What are the reinforces of stress?

The cognitive psychologist approach postulates that an individual's construction of a particular situation is linked to stress much as in taking a snapshot. The photographer decides what to focus on, clicks a picture, and whether the picture is interpreted as negative, positive, or neutral activates the person's fight/response.   When the fight-or-flight response is continually activated, disease, or even death, can occur.

Reinforcement principles help explain an individual's difference in the interpretation of stimuli and in the strength of the flight/fight response to continue.  Why do certain individual's interpret an event (i.e., a picture as clear, or blurred,) as positive or negative and why do they continue to do so?

Reinforcement principles indicate that a reinforcer increases the probability of any event to recur, but a reinforcer may not necessarily be pleasurable. A reward refers to a pleasant experience which may, or may not, increase the probability of the event to recur. A punishment is an unpleasant experience which may, or may not, decrease the probability of an event to recur. A positive reinforcer is a stimulus which  increases the probability of an event to recur. A negative reinforcer increases the probability of an event to recur by the removal of an aversive condition. A response that is decreased in its frequency to recur can be labeled an extinguishing response.[1] See hyperink:  B.F. Skinner

Reinforcement principles can be set according to the following  schedules: fixed ratio, fixed interval, varied ratio,  varied interval or ratio, or as a combination of both. Note the following examples:

A fixed ratio schedule provides a cue as  a set amount of a reinforcer such as providing a stimulus of  $10 for every response. A fixed interval introduces a cue as a  time element such as providing a stimulus once an hour. A varied ratio or interval schedule varies the amount and the interval. What type of schedule do you think is strongest? Hint: Gambling is an example of the strongest type of reinforcement schedule.

How can the fight-or flight-response be reinforced or extinguished? Remember to provide an example by constructing a reinforcement schedule, label what type it is, and what reinforcers you are using to extinguish one of your stressors. What have you learned as a result of this information that can assist you in reducing the stress in your life?

Sometimes the endocrine system can by itself increase hormones which act as reinforcers and the autonomous nervous system may send signals through nerve pathways which serve as reinforcers in the fight-of -flight response  Hint: Look at your stress journal  to observe the reinforcers that are increasing the stress in your life.

1. B.F. Skinner,  Science Human Behavior, NewYork: The Free Press, 1953

E-mail: rbrehm@msn.com 
Copyright 1998  [Robert Brehm]. All rights reserved.