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Dr. Hank Schlinger Presents: Clarifying the Concept of Reinforcement


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Hank Schlinger, Ph.D., BCBA-D

6:30 pm – 8:00 pm eastern (New York)

Recording Availability:

You must register prior to the LIVE event to have access to the video. Video closes 10 days after the LIVE webinar.

Video closes 5/23/21 at 11:59 pm eastern (New York)

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Event Information


This webinar takes a closer look at the concept of reinforcement beginning with Thorndike’s (1898) Law of Effect and Skinner’s first descriptions in The Behavior of Organisms (1938). We then look at some standard definitions of reinforcement and note commonalities among them. Problems with these standard definitions are identified and an alternative definition of reinforcement as a function-altering operation (FAO) is proposed. This conception of reinforcement is consistent with Skinner’s (1953) description. Implications of this alternative view of reinforcement for the concepts of extinction, punishment, motivating operations and discriminative stimuli are discussed. It will be noted that some procedures with reinforcement in their name (e.g., NCR, DRO) do not function as reinforcement. We reiterate the point that determining whether some event functions as a reinforcer requires an experimental analysis. Behavior analysts’ verbal behavior about reinforcement, that is, how we talk about reinforcement, will be a recurring theme throughout the webinar.

Target Audience: Professionals for whom the topic is within their scope of practice. We welcome students and others who are also interested in the topic to join us.


By the end of this event participants should be able to:

1. Distinguish between reinforcement as an operation or procedure and a process.
2. Recognize standard definitions of reinforcement, their commonalities, and respective problems.
3. Identify a function-altering definition of reinforcement.
4. Identify implications of a function-altering conception of reinforcement for other operant consequences and antecedent events (i.e., MOs and SDs).
5. Recognize why NCR and DRO are not reinforcement procedures or processes


Henry D. (Hank) Schlinger Jr. received his Ph.D. in psychology (applied behavior analysis) from Western Michigan University (WMU) under the supervision of Jack Michael. He then completed a two-year National Institutes of Health-funded post-doctoral fellowship in behavioral pharmacology, also at WMU, with Alan Poling. Dr. Schlinger was a full tenured professor of psychology at Western New England University in Springfield, MA, before moving to Los Angeles in 1998. He is now professor of psychology and former director of the M.S. Program in Applied Behavior Analysis in the Department of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Schlinger has published more than 80 scholarly articles, chapters, and commentaries in 35 different journals and books, including many on child development. He also has authored or co-authored three books, Psychology: A Behavioral Overview (1990), A Behavior-Analytic View of Child Development (1995) (which was translated into Japanese), and Introduction to Scientific Psychology (1998). He is past editor of The Analysis of Verbal Behavior and The Behavior Analyst, and sits on the editorial boards of several other journals. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies and on the Advisory Board of The B.F. Skinner Foundation and The Venus Project ( He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Psychology at Western Michigan University in 2012, and the Jack Michael Award for Outstanding Contributions in Verbal Behavior from the Verbal Behavior Special Interest Group of the Association for Behavior Analysis International in 2015.


The presenter and/or presenter’s family members do not have financial arrangement or affiliation with any of the products, organizations, or programs mentioned during this talk. Dr. Schlinger receives speaker fees for this presentation.


    • Behavior Analysts earn 1.5 CEUs (Learning)  LIVE & RECORDING
    • Not eligible for NBCC, AOTA, APA or ASWB credit hours. You may download a certificate of attendance if your profession is not represented.CONTINUING EDUCATION GENERAL INFORMATION

Please read the following information carefully:

    • You must attend the entire event to receive credit
    • Must pass post-test with 80% or above and submit all attendance codes
    • For ABAC's continuing education approvals statements please view our Continuing Education page


6:30 pm: Introduction
6:35 pm: Webinar begins
7:45 pm: Q&A session
8:00 pm: Evaluation, post-test and code submission forms