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Tiny Leaps, Big Changes

Gregg Clunis

Tiny Leaps, Big Changes
13 MINJUN 16
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In this episode, we talk about reward systems and why they work so dang well.

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Common Reasons to Use Reward Systems

  • Rewards success

  • Punishes failure

  • Something to look forward to

What is Operant Conditioning

"Operant conditioning (sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning) is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior"

Why Does This Work?

There are two types of behavior

  • Respondent behaviors are those that occur automatically and reflexively. Think of pulling your hand away from the stove when burned or putting your hands forward to stop yourself when falling.

  • Operant behaviors, on the other hand, are those under our conscious control. Some may occur spontaneously and others purposely, but it is the consequences of these actions that then influence whether or not they occur again in the future.

Key Components:

Reinforcers & Punishments


"Reinforcement is any event that strengthens or increases the behavior it follows."

Positive Reinforcers

Positive events or situations presented after the behavior

  • Praise

  • Direct Rewards

Negative Reinforcers

The removal of events or situations as a result of a behavior

  • Giving a crying child candy to get them to stop


"Punishment is the presentation of an adverse event or outcome that causes a decrease in the behavior it follows"

Positive Punishment

"sometimes referred to as punishment by application, presents an unfavorable event or outcome in order to weaken the response it follows. Spanking for misbehavior is an example of punishment by application"

Negative Punishment

"also known as punishment by removal, occurs when a favorable event or outcome is removed after a behavior occurs. Taking away a child's video game following misbehavior is an example of negative punishment"

Key Takeaways:

  • The 2 kinds of behaviors are reflexes and operant behavior. Operant behaviors are more controllable and programmable.

  • If trying to develop or reduce an operant behavior using a reward system can be helpful.

  • When creating a reward system focus on reinforcers and punishments. Reinforce the behavior you want by giving yourself a reward or being praised. Be careful of accidentally reinforcing habits and behaviors you don't want

  • Punish behaviors you don't want




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