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Power of Reinforcement, The

Stephen Ray Flora

Publication Year: 2004

According to Stephen Ray Flora, reinforcement is a very powerful tool for improving the human condition despite often being dismissed as regarding people as less than human and as “overly simplistic.” This book addresses and defends the use of reinforcement principles against a wide variety of attacks. Countering the myths, criticisms, and misrepresentations of reinforcement, including false claims that reinforcement is “rat psychology,” the author shows that building reinforcement theory on basic laboratory research is a strength, not a weakness, and allows unlimited applications to human situations as it promotes well-being and productivity. Also examined are reinforcement contingencies, planned or accidental, as they shape behavioral patterns and repertoires in a positive way.

Published by: State University of New York Press

THE POWER OF REINFORCEMENT

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CONTENTS

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pp. v-vi

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. vii-viii

This book would not have been possible without the support and help of my parents, Glenda Christine Flora and Joseph Martin Flora.Although that may sound like a cliche, as the introduction reveals, in this case the cliche holds true. Additionally, my mother served as the reader and editor of the first draft and other early drafts. After each convenient breaking point I mailed the work to her in North Carolina. ...

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. ix-xviii

Why do some children skip school to get drunk, “high,” or “wasted” on drugs, while other children get to school on time, work hard on their homework, and participate in extracurricular activities such as bands, debate clubs, interscholastic athletics, or plays? It is for the same reason that one child with severe developmental disabilities ...

Part I: MYTHS AND MISREPRESENTATIONS OF REINFORCEMENT

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1. REINFORCEMENT AS “RAT PSYCHOLOGY”

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pp. 3-22

A new vaccine has been developed. Hailed as a miracle, the vaccine protects against ALL sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS and herpes, and prevents the flu, the common cold, and all childhood diseases such as chicken pox. The vaccine is available starting tomorrow.Would you take it? Would you want your child to have a shot? ...

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2. INSULTS AND MISCHIEVOUS MISREPRESENTATIONS: M&Ms for the Retarded

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pp. 23-26

It is a myth of reinforcement that while reinforcers such as M&M candy, or tokens exchangeable for candy, other goods, or activities, can produce compliance in developmentally disabled individuals, such reinforcers are ineffective in changing the behavior of nondisabled humans; “reinforcement may work on retarded children but not me; I’m too smart for that.” ...

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3. CARROT-AND-STICK CONTROL, BRIBERY, AND VALUE

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pp. 27-38

While ignorance about a general principle does not mean that principle does not exist, ignorance does lead to inaccurate criticisms. For example, establishing and increasing the rate of behavior with reinforcement has been criticized as a “carrot-and-stick” approach to behavior management and child care. Indeed, Alfie A. Kohn titled a chapter “The Trouble with Carrots,” in his book Pubished by Rewards and disparagingly refers to reinforcement as a carrot-and-stick approach no less than ten times. ...

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4. THE MYTH THAT “EXTRINSIC REWARDS UNDERMINE INTRINSIC INTEREST”

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pp. 39-60

In addition to making behavior that produces reinforcement “valuable behavior,” conditioned, contrived reinforcement programs can and do have many powerful and beneficial effects; however, the use of conditioned reinforcement and contrived reinforcement contingencies to shape and maintain behavior has led to the most damaging and widespread myth regarding reinforcement: The myth that rewarding behavior undermines, ...

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5. THE REALITY OF EXTRINSIC REWARDS AND INTRINSIC MOTIVATION

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pp. 61-74

When the claim that “all expected tangible rewards made contingent on task performance do reliably undermine intrinsic motivation” (Ryan & Deci, 2000, p. 70) is rephrased as “all expected tangible contrived reinforcers do reliably undermine natural reinforcers,” the absurdity is apparent. In fact, the opposite is true—expected tangible contrived reinforcers set the conditions where behavior may come under the control of natural ...

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6. REINFORCEMENT CRUSHES CREATIVITY

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pp. 75-82

Unfortunately, not only is it falsely argued that reinforcement under-mines intrinsic interest, but it is also argued, largely by the same antagonists to reinforcement (e.g., Kohn, 1993), with essentially the same arguments, that reinforcement is detrimental to creativity. This myth is also widespread. The previously mentioned National Education Association primer on promoting classroom creativity (chapter 7 in this book) ...

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7. REINFORCEMENT CREATES CREATIVITY

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pp. 83-104

The analysis of both conventional and creative behavior as being cases of selected operant behavior, implies that given the proper reinforcement history, reinforcement would select creative behavior rather than conventional behavior if, in the past, creative behavior rather than conventional behavior had been reinforced. ...

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8. THE MYTH THAT IMITATION AND INSTRUCTION FOLLOWING INVALIDATE REINFORCEMENT THEORY

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pp. 105-114

Particularly popular among college psychology instructors is the myth that the existence of imitation or “observational learning” (also referred to as “social learning theory”) invalidates reinforcement theory or at the very least proves that reinforcement is unnecessary for observational learning. Because the myth that reinforcement is not involved in, or important for imitation is often presented as fact, usually during students’...

Part II: FOR BETTER OR WORSE. IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH: Reinforcement in Action

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9. REINFORCEMENT OF ACHIEVEMENT AND UNDERACHIEVEMENT

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pp. 117-126

All parents and teachers want their children to be successful, to achieve. People who have high-achievement motivation desire accomplishment, can work independently and rapidly; they work to overcome obstacles to obtain a high standard of excellence and to surpass the success of others; they are ambitious and competitive (S. B. Klein, 1982, p. 353). In the first generation in the history of the United States when children are...

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10. REINFORCEMENT IN EDUCATION

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pp. 127-154

Although reinforcement and education are not synonymous, successful formal education is virtually impossible without copious systematic reinforcement. For optimal educational results, systematic reinforcement should begin in infancy and continue throughout the entire educational process. ...

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11. REINFORCEMENT IN DRUG USE, ABUSE, AND TREATMENT

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pp. 155-180

Hundreds of millions of people use and abuse both legal and illegal drugs. The most basic, useful, and honest, explanation for the use and abuse of behaviorally altering and “mind-altering” psychotropic drugs is that the use of drugs is reinforcing. “Drugs control behavior by acting as reinforcers, the same way that food and sex and water and heat can do that,” says University of Vermont psychiatry professor Stephen T. Higgins...

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12. REINFORCEMENT AND CRIME, MISCONDUCT, AND CORRECTION

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pp. 181-198

Quite simply for the same reason that addicts abuse drugs, some individuals repeatedly commit crimes because criminal behavior is reinforcing. Criminal behavior is reinforcing in several ways. Peter B. Wood of Mississippi State University, Walter R. Gove and James A. Wilson of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, and John K. Cochran of the University of South Florida, provide an evidence-based argument that criminal ...

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13. REINFORCEMENT IN THE CAUSE, COURSE, AND CORRECTION OF DEPRESSION, CHRONIC PAIN, AND ILLNESS

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pp. 199-224

Pain and illness are often correctly seen as physiological, not psychological, problems. Especially by the drug companies, depression is increasingly viewed (promoted) as a physiological, biological problem. Despite these views, there is overwhelming evidence that reinforcement plays a critical role in many, if not all, cases of depression, chronic pain, and illness. Of course, no one, or next to no one, wakes up and consciously decides, “I think...

REFERENCES

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pp. 225-244

APPENDIX 1: The Selection of Behavior

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pp. 245-250

APPENDIX 2: Basic Terms

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pp. 251-258

NAME INDEX

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pp. 259-264

SUBJECT INDEX

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pp. 265-269


E-ISBN-13: 9780791485989
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791459157
Print-ISBN-10: 0791459152

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: SUNY series, Alternatives in Psychology
Series Editor Byline: Michael A. Wallach