Fixed-Ratio and a Reinforcement Schedule: Examples & Definition

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Understanding Anxiety Disorders: Definition and Perspectives in Mental Health

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Fixed-Ratio Schedules…
  • 1:58 Everyday Examples
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Chris Clause
In this lesson, you will learn to define fixed-ratio schedules of reinforcement. You'll take a look at some examples of fixed-ratio schedules and test your knowledge on the subject by taking a quiz.

Fixed-Ratio Schedules of Reinforcement

The term fixed-ratio schedule of reinforcement refers to a schedule of reinforcement that relies on the principles of operant conditioning. You probably remember that in psychology, operant conditioning is a type of associative learning in which a person's behavior changes according to that behavior's consequences. Fixed-ratio schedules of reinforcement are but one of four traditional ways in which this type of associative learning occurs.

So, we know that it has to do with operant conditioning, but how do fixed-ratio schedules of reinforcement work? Let's look a little closer at the words that comprise the concept. What does 'fixed' mean? When it comes to operant conditioning, fixed means that a behavior is being reinforced on a consistent schedule. In this context, schedule refers to how often the reinforcement is provided. Reinforcement is kind of like earning a reward for doing something. If a certain behavior is exhibited, then a reinforcer is presented. The concept of reinforcement says that the reinforcer should provide motivation for the behavior to be repeated.

So, a fixed schedule means that the reinforcement is made available every time a specific behavior takes place, or it can mean it is presented every fifth time, twenty-fifth time, thirtieth time etc. The type of schedule is not what matters. What matters is that the schedule must remain constant. If the reinforcement is introduced randomly or inconsistently, then the schedule is not fixed; it is a completely different schedule of reinforcement altogether.

Okay. So, what about that other word, 'ratio'? What does that mean? In the world of operant conditioning, ratio refers to a measurable behavioral response. So, let's put those two separate words back together and see what we get. A fixed-ratio schedule of reinforcement refers to the fact that some sort of environmental reinforcement is occurring after a set number of behaviors have occurred. Don't worry if you're confused. We'll look at a few examples that will help.

Everyday Examples

Most people enjoy getting paid, so the first example will focus on money. People get paid for work in all types of different ways. You can probably think of several different ways off the top of your head. Chances are that you had not really thought about them in terms of schedules of reinforcement. The most obvious example of this is piecework. Some people get paid on a salary or hourly basis, but for those who get paid based on the number of finished products they create, they are being paid on a fixed-ratio schedule of reinforcement.

Let's say that you are a carpenter, and you own your own cabinet business. You spend a lot of time, energy, and money designing, building, and installing the cabinets that you create. Most people are not going to want to pay you until you deliver and install a finished product. Every time you deliver and install a finished set of cabinets, you get paid. This is a pretty simple example, but the behavior (making cabinets) is reinforced (getting paid) each time it is performed.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account