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What Is a Fixed-Interval Schedule?

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Fixed Interval

A weekly paycheck is an example of a fixed-interval schedule of reinforcement.

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Definition:

In operant conditioning, a fixed-interval schedule is a schedule of reinforcement where the first response is rewarded only after a specified amount of time has elapsed. This schedule causes high amounts of responding near the end of the interval, but much slower responding immediately after the delivery of the reinforcer.

Characteristics

  • Results is a fairly significant post-reinforcement pause in responding
  • Responses tend to increase gradually as the reinforcement time draws closer

Examples

  • In a Lab Setting: Imagine that you are training a rat to press a lever, but you only reinforce the first response after a ten-minute interval. The rat does not press the bar much during the first 5 minutes after reinforcement, but begins to press the lever more and more often the closer you get to the ten minute mark.

  • In the Real World: A weekly paycheck is a good example of a fixed-interval schedule. The employee receives reinforcement every seven days, which may result in a higher response rate as payday approaches.

More Psychology Definitions: The Psychology Dictionary

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