RANDOM REINFORCEMENT AND “SUPERSTITIOUS” BEHAVIOR

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RANDOM REINFORCEMENT AND
“SUPERSTITIOUS” BEHAVIOR
Suppose that reinforcement occurs at random – not
contingent on any behavior. Nothing the subject does has
any true instrumental value. What effect will this have?
1. Random occurrence of a reward coincides with some
behavior A  behavior A is selected/strengthened.
2. Next random occurrence of reward will probably
coincide with some other behavior B  behavior B
is selected/strengthened.
3. A and B will be partially reinforced, at random and
unpredictably.
Result: subject displays behaviors A and B with high
frequency; difficult to extinguish the behaviors. The
behaviors often seem bizarre.
Does this explain the superstitions and rituals of gamblers?
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