Concurrent Schedules Of Reinforcement: Understanding The Basics

To put it simply, concurrent schedules of reinforcement involve the simultaneous use of two or more reinforcement schedules. In other words, instead of using just one type of reward or punishment to shape behavior, multiple types are used at the same time.

reuben kesherim
Ruben Kesherim
March 1, 2024

Concurrent Schedules Of Reinforcement: Understanding The Basics

Understanding Behavior Management

When it comes to shaping and modifying behavior, behavior management plays a crucial role. By employing effective strategies, parents can guide their children towards positive behaviors and discourage negative ones. One of the key components of behavior management is reinforcement, which involves the use of rewards and consequences to shape behavior.

The Importance of Behavior Management

Behavior management is essential for creating a positive and nurturing environment for children. It helps parents establish clear expectations and boundaries, promoting a sense of structure and routine. By managing behavior effectively, parents can foster healthy communication, cooperation, and respect within the family.

Behavior management also plays a significant role in supporting children's socio-emotional development. It encourages the acquisition of essential life skills such as self-control, problem-solving, and decision-making. Additionally, effective behavior management can enhance children's self-esteem and overall well-being, laying the foundation for their future success.

Introduction to Reinforcement

Reinforcement is a fundamental concept in behavior management. It involves the use of rewards or consequences to strengthen or weaken specific behaviors. Reinforcement can be positive, where a reward is provided to encourage desired behavior, or negative, where a consequence is applied to deter unwanted behavior.

Positive reinforcement focuses on rewarding desired behaviors to increase their occurrence. This can be done through verbal praise, tokens, privileges, or tangible rewards. Negative reinforcement, on the other hand, aims to reduce or eliminate undesirable behavior by removing an unpleasant stimulus or consequence.

By understanding the principles of reinforcement, parents can effectively shape their child's behavior. It is important to note that reinforcement strategies should be tailored to the individual child's needs, taking into consideration their age, personality, and specific behavioral challenges.

As we delve further into the concept of reinforcement, we will explore concurrent schedules of reinforcement, their types, real-life examples, and the benefits they offer in behavior management. These strategies can provide parents with effective tools to promote positive behaviors and create a harmonious family environment.

Concurrent Schedules of Reinforcement

In the realm of behavior management, understanding concurrent schedules of reinforcement is crucial. These schedules play a vital role in shaping and maintaining desired behaviors. Let's delve into the definition and explanation of concurrent schedules of reinforcement, as well as how they work.

Definition and Explanation

Concurrent schedules of reinforcement refer to a situation where two or more reinforcement schedules are simultaneously in effect for different behaviors. In simpler terms, it involves providing reinforcement for multiple behaviors at the same time. This approach allows individuals to receive reinforcement for engaging in various target behaviors.

The purpose of implementing concurrent schedules of reinforcement is to encourage the occurrence of specific behaviors while reinforcing alternative ones. By providing reinforcement for desired behaviors and offering alternative reinforcement for other behaviors, individuals are motivated to engage in the desired behaviors more frequently.

How Concurrent Schedules of Reinforcement Work?

Concurrent schedules of reinforcement operate based on the principles of operant conditioning. Reinforcement serves as a consequence that increases the likelihood of a behavior occurring again in the future. By utilizing concurrent schedules of reinforcement, behavior management aims to shape and maintain desired behaviors effectively.

When implementing concurrent schedules of reinforcement, two or more reinforcement schedules are in effect simultaneously. Each schedule is associated with a specific behavior and has its own set of reinforcement contingencies. For example, one behavior might be reinforced on a fixed ratio schedule, while another behavior is reinforced on a variable interval schedule.

Individuals engaging in the desired behaviors are consistently reinforced, which strengthens those behaviors over time. At the same time, behaviors that are not reinforced or receive alternative reinforcement are less likely to occur frequently. This differential reinforcement helps shape behavior and promote the desired behaviors while reducing the occurrence of undesired behaviors.

By utilizing concurrent schedules of reinforcement, parents and caregivers can effectively manage behaviors and promote positive changes in their children. It is important to consider the specific reinforcement schedules, as well as the individual needs and preferences of the child, when implementing this approach.

Understanding concurrent schedules of reinforcement is an essential aspect of behavior management. By implementing this strategy, parents can create an environment that encourages desired behaviors while minimizing the occurrence of undesired behaviors.

Types of Concurrent Schedules

Variable Interval (VI) Schedule

When it comes to concurrent schedules of reinforcement, there are four main types that are commonly used in behavior management. These types are fixed ratio (FR) schedule, variable ratio (VR) schedule, fixed interval (FI) schedule, and variable interval (VI) schedule. Each of these schedules has its own unique characteristics and impacts on behavior.

Fixed Ratio (FR) Schedule

In a fixed ratio schedule, reinforcement is delivered after a fixed number of responses. For example, in a FR-5 schedule, reinforcement is provided every fifth response. This type of schedule often leads to high rates of responding due to the predictable nature of reinforcement. It is effective in promoting repetitive behaviors and can be useful in tasks that require frequent responses.

Variable Ratio (VR) Schedule

In a variable ratio schedule, reinforcement is delivered after an average number of responses. The number of responses required for reinforcement varies unpredictably.

For instance, in a VR-5 schedule, reinforcement may be given after 3 responses, then after 7 responses, and so on, with an average of 5 responses. This type of schedule typically leads to high and steady rates of responding. VR schedules are often associated with behaviors that are resistant to extinction.

Fixed Interval (FI) Schedule

In a fixed interval schedule, reinforcement is provided for the first response after a fixed period of time has elapsed. For example, in a FI-5-minute schedule, reinforcement is given for the first response that occurs after 5 minutes have passed.

This type of schedule often leads to a scalloped pattern of responding, with an increase in responding as the reinforcement time approaches. FI schedules are effective in promoting behaviors that require a consistent and sustained effort over time.

Variable Interval (VI) Schedule

In a variable interval schedule, reinforcement is provided for the first response after an average interval of time has elapsed. The length of the interval varies unpredictably.

For instance, in a VI-5-minute schedule, reinforcement may be given for the first response after 3 minutes, then after 7 minutes, and so on, with an average interval of 5 minutes. This type of schedule typically leads to a moderate and steady rate of responding. VI schedules are often associated with behaviors that are resistant to extinction.

To better understand the differences between these schedules, refer to the table below:

Schedule Definition Characteristics
Fixed Ratio (FR) Reinforcement after a fixed number of responses High rates of responding, predictable reinforcement
Variable Ratio (VR) Reinforcement after an average number of responses High and steady rates of responding, unpredictable reinforcement
Fixed Interval (FI) Reinforcement for the first response after a fixed period of time Scalloped pattern of responding, increased responding as reinforcement time approaches
Variable Interval (VI) Reinforcement for the first response after an average interval of time Moderate and steady rates of responding, unpredictable intervals

Understanding the different types of concurrent schedules of reinforcement is essential in behavior management. By selecting the appropriate schedule based on the desired behavior and its characteristics, parents can effectively shape and reinforce behaviors in their children.

Real-Life Examples

Examples of Concurrent Schedules in Everyday Life

Concurrent schedules of reinforcement can be observed in various real-life situations, demonstrating their influence on behavior. Here are a few examples:

Example Description
Supermarket Loyalty Programs Many supermarkets offer loyalty programs where customers earn points or discounts based on their purchases. This can involve concurrent schedules, such as earning double points during certain times or receiving additional rewards for specific products. Customers are reinforced for their shopping behavior through these concurrent schedules, encouraging repeat visits and increased spending.
Video Game Rewards In video games, players often encounter concurrent schedules of reinforcement. They may receive immediate rewards, such as points or power-ups, for completing certain tasks or achieving specific milestones. Simultaneously, there may be intermittent rewards, like rare items or in-game currency, which are obtained less frequently but hold high value. These concurrent schedules motivate players to continue playing and striving for rewards.
Workplace Incentives Many workplaces implement concurrent schedules of reinforcement to boost employee productivity and performance. For instance, an employee may receive a fixed bonus for meeting a monthly sales target (fixed ratio schedule), while also having the opportunity to win additional rewards through a lottery system (variable ratio schedule). These concurrent schedules motivate employees to consistently work towards their goals and perform at their best.

Applying Concurrent Schedules in Behavior Management

Concurrent schedules of reinforcement are not limited to specific settings; they can also be applied in behavior management strategies. Here are a few examples of how concurrent schedules can be used effectively:

By understanding and applying concurrent schedules of reinforcement in various real-life contexts, individuals can effectively shape behavior and promote desired outcomes. Whether in supermarkets, video games, or behavior management strategies, concurrent schedules play a significant role in influencing and reinforcing behavior.

Benefits and Considerations

When it comes to behavior management, implementing concurrent schedules of reinforcement can be highly beneficial. These schedules offer a unique approach to shaping and maintaining desired behaviors in individuals. However, it's important to consider certain factors when using concurrent schedules to ensure their effectiveness.

Benefits of Using Concurrent Schedules

Concurrent schedules of reinforcement offer several advantages in behavior management. Let's explore some of the key benefits:

  1. Increased motivation: By providing multiple reinforcement options, concurrent schedules can enhance motivation for desired behaviors. Individuals have the opportunity to choose from different types of reinforcement, which can increase engagement and participation.
  2. Diverse reinforcement strategies: Concurrent schedules allow for the use of different reinforcement strategies simultaneously. This flexibility allows behavior managers to tailor the reinforcement to each individual's preferences and needs, increasing the chances of success.
  3. Efficient behavior change: With concurrent schedules, behavior change can occur more efficiently. By offering a variety of reinforcement options, individuals may respond more quickly to the desired behavior, leading to more effective behavior modification.
  4. Generalization of skills: Concurrent schedules can promote the generalization of skills across different settings and contexts. The use of various reinforcement options can help individuals transfer their learned behaviors to real-life situations, improving their overall functioning.

Factors to Consider when Implementing Concurrent Schedules

While concurrent schedules of reinforcement can be highly effective, there are important factors to consider to ensure their successful implementation. Let's explore some key considerations:

  1. Clear reinforcement contingencies: It is crucial to establish clear and consistent reinforcement contingencies for each behavior. This helps individuals understand the relationship between their actions and the available reinforcement options.
  2. Individual preferences: Take into account individual preferences when designing concurrent schedules. Not all individuals respond to the same types of reinforcement. Consider their unique interests, needs, and preferences to maximize the effectiveness of the schedule.
  3. Monitoring and evaluation: Regular monitoring and evaluation of the concurrent schedules is essential. This allows behavior managers to assess the effectiveness of the reinforcement options and make any necessary adjustments to maintain progress.
  4. Maintaining balance: Strive to maintain a balance between the reinforcement options and ensure that they are equally reinforcing. If one option consistently provides more reinforcement than others, individuals may focus solely on that option, leading to an imbalance in behavior.

By considering these factors, behavior managers can optimize the use of concurrent schedules of reinforcement and increase the likelihood of successful behavior management outcomes. It's important to remember that individual responsiveness may vary, and adjustments to the schedule may be needed to meet the specific needs of each person.


What is the difference between concurrent schedules and other reinforcement schedules?

While other reinforcement schedules may use only one type of reinforcement, concurrent schedules involve the simultaneous use of two or more reinforcement schedules. This means that multiple types of rewards or punishments are used at the same time to shape behavior.

Can concurrent schedules be used in everyday life?

Yes, concurrent schedules can be used in a variety of settings, such as schools, workplaces, and homes. By using a combination of rewards and punishments, it can help to encourage desired behaviors.

Are there any drawbacks to using concurrent schedules?

While concurrent schedules can be effective in shaping behavior, there are also potential drawbacks. For example, if rewards are inconsistent or unclear, it can lead to confusion and demotivation. Additionally, if punishments are too severe or frequent, it can lead to resentment or even rebellion against the desired behavior.

How do you determine which types of reinforcement to use in a concurrent schedule?

The types of reinforcement used in a concurrent schedule should be based on the specific behavior being targeted and the individual's preferences. For example, if someone is motivated by praise but not by material rewards, then using verbal praise as a form of positive reinforcement would likely be more effective than offering them a gift card.

Can concurrent schedules be combined with other behavior modification techniques?

Yes, concurrent schedules can be combined with other techniques such as shaping (gradually rewarding behaviors that approximate the desired behavior) or chaining (breaking down complex behaviors into smaller steps). Combining these techniques can create a comprehensive approach to changing behavior.


In conclusion, concurrent schedules of reinforcement are an important tool in shaping behavior, but they must be used carefully and thoughtfully. By understanding the basics of how they work, you can use them to your advantage in a variety of settings.