8. Two types of reinforcement
8.1 The (positive) added reinforcement (R+)
Positive or added reinforcement is when something good is started or being continued. Its main purpose is to stimulate good behaviour.
Let’s clarify this using an example. A sub (Ella) is trained in handling pain better. The Dom (John) is irritated by the constant moaning or whining with every pain stimulus. (Some subs are trained this way by a Dom who wasn’t satisfied with the lack of reaction)
After every pain stimulus that leads to Ella making a noise, John will tell her not to moan. As soon as she succeeds Ella is rewarded by a vibrator on her pussy.
After some time there is no need for John to order her not to make a sound. Ella will do it automatically knowing what the reward will be. After several training sessions Ella will automatically prevent moaning at a pain stimulus for she will associate this behaviour with the vibrator on her pussy.
Even if she doesn’t get it, it will give her a positive feeling for this is the feeling she remembers from the association.
This way Ella could learn to have an orgasm from pain stimuli by positive conditioned reinforcement. (CR+)
Remarks in using the added reinforcement R+
The risk of making the wrong association
If a sub is frightened during a training or goes through a frightening situation, there is the (uncalled for) risk that the fear itself is rewarded, where rewarding the behaviour was intended.
Ella is in a training situation performing a difficult part where she needs all her concentration and attention. Another sub comes by and disturbs John with a question. John looses his concentration and is cross with the other sub. He gives her a formal reprimand and has no time to watch Ella. He tells Ella to move on and to be quiet.
Because of this there a possibility that Ella will associate ‘fear during a reprimand’ with ‘being silent’. After he’s finished with the other sub John praises Ella for performing well and for being silent during the interruption.
As 2 days later Ella gets a reprimand and is asked why she hasn’t performed her duty there is a fair chance that she will remain silent; for this is the now learned and rewarded behaviour. This kind of misunderstandings will happen even more in the training of animals as in the training of subs.
Timing is very important. Even in sub training it is important to give the reward directly after accomplishing the result that was aimed for. This prevents wrong associations from happening
The connection between effort and reward
There should be some sort of relation between the effort a sub must make for a certain result and the reward given for this effort. This also depends on the kind of sub she is. The deeper the submission the smaller the reward will seem sufficient.
Often motivation is a personal matter. If Ella would not be trained by John but another trainer she would not automatically be motivated to do certain things. John would reward her for those things; but he’s not here; it is questionable if the other trainer would reward her; besides her submission for John could be much higher than for this other trainer. The same reward does not automatically lead to the same motivation.
Loss of motivation
Some rewards can loose their motivating ability if the sub has had enough of it.
In a difficult training session Ella needs to perform a series of complicated assignments. After completion of every assignment she’s rewarded with an orgasm. In the days prior to this session John had her close to an orgasm numerous time, but never gave her one. In the first two assignments Ella is very motivated and eager to reach her goal. (the orgasm) In assignment number 5 the reward almost feels like punishment.
8.2. The (negative) subtracting reinforcement (R-)
A negative reinforcement means that something good is stopped or taken away. It’s main purpose is to prevent unwanted behaviour.
During the day Ella is constantly behaving ‘cheeky’ or ‘bratty’. The immediate correction of this behaviour would mean however that the training or her duties would be interrupted every time for correction. John tells her that such behaviour will prevent her from sleeping in a bed at night. (Denying furniture)
After having slept a few nights on the floor Ella will subsequently adapting her behaviour to earn a bed at night. As this a case of negative behaviour the subtracting reinforcement is likely to be more successful than the added reinforcement. In this case we have negative conditioned behaviour. (CR-); something good is subtracted.
Remarks for the subtracting reinforcement
As it is a negative form of reward the sub will often have negative or bad memories of it. Most Dominants would prefer to see the prevention of unwanted behaviour as a positive thing and therefore would prefer a positive reward. As a motivation to prevent unwanted behaviour conditioning is mostly a powerful and effective route to follow.
Ella has forgotten to polish the furniture and is not allowed to use the furniture for a period of two days.
During an exercise to control orgasms Ella came without permission. All her personal pussy stimuli (dildo’s and vibrators) are taken from her.
Ella has started eating dinner without asking permission. Her dinner is taken from her and she will have no food presented until the next day.
The danger of counter productivity
This type of correction can sometimes be counter productive. Ella has done something she knows she will be punished for. John orders her to come, but she ignores in first instance, seeing that he has the bullwhip in his hands. She fears the bullwhip so much that she won’t come. Eventually – as she sees that John won’t give up – she does go to John and he sends her upstairs with no food for the rest of the day.
It is unclear for what she’s corrected. Ella feels that the bullwhip was the original correction (that she will eventually get) so the sending upstairs with no food must be for the refusal to come immediately. She decides that next time its better not to come at all.
John should have rewarded her for coming to him although she feared the bullwhip and then correct her (negative rewarding) for the earlier bad behaviour.