A Question About Reinforcement
Joan Orr: Shubata has two questions for Karen. One is related to the differential reinforcement question she asked earlier. What she meant by that is, “Could we sometimes give him two skittles if he did something really good, or if he didn’t get a tag, but then did the action again by himself?” The other question is, “Does the tag always have to be followed by a reinforcer? Does the tag become reinforcing by itself after a while?”
Karen Pryor: The tag does become reinforcing by itself after a while for some individuals and some times. Once the behavior is well-established, I’m not sure you have to tag every time or use a primary reinforcer, but using the tag without a reinforcer weakens the tag. Using the reinforcer without the tag can maintain the behavior, but only if it is already well-learned.
Karen: I think life reinforcers begin to take over the tag in a lot of teaching.
Theresa McKeon: I think that’s right Karen. That’s what you said. The very fact that he (boy in pool video) is now swimming, that was the follow-up, that was the jackpot, that was the two skittles. That’s what we are looking for, the environmental reinforcer, the naturally occurring reinforcers.
Karen: I know. What I really wanted to say that it looks pretty certain that it doesn’t make much difference, if any, if you give two skittles for a little bit better or two skittles for a lot better. The tag is the thing that notifies them that they win the prize. The size of the prize is not very important at all, even if you gave them an automobile one time and a skittle another. It may take a huge difference before the difference in size makes a difference in outcome. I wouldn’t bother trying to enrich the tag or make the praise better by increasing the food or the reward a little. I think that actually confuses the tag and doesn’t make much difference to the learner.
I would start by withholding the tag for a normal behavior and tag for an even better or improving version of the behavior. Make the tag the rich thing.
Introduction to Module 2
The Focus Funnel
Tagging and Observation Practice
Transitions: School to Home
Video - Swimming Lesson
Q & A With Karen Pryor