Differential Reinforcement

Differential Reinforcement is defined as the implementation of reinforcing to a specific class of behavior while withholding reinforcement for other classes of behavior. All differential reinforcement procedures combine the use of two principles of behavior that include: Reinforcement and Extinction. When you first apply differential reinforcement, you must start by reinforcing desirable behavior (alternative or other behavior) very frequently.

The theory behind differential reinforcement is that people tend to repeat those behaviors that are reinforced or rewarded and are less likely to continue behaviors that aren’t reinforced .There are several types of differential reinforcement; however, they all share the same principles of reinforcing desired behavior which are explained below:

Forms of Differential Reinforcement

• Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible behavior (DRI)
• Differential Reinforcement of Alternative behavior (DRA)
• Differential Reinforcement of Other behavior (DRO)
• Differential Reinforcement of Low Rates (DRL)

Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible behavior (DRI)

Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible behavior (DRI) is one of the forms of Differential Reinforcement that reinforces those behaviors that are incompatible or cannot occur simultaneously with the problem behavior while withholding reinforcement for the problem behavior. For Example, Ram does not sit at one place in the class so his teacher decides to implement a DRI procedure. The teacher decides to reinforce a behavior that is incompatible with out of seat behavior. Sitting in his seat is chosen as the incompatible behavior because it cannot occur at the same time as out of seat behavior. Ram only receives reinforcement for sitting in his seat while reinforcement is withheld when Ram is out of his seat.

Differential Reinforcement of Alternative behavior (DRA)

Differential Reinforcement of Alternative behavior (DRA) is one of the forms of Differential Reinforcement that entails reinforcing a behavior that serves as a viable alternative for the problem behavior that has been seen. For Example, Shyam always shout out to answer a question whenever his teacher asks question in the class. His teacher decides to use a DRA procedure in which Shyam is only reinforced for raising his hand to answer a question. This behavior is an alternative to shouting out, but is not incompatible as both the problem behavior and the alternative can occur at the same time. However, raising his hand is a more socially acceptable alternative.

Differential Reinforcement of Other behavior (DRO)

Differential Reinforcement of Other behavior (DRO) is one of the forms of Differential Reinforcement that entails delivering reinforcement whenever the problem behavior does not occur during a predetermined amount of time. For Example: Sweta has the habit of pulling her hair strand whenever she working independently. Her teacher decides to use DRO technique to reinforce this behavior of her. The teacher sets a timer for three minutes on Sweta’s desk. If Sweta does not pull her hair for the entire three minutes then she is reinforced. If Sweta does pull her hair again, she is not reinforced and the timer is reset.

Differential Reinforcement of Low Rates (DRL)

Differential Reinforcement of Low Rates (DRL) is one of the forms of Differential Reinforcement that is used to reduce the frequency of a behavior but not eliminate it from the learners’ repertoire entirely. This is typically reserved for behaviors that are socially acceptable but may occur too often. Using this procedure, reinforcement is delivered if a behavior occurs below predetermined criteria.

For Example, John uses socially appropriate behavior to greet peers but does so up to ten times in one class period. His teacher decides to use DRL to lower the rate of his behavior but she does not want to eliminate it completely. She decides to deliver reinforcement to John if he greets peers five or fewer times during the class period. If he greets peers more than five times, he does not receive reinforcement.

Try this Out

All differential reinforcement procedures combine the use of what two principles of behavior?

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