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Presentation of reinforcement theory

In this thread, I continue my discussion of reinforcement theory by presenting the idea of contingency which refers to the relationship between a behavior and a reinforcer. If you can get a goodie (a reinforcer) without engaging in a prerequisite behavior, then that reinforcer is said to be noncontingent.

If the only way you can get a reinforcer is to do a particular behavior, that reinforcer is said to be contingent on that behavior. For example, in the average company, an increase in benefits will not increase performance because benefits are provided to everyone, regardless of performance.

Improved benefits are given whether or not performance increases. They are noncontingent. To say hard work pays off implies that there is a reinforcement contingency between hard work and pay and/or promotions. Many people will tell you that if there is a contingency between work and pay, it is a loose one.

A behavioral contingency can be seen as follows: “You can get ______ if and only if you _______.”

In the following article, we discuss the idea of contingency in the context of helping. Von Bergen, C. W., & Bressler, M. S. (2020). Be Careful When Helping Others: The Long-Term Effects on Recipients of Sustained Aid and Assistance. Journal of Organizational Psychology, 20(5), 10-29.