What is Reinforcement?


One of the primary foundations of applied behavior analysis is the concept of reinforcement. Many of us have an idea of what reinforcement is or what it looks like but from an ABA perspective, reinforcement is anything that increases a behavior in the future. Let’s say your child never cleans their room by themselves, but you want them to start. The first time you tell them to clean their room and they independently do it, you give them 5 dollars. Now, your child cleans their room every Friday and always asks for 5 dollars. You can now assume that because your child went from never cleaning their room to cleaning consistently, the 5 dollars acts as a reinforcer. This is because the behavior of cleaning their room has increased due to them receiving money.


How To Identify Reinforcers



Of course, 5 dollars might not be reinforcing for every child. That’s why identifying reinforcers is extremely helpful before attempting to increase a behavior. There are many different methods for identifying reinforcers. Depending on what your child’s skill set is, you could simply ask them what they like or what they would want. Another option is presenting choices and asking your child to pick or seeing which one they gravitate towards. In ABA, this is what we call a preference assessment. Preference assessments are essential, and should be done before an intervention, or attempting to maximize the likelihood of any behavior.



After You Have a Reinforcer



After deciding what you will use as a reinforcer, you can begin the journey of tackling trying to get your child to do the dishes or maybe even getting your significant other to make the bed in the morning. Whatever behavior you want to increase, just remember the rule of reinforcement. Just keep in mind that reinforcement is a powerful tool, so use it wisely.


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