Define natural and contrived reinforcers, and give an example of each. What type of reinforcer is commonly
Define natural and contrived reinforcers, and give an example of each. What type of reinforcer is commonly used in the initial stages of behavior modification, and what is the hoped-for result in the long run?
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Certain reinforcers are helpful in the initial phase of establishing or modifying a behavior while other reinforcers help the individual sustain a particular behavior.
Reinforcers are quite effective in modifying a person's behavior and influencing interest in an activity. The natural reinforcers are stimuli that are directly caused by the behavior in which the individual has engaged. According to Skinner , such reinforcers are the most helpful in changing behavior because the individual can see the exact cause-and-effect relationship between an action and its consequence. For instance, if a student understands the topic that they are studying, the individual may feel quite fulfilled and be encouraged to engage in studying more often.
The contrived reinforcers are not exactly linked to the action that helps an individual obtain the same. That is, there is no direct cause-and-effect between the behavior and the reward that is given. For instance, an employee getting a new office because of good performance is a contrived reinforcer. It is because good performance is directly linked to the income that is earned by the firm.
In behavioral modification, contrived reinforcers are used at the start of the program. The use of token economy is based on this principle of using contrived reinforcers to encourage the repetition of desirable behaviors. For instance, if a patient with schizophrenia bathes and dresses well every day, they are rewarded with two tokens. The tokens are contrived reinforcers since there is no direct link between the act of bathing and getting a token. The token can be used by the individual in exchange for a chance to watch a film that they like.
The reason for using a token in the initial stages is because it is hoped that attractive reinforcers will, initially, habituate the individual to participate in such behaviors. Over time, it is expected that such individuals will no longer require the tokens because the act of bathing and dressing up every day is naturally rewarding.
Natural reinforcers are rewards that are typically anticipated after the completion of a behavior. That is, such rewards are a direct consequence of engaging in certain behavior. For instance, weight loss is a natural reinforcer as it is a direct outcome of following a diet.
Contrived reinforcers are stimuli that have been arranged artificially to encourage a particular behavior. Unlike, natural reinforcers, they are not a relevant consequence of a behavior. For instance, the verbal praises that are told to individuals who have lost weight are contrived reinforcers.
Typically, contrived reinforcers are used to change an individual's behavior in behavior modification programs. That is, it is expected that the contrived reinforcers would propel the individual in repeating this behavior initially.
The hope, of course, is that eventually, the individual would no longer need the contrived reinforcer. It is because the natural reinforcers expected to be pleasurable and enjoyable to the individual that will propel them to repeat such behavior in the future.