Primary Reinforcement

In operant conditioning there are Primary Reinforcers and Conditioned Reinforcers. Primary reinforcers are naturally reinforcing, i.e. there is no learning necessary for them to be reinforcing. The conditioned reinforcer is learned. For example, many people bribe children with candy to clean their room or do their homework. If the parent continued to bribe their children with candy and also had them put a checkmark on a job chart, after a while the parents could stop giving candy and only have the child make the checkmark and it would still be reinforcing. In this situation, the parent taught the child to be reinforced by making checkmarks. Marking the checkmark is the conditioned reinforcer because it had to be learned. In contrast, the candy is a primary reinforcer because it did not have to learned.

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