Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders

2013 Edition
| Editors: Fred R. Volkmar

Premack Principle

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1698-3_1165



The Premack principle is a principle of reinforcement which states that an opportunity to engage in more probable behaviors (or activities) will reinforce less probable behaviors (or activities). For example, if a child enjoys playing computer games (more probable) and avoids completing math problems (less probable), we might allow her to play the computer after (contingent upon) completing 15 math problems. Prior to the introduction of the Premack principle, systems of reinforcement were viewed as the contingency between a stimulus and behavior. The Premack principle expanded the existing reinforcement contingency of stimulus behavior to include contingencies between two behaviors. This principle is often referred to as “grandma’s rule” because grandmothers (or any caregivers) often apply this principle: “you have to eat your vegetables (less probable) before you can have dessert (more probable)” or “you have to clean your room (less probable) before...

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References and Readings

  1. Catania, A. C. (1998). Learning. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  2. Premack, D. (1959). Toward empirical behaviour laws: Positive reinforcement. Psychological Review, 66, 219–233.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Premack, D. (1963). Rate differential reinforcement in monkey manipulation. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 6, 81–89.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Colorado DenverDenverUSA