The Power of Reinforcement

By Stephen Ray Flora

Subjects: Sociology
Series: SUNY series, Alternatives in Psychology
Paperback : 9780791459164, 288 pages, January 2004
Hardcover : 9780791459157, 288 pages, January 2004

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Table of contents



Part I: Myths and Misrepresentations of Reinforcement

1. Reinforcement as "Rat Psychology"

2. Insults and Mischievous Misrepresentations: M&Ms for the Retarded

3. Carrot-and-Stick Control, Bribery, and Value

4. The Myth that "Extrinsic Rewards Undermine Intrinsic Interest"

5. The Reality of Extrinsic Rewards and Intrinsic Motivation

6. Reinforcement Crushes Creativity

7. Reinforcement Creates Creativity

8. The Myth that Imitation and Instruction Following Invalidate Reinforcement Theory

Part II: For Better or Worse. In Sickness and in Health: Reinforcement in Action

9. Reinforcement of Achievement and Underachievement

10. Reinforcement in Education

11. Reinforcement in Drug Use, Abuse, and Treatment

12. Reinforcement and Crime, Misconduct, and Correction

13. Reinforcement in the Cause, Course, and Correction of Depression, Chronic Pain, and Illness


Appendix 1. The Selection of Behavior

Appendix 2. Basic Terms

Name Index

Subject Index

Makes the controversial argument that reinforcement is a real and valuable force in human behavior.


2004 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

According to Stephen Ray Flora, reinforcement is a very powerful tool for improving the human condition despite often being dismissed as regarding people as less than human and as "overly simplistic." This book addresses and defends the use of reinforcement principles against a wide variety of attacks. Countering the myths, criticisms, and misrepresentations of reinforcement, including false claims that reinforcement is "rat psychology," the author shows that building reinforcement theory on basic laboratory research is a strength, not a weakness, and allows unlimited applications to human situations as it promotes well-being and productivity. Also examined are reinforcement contingencies, planned or accidental, as they shape behavioral patterns and repertoires in a positive way.

Stephen Ray Flora is Associate Professor of Psychology at Youngstown State University.


"The Power of Reinforcement succeeds in its goal of countering attacks against the purposeful use of reinforcement in socially significant human affairs by providing critical analyses grounded in empirical evidence and consistent conceptual extensions. Not only should The Power of Reinforcement be read carefully by parents, educators, academic psychologists, and others, but it is especially appropriate for students in introductory learning courses." — Psychological Record

"If the truth will make one free, this book will help free many … Packed with solid information conveyed in a lively manner, this book is both educational and fun to read. Essential." — CHOICE

"This is the first contemporary book designed for a broad readership defending the use of reinforcement principles against a wide variety of challenges. The relevance of the topics to everyday life issues, the careful application of research, and the appropriateness of examples make this an extraordinary book and a delight to read." — Robert Eisenberger, author of Blue Monday: The Loss of the Work Ethic in America

"Flora's thoroughgoing advocacy for positive reinforcement in parenting, education, corrections, and promoting health is important and timely. This fascinating and influential book will indeed provide something unexpected to those misinformed about the impact of positive reinforcement on behavior." — David A. Eckerman, coauthor of The Joy of Experimental Psychology