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What are Consequences?
Consequences are an important concept to understand in the shaping of behaviour.
The theory of consequences, which have been backed up by research, indicates that enjoyable consequences increase the likelihood of behaviour, while unenjoyable consequences decrease the likelihood of behaviour.
Reinforcers are consequences that increase the likelihood of a behaviour (e.g. verbal praise, treats, rewards, prizes etc).
A reinforcer is only relevant if it is considered a reinforcer by the person receiving it. For example, if a child makes their bed 3 days in a row and you give them a peppermint lolly as a reward, but they don’t like peppermint lollies, they are not likely to view this as a reinforcement for their behaviour.
There are two types of reinforcers:
Secondary reinforcers do not have any value without the presence of other reinforcers. For example, a trophy has no value to a child who wins a race, unless the trophy is considered to be of value by others, and they receive praise (e.g. from parents, family, teachers, peers etc) for winning the trophy.
There are 3 types of secondary reinforcers:
Reinforcers can be positive or negative:
If you are using reinforcers to encourage or discourage particular behaviours:
Finally, a word of caution: be careful about providing rewards or tokenistic reinforcers for activities that children will either complete anyway, or enjoy of their own accord. For example, if you give children money for doing their homework, it can impact on their intrinsic motivation for completing that work (they will no longer want to do their homework unless they receive money for it).
Research has found that intrinsic motivation to complete a task that a person would have completed without any reward can be affected if the person starts to receive a reward for displaying that particular behaviour (e.g. children will contribute to do the household chores without rewards for the simple fact that they are contributing, but their desire to do this can be reduced if they receive money for it).
Slavin, R. (2005). Educational Psychology: Theory and Practice 8th Edition. Boston: Pearson Education Inc.
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