(b) Reasons for schedule of reinforcement. There are good reasons
for this schedule of reinforcement. If each succeeding improvement is rewarded, the
skill will be mastered faster. When mastery is achieved, if reinforcement is discontinued
completely, the skill will be subject to extinction. Extinction happens when a response
stops because the reinforcement is stopped. By reinforcing occasionally, the skill
remains longer. This could be termed "intermittent" or "random" reinforcement. It is the
same principle that is used by slot machines that are set to pay off at irregular intervals.
Their object is to keep people playing longer, and this usually succeeds.
(a) Practice and skill improvement. If a skill is difficult or has many
parts, it will usually require more practice than a simple uncomplicated skill.
Improvement is not always evident during each succeeding practice, but in general, the
level of skill will increase. Figure 2-3 shows a typical schedule of results from fifteen
practice sessions. You will note that on two occasions, the results actually decreased,
but the general direction was toward improvement. If this chart of actual results were
depicted in curve form, it would look something like the curve shown in figure 2-4. Note
the similarity between this curve and the typical curve shown in figure 2-1.
(b) Practice and generalization. One of the major goals of training is to
develop the students' ability to extend their application of skills learned in one situation
to other situations where the skill is needed. This is the process of generalization
(paragraph 2-9). You can encourage this process by planning your skill practice
sessions carefully. Try to utilize as many different environments or situations as are
available for your use. The more situations you use, the faster the skill will generalize.
Those students who are among the less creative may find it difficult, if not impossible, to
generalize a skill unless you provide this kind of assistance.
Figure 2-3. Typical result of trials.