Ratio Schedule

The ratio schedule is a type of schedule of reinforcement in operant conditioning that is based on the number of responses emitted by an organism in order to receive a reinforcement reward. It involves reinforcing a behavior after a certain ratio or number of responses have occurred.

Fixed Ratio Schedule

In a fixed ratio schedule, reinforcement is provided after a fixed number of responses or behaviors. For example, in a fixed ratio 5 (FR5) schedule, a reinforcement would be given every time the desired behavior occurs five times.

Variable Ratio Schedule

A variable ratio schedule involves reinforcing a behavior after an average number of responses, which can vary from trial to trial. This schedule is characterized by an unpredictable nature, as the exact number of responses required for reinforcement varies randomly. Variable ratio schedules are often associated with high response rates and resistance to extinction.

Advantages of Ratio Schedules

Ratio schedules offer several advantages in the context of reinforcement:

  • They tend to produce high and steady response rates.
  • They often result in greater resistance to extinction compared to interval schedules.
  • They can be used effectively in shaping behaviors and increasing the frequency of desired responses.
  • They are suitable for situations where a specific number of responses need to be reinforced.

Limitations of Ratio Schedules

Despite their advantages, ratio schedules also have certain limitations:

  • They may lead to the development of superstitious behaviors if the organism mistakenly associates unrelated actions with obtaining reinforcement.
  • In some cases, they can contribute to the occurrence of rapid response bursts followed by periods of rest, known as the post-reinforcement pause.
  • Ratio schedules may not be appropriate for all types of behaviors and learning situations.