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Partial Reinforcement Effect

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Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning


Effect of intermittent reinforcement; Partial reinforcement extinction effect


The partial reinforcement effect (PRE) is the empirical finding that resistance to extinction is greater following acquisition where some, but not all, responses are reinforced (PRF); compared to acquisition all responses are reinforced (CRF). Extinction is the experimental condition where no reinforcers are given for each response, which generally results in the response no longer being made. Thus, “resistance to extinction” refers to the relative degree that the response continues to occur during the extinction condition. Another way of stating the basic PRE is that the persistence of a response undergoing extinction is greater when training (acquisition) consisted of PRF as compared to CRF.

Theoretical Background

The first report of the PRE occurred before the middle of the last century, and it has been studied in literally hundreds of experiments under a variety of procedures. The most...

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Correspondence to Roger L. Mellgren .

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© 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC

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Mellgren, R.L. (2012). Partial Reinforcement Effect. In: Seel, N.M. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer, Boston, MA.

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