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## Reinforcement theory (Connect, Perform)

Management in Life

Last week, Mazie’s son, Wesley, did an amazing thing. For the first time in a month, he made his bed and picked up his dirty clothes. This excited Mazie greatly, and she decided to use reinforcement theory to help make sure that Wesley would continue his room-cleaning behavior. Mazie has two methods she can use to increase the likelihood of room cleaning in the future: increase Wesley’s allowance or stop nagging Wesley about the state of his room.

Use the dropdown menus in the following diagram to specify the reinforcement theory techniques that match the behaviors Mazie could use on Wesley.

A. Positive reinforcement

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B. Negative reinforcement

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Explanation:

According to reinforcement theory, behavior can be increased in two ways. Both ways involve giving a person a reward, but positive reinforcement means that the reward will be something good, while negative reinforcement (avoidance learning) means that the reward will be stopping something bad. In this case, when Mazie stops nagging, it provides negative reinforcement, which reinforces her son’s behavior.

Reinforcement relies on consequences, the presentation of which can occur according to a continuous or intermittent schedule. Consider the following example:

Susan has implemented two reinforcement plans to see which is most effective. In one, employees are given a gift card after every month of perfect attendance. The other plan involves a system where gift cards are again given to employees, but after a month of perfect attendance during which the employee spends \$25.00 at the company cafeteria.

The first reinforcement plan is an example of thefixed interval

schedule of reinforcement.

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Explanation:

This scenario is an example of the fixed ratio schedule of reinforcement. With a fixed ratio schedule, consequences follow a specific number of behaviors. The fixed number of behaviors in this example is perfect attendance for a month.

If both plans prove to be effective, which strategy would you suggest Susan implement to effectively change employee behavior?

You may want to consider using a variable interval schedule of reinforcement since it is more effective than any other schedule of reinforcement.

Either plan is fine, but try to increase the amount of time between giving rewards, motivating employees to stay with the company longer.

Continue with the first plan since it is the least complicated of the two.

Continue with the second plan since it will benefit both your cafeteria and employees, even if there is employee backlash.

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Explanation:

Managers should know that the more complicated a reinforcement schedule, the more likely it will be misunderstood and resisted by employees. Therefore, managers should strive to balance effectiveness with simplicity. Often times this means implementing a continuous schedule of reinforcement. Reinforcement that is continuous, on a fixed ratio schedule, or on a variable ratio schedule is found to be equally effective, with the continuous schedule being the most simple and straightforward for employees. You should then suggest that Susan continue with the first plan since it is the least complicated of the two.