The behaviorist approach leads us to believe that personality consists of all of an individuals behaviors. According to Skinner all behavior is determined by contingencys of reinforcment, based on the type and frequency of the reinforcment. If this is true, then we are more apt to repeat behaviors that are rewarded and less apt to repeat punished behaviors.
The expirence I’d like to share about my reinforcment procedure involves my dog Lucy. Lucy is a chow and black labrador mix. Currently Lucy is one and half years old. I have used reinforcment while training her to respond in a conditioned way.
Lucy’s favorite food is sliced american cheese. Using the cheese as a conditioned stimulus, I have trained Lucy to give a desired conditioned response. When I told Lucy to sit and she did, I would give her a slice of cheese. So Lucy eventually became aquaintede with the slice of cheese being a reward of sitting on command. The partial reinforcment schedule used for Lucy was on a variable ratio. She did not receive a slice of cheese each time she responded to the command. It was on an average of every three responses that she was rewarded. I did not want a fixed ratio because I did not want Lucy to expect a slice of cheese every time someone had it.
Lucy is at the point where she now does not have to be told to sit. As she hears the refridgerator door open, she becomes alert to the activity going on inside. Lucy will run over to the refridgerator. Once the cheese is taken out of the draw, Lucy recognizes the sound of the wrapper. Lucy reacts on this discriminative stimulu and will sit on her own in order to revieve the slice of cheese.
Knowing that cheese is her favorite food, I also use it as a negative reinforcment. Lucy loves to run out the door when people enter the house. I live on a street that gets a good deal of traffic, let alone it is ilegal for her to be running around loose. Afraid that she may get hit by a car, or picked up by the dog warden, I have to reinforce this behavior. Each time Lucy decides to run outside on her own free will, I go into the refridgerator and tell her “no cheese for Lucy” as I grab the cheese. Lucy will sit and do all the tricks she knows to get the cheese, but I do not give in to her.
Stimuli similar to the discriptive stimulus also produces responses, this process is known as generalization. I find it comincal to use this process with Lucy. I don’t believe she has any idea as to why I am laughing at her, but when I tell Lucy to sit she will. When she sits, she looks for a reward that is sometimes given to her. Using generalization, I will tell Lucy to spit and she will sit and still look for the reward. Sit and spit are so similar that she believes they will have the same outcome, only one may get a reward and the other gets a chuckle.