Evaluating The Effectiveness of Reinforcement Delivery

Does size or number matter most?


 With guest chatter Erica Feuerbacher, Ph.D., BCBA-D, CPDT-KA

All of us are always looking for more effective ways to reinforce desired behaviors from the animals we work with.  Some research has found that food is typically a more effective reinforcer for dogs than social interaction. However, little is known about how to enhance the efficacy of food as a reinforcer for dogs. The properties of both reinforcers, and punishers for that matter, influence how effective they are at increasing or decreasing the frequency of behavior.

When it comes to food as reinforcement, is it better to deliver one large piece, or divide the large piece into smaller ones?  Which delivery choice results in better responding? And can the effectiveness of either food or praise be improved by pairing them with one another?

It’s well known that continuous reinforcement is best used in the beginning stages of training.  But to maintain behaviors and make them more resistant to extinction, reinforcement must be switched to a variable schedule.  But when is it best to do this?  How do the properties of the reinforcement being used (one large or several small tidbits) interact with the reinforcement schedule to influence changes in behavior frequency?  And we can’t forget individual variation among dogs as a complicating factor.

These are the subjects of the interesting research that Dr. Erica Feuerbacher will be sharing in this CAABChat.

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