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MCAT Psychology – Reinforcement

  • by Kerry Goldstein
  • Feb 03, 2015
  • MCAT Blog, MCAT Psychology, MCAT Question of the Day

A teacher sets up a reward system for her elementary school students. At the end of each day, she gives a sticker to each student who showed up on time that morning. At the end of each week, she gives a sticker to any student who got above a 90% on three quizzes in a row. After months of this regimen, she finds that performance on the quizzes has increased significantly but that tardiness has only decreased slightly. Which of the following best explains the teacher’s observation?

A) Variable ratio schedules create the strongest responses and behavior that is the least susceptible to extinction.
B) The students had more intrinsic motivation to do well on quizzes than to show up on time.
C) The students’ behavior change was stronger in response to a fixed-ratio schedule than it was to a continuous reinforcement schedule.
D) The students’ behavior change was stronger in response to a fixed-ratio schedule than it was to a variable-interval schedule.

 

Explanation

A) Variable ratio schedules create the strongest responses and behavior that is the least susceptible to extinction.

B) The students had more intrinsic motivation to do well on quizzes than to show up on time.

C) The students’ behavior change was stronger in response to a fixed-ratio schedule than it was to a continuous reinforcement schedule.

D) The students’ behavior change was stronger in response to a fixed-ratio schedule than it was to a variable-interval schedule.

The teacher was offering rewards on two schedules. Showing up on time was always rewarded with a sticker. Rewarding for each instance of behavior is a continuous reinforcement schedule. She then also rewarded good quiz performance for every three quizzes. This was a fixed-ratio schedule. The teacher observed that the quiz performance increased more than the timeliness did, so the students were responding more strongly to the fixed-ratio schedule. Thus choice C is correct.

A: While this is true, the teacher wasn’t using a variable-ratio schedule.

B: Intrinsic motivation is irrelevant to this scenario – all the motivation discussed is extrinsic.

D: The teacher didn’t use a variable-interval schedule.

 

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