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Rewarding Stopping

 

Techniques Conditioning > Rewarding Stopping

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

When a subject is performing an unwanted action, a way to help them learn to stop is to give them a reward when they cease.

You can encourage them to stop by distracting them, but the basic principle is still to reward when they stop.

Example

A dog barks. The owner says 'stop' and only rewards the dog when it stops barking. Before long, the dog barks less as it realizes food will happen when they stop.

A child is having a tantrum. The parent says 'When you have calmed down you can go out'. The child stops. The parent has a brief encouraging few words and then lets the child out to play.

Discussion

When a subject knows that a reward is likely, they may well stop what they are doing to get the reward. The reward hence acts as a pleasant distraction. Rewarding stopping also uses the principle of extinction, not rewarding the action (only the cessation).

A danger of rewarding stopping is that the reward gets associated with the unwanted action. In effect, you are encouraging them to engage in the unwanted action in order to get the reward at the end. A dog, for example, could bark until it is rewarded. A way to help prevent this happening is to not engage with the subject while they are performing the unwanted action. The reward hence becomes a surprise and is not causally connected with the action. All they know is that stopping barking is good.

See also

Distraction

 

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