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What Is a Fixed-Interval Schedule?


Fixed Interval

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

Image by Vangelis Thomaidis

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.


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


  • 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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