This Reinforcement is Bananas!
Banana bread. The smell and taste of one you’ve just baked can be very reinforcing. The ‘bread’ of your labour is the final reinforcer in a chain of events maintained by a chained schedule of reinforcement. It’s how all those little steps to a recipe get followed until the end product is ready to be consumed.
Chained schedules of reinforcement occur when two or more tasks are chained together so that the reinforcer of one behaviour serves as the cue (or discriminative stimulus) for the next, until the end result reinforces the entire chain. When you follow a recipe, this type of reinforcement is at play. You don’t get banana bread without first putting something in the oven. You don’t have that something for the oven without having first mixed the ingredients. You don’t have something to mix without first pouring the ingredients into a bowl and you don’t have those items to pour in without first measuring them, etc. In other words, your task is reinforced by the ability to carry out the next task in the chain (recipe, ‘how-to’ list, IKEA instructions…etc.). Thanks to chained schedules of reinforcement, we have managed to learn complex tasks; everything from building that damned bookcase from IKEA to making a good use of rotten bananas!