Stimuli associated with primary reinforcers appear themselves to acquire the capacity to strengthen behavior. This paper reviews research on the strengthening effects of conditioned reinforcers within the context of contemporary quantitative choice theories and behavioral momentum theory. Based partially on the finding that variations in parameters of conditioned reinforcement appear not to affect response strength as measured by resistance to change, long-standing assertions that conditioned reinforcers do not strengthen behavior in a reinforcement-like fashion are considered. A signposts or means-to-an-end account is explored and appears to provide a plausible alternative interpretation of the effects of stimuli associated with primary reinforcers. Related suggestions that primary reinforcers also might not have their effects via a strengthening process are explored and found to be worthy of serious consideration.
Conditioned Reinforcement and Response StrengthJournal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
PublisherSociety for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Citation InformationShahan, T. A. (2010). Conditioned reinforcement and response strength. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 93, 269-289. (Review paper invited by Editor).