raj, Nelson, & Rao, 2006)

Reinforcement was successful, but management needs to come up with new

reinforcements to maintain a high level of performance among employees. Besides an

increase in job performance there was an increase in satisfaction for G2. Their attitudes

were better than before, their willingness to do the jobs assigned to them was higher, and

their spirits were high. (Raj, Nelson, & Rao, 2006)

Useful Tools for Reinforcement Theory in the Workplace

Organizational Behavior Modification/Management (OB Mod)

OB Mod systematically applies reinforcement theory in workplace applications (Bucklin,

Alvero, Dickinson, Austin, and Jackson, 2000).  A very publicized example of OB Mod

in organizations was the Emery Air Freight company.  This company had organizational

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problems like employees not using the correct sized containers for shipping.  The result

was hefty costs for the company in shipping.  As a solution Emery Air Freight began

using OB Mod to increase productivity and reduce costs.  Managers chose to focus on

feedback and positive reinforcement.  This allowed managers to specify desired

behaviors and praise employees for their improvement and progress.  The effect of

implementing OB Mod was apparent after just a day.  Performance increases from 45

percent up to standard to 95 percent.  Emery Air Freight saved $3 million in costs alone

(Redmond, 2010).

Why organizations use OB Mod:

1) To increase productivity

2) To reduce absenteeism

3) To increase safety behaviors

4) To reduce lost time due to injuries

(Redmond, 2010)

Below is a model of OB Mod, also

social learning (Luthan and Kreither, 1974):

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Ethical Considerations of OB Mod

While OB Mod can help to motivate a change in behavior within organizations, there are

ethical concerns that need to be considered in the use of OB Mod in an organization.   The

first ethical consideration is that OB Mod can compromise an individual’s freedom of

choice.  The best interest of the employee is not always considered when the

reinforcement strategy is implemented.  The OB Mod may benefit the organization by

increasing production but may not improve the situation for the employee through

personal or professional growth.  The second ethical consideration is that of potential

manipulation.  When the desired behaviors are set in place by the managers, the

employees may feel as though they have little or no choice but to follow the behaviors

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suggested by management.  OB Mod, like other behavior motivation techniques,

possesses the potential for misuse.  (Griffin, Moorehead, 2010)