Reward Schedule

Reward Schedule is simply my name for a reinforcement schedule. Reinforcement is the act of adding or removing a stimulus immediately after a behavior in order to associate that behavior with that stimulus. Positive reinforcement is the adding of a stimulus to increase the frequency of a behavior. Negative reinforcement is the removal of a stimulus to increase the frequency of a behavior.

Positive Reinforcement

If I want my dog to sit, I will coax her into a sitting position and give her a treat. I reinforce this several times. You can increase the duration and complexity of the behavior by varying the reward schedule. I actually trained my rat terrier to sit and remain sitting while I took the treat out of the room and made her wait until I called her from three rooms away. I did this by slowly increasing the distance and the time I made her wait.

Negative Reinforcement

We have a big dog who liked to jump and put his paws on people. I noticed that he did this when I moved quickly. By way of negative reinforcement, I began to slow my movements around him. My slower movements did not stimulate his jumping on me. Of course, as time went by, I would add a command “Don’t jump,” and I would immediately move more slowly. These two stimuli together placed me in control of his behavior. This final step was actually a combination of postive and negative reinforcement.

Dealing with Feelings

So what does dog training have to do with There are certain emotions that you simply should try to extinguish. Most emotions are beneficial and have something to teach you. But there are some which should simply be driven out. Inappropriate guilt is one example. If you are feeling inappropriate guilt, you must drive away that feeling. I recommend trying Thought Stopping first. But if that doesn’t work, you can design your own Reward Schedule exercise.

A Reward Schedule exercise can be as simple as acknowledging that you are feeling inappropriate guilt and telling yourself something like, “I recognize that my guilt is inappropriate. I am a better person for having recognized this.” Sometimes you might need a little extra stimulus to develop the habit. If you catch yourself and stop your inappropriate guilt, go to a coffee shop and have an expensive coffee. Do something to “reward” yourself. You don’t want to make food rewards a habit because you can cause health problems for yourself if you, say, buy a bag of m&ms every time you manage your feelings correctly. But a simple reward may be a good way to begin the habit of controlling your thoughts.


Depression is never an appropriate feeling. Its only purpose is to make you fight it and defeat it. You become a stronger person by resisting and conquering depression. It is a predator.

You may have already read the following passage on the page titled How to Feel Like Shit. I have reprinted it here in case you haven’t read it.

When depression approaches you, tell yourself, “I am going to avoid thinking about that until five o’clock today.” Have your reward in mind all day. Do not reward yourself with anything before five. Then, at five o’clock, instead of thinking about the depression, reward yourself. I use beer which accomplishes two things. It keeps me from drinking during the day because it’s a reward for later on, and my mind stays focused on the reward because I love beer.

Why this Works

You are using neurobiology to deliver a crippling blow to your depression. The reward is actually releasing hormones that act as neurotransmitters in the pleasure centers of your brain. You manipulate biochemistry to knock out the depressing thought. Your body will automatically seek the pleasure instead of the pain of depression.

Tell us about your Success

Of course, the purpose of rewards is to increase the frequency of positive behaviors. Everyone would love to hear in the forums if you have had success with a certain type of reinforcement or a certain behavior.

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