Reinforcement Continuum

External reinforcement arises from outside of the individual while intrinsic reinforcement or motivation comes from within. Both are used and considered when developing a reinforcement intervention or support. Many factors including developmental factors of the student and level and difficulty of skill or desired behavior come into play when selecting type of reinforcement. While intrinsic motivation is often seen as ideal due to its sustainability, both external reinforcers and intrinsic motivation are influential in driving behavior.

Reinforcement Continuum from Primary/External to Intrinsic

Reinforcement Description Examples
Primary: Edibles, Physiological Responses
A stimulus that is biologically important and inherently pleasurable to an individual
Food, natural/synthetic stimulants, repetitive behaviors, massage, pacing, rocking, nail-biting, self-stimulation
Access to a preferred item, object or toy
Money, stickers, toy, preferred items, etc.
Benefits, advantages, or rights afforded to individual or groups of individuals for display of desired or appropriate behavior
Choice-making, "I get to go to lunch 5 minutes early because I finished all my classwork and followed directions"
Social Status & Recognition
A form of social reinforcement. Access to peers and adult attention for desired behavior
Peers of adults attend to individual or behavior being reinforced. "I got a certificate in front of my class during assembly for my exceptional behavior this month"
Positive verbal statements from adults, parents, teachers, staff, peers
"Great job getting to your seat and beginning to work right away"
Individual performs behavior without expecting external reward because behavior or activity is self-reinforcing.
self-praise, self- "satisfaction"