How a fixed reinforcement plan affects behavior

In operational conditioning, a fixed ratio plan is an enhanced plan in which the response is enhanced only after a specified number of responses. Essentially, the subject provides a certain number of answers, and then the trainer provides rewards. One advantage of this type of schedule is that it produces a high, stable response rate with only a short pause after the delivery of the enhancer.

If you remember, operational conditioning involves the use of rewards and punishments to strengthen or weaken behavior. This type of associative learning involves changing behavior based on its consequences. In other words, if a behavior is accompanied by an ideal result, then this behavior is more likely to happen again in the future. On the other hand, if an action is accompanied by undesirable consequences, then the possibility that the action will happen again in the future will be reduced.

Behavior scientist BF Skinner has observed that the speed at which behavior is reinforced or the schedule of reinforcement has an effect on the frequency and intensity of the response. The fixed ratio plan is just one of Skinner’s plans.

How the fixed ratio plan works

The fixed ratio plan can be understood by looking at the term itself. Fixed refers to providing rewards according to a consistent schedule. The ratio refers to the number of responses required to receive reinforcement. For example, a fixed ratio plan might provide a reward every five responses. After the subjects responded to the stimulus five times, they were rewarded.

So imagine you are training a laboratory mouse to press a button to receive food particles. You decide to place the rat on a timetable with a fixed ratio of 15 (FR-15). In order to receive food particles, rats must perform an operational response (press the button) 15 times to receive food particles. The schedule is fixed, so the mouse will consistently receive pellets every 15 times the lever is pressed.

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So what effect does the fixed ratio plan have on the response rate?

  • Produce high and stable response until reinforcement is provided
  • Best used when learning new behaviors
  • After the intensification, the response was temporarily suspended, but the response quickly resumed
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Generally, the FR plan will result in a very high response rate following the burst-pause-burst pattern. The subject will respond at a high speed until reinforcement is provided, at which time there will be a short pause. However, the response will resume at a high rate again.

One of the advantages of a fixed ratio schedule is that it leads to a fairly high response rate, although there is usually a short pause after the reward is provided. One possible disadvantage is that subjects may become exhausted quickly due to such a high response rate, or they may feel satisfied after a certain amount of reinforcement is given.

Example of a fixed ratio plan

  • Production line work: Workers in the small parts factory get paid for every 15 small parts produced. This leads to high productivity and workers tend to seldom take breaks. However, it can lead to burnout and low-quality work.
  • Collecting tokens in video games: In many video games, you have to collect so many tokens, items, or points to get a certain type of reward.
  • Sales commission: Workers earn a commission for every three sold.
  • Achievements: Children will be rewarded after they get five A’s in homework. After getting the fifth A in her homework, she can choose a new toy.
  • Piece Counting: Work that requires X replies to get paid. For example, a worker will receive X dollars for every 100 envelopes or 100 flyers posted on the windshield.
  • Farm work: Farm workers are paid X dollars for every basket of fruit they pick.

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For some situations where operational conditioning is used, a fixed ratio plan may be a useful method.However, when choosing a schedule, it is important to consider factors such as how often you want the topic to respond and how often you want to provide rewards.

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