# Fixed-Ratio Schedule: How Does It Shape Our Behaviour for Success

The idea that rewards motivate actions is familiar to us all.

Whether it’s working toward a promotion at the office or saving up for a coveted vacation, we’re drawn to the carrot dangling ahead. This basic principle underlies a concept known as fixed-ratio reinforcement schedules in psychology.

In this article, we’ll explore how these schedules tap into our natural inclination to seek rewards and the patterns of behavior that emerge as a result. By understanding fixed-ratio schedules, we gain insight into what drives us as human beings.

So, let’s dig into the psychology behind rewards and how they shape our actions through fixed-ratio reinforcement.

**What Is a Fixed-Ratio Schedule?**

In plain English, it refers to a pattern of reinforcement or reward provided after a set number of responses. For example, a teacher may offer a sticker to students after every five math problems they complete correctly. Or a company may provide a bonus to employees after a predetermined number of sales.

**How Does Fixed-Ratio Schedule Work?**

The key aspect that defines a fixed-ratio schedule is that the reward is delivered consistently after the same discrete number of correct responses. Whether giving a child an M&M after 10 minutes of quiet reading time or providing employees a day off after 40 hours of work, the reinforcement happens reliably at a fixed ratio.

Rather than random or unpredictable reinforcement, the fixed-ratio schedule enables the subject to anticipate the upcoming reward. This helps strengthen the desired behavior and the rate of responding.

Of course, the schedule can be adjusted as needed – increased or decreased – to fine-tune the conditioning process. While simple in principle, the fixed-ratio approach demonstrates the remarkable power of applying behavioral psychology methodically.

**Examples of Fixed-Ratio Schedule**

While simple in principle, fixed-ratio schedules produce high and steady response rates. The predictable nature motivates the learner to continue the desired behavior until the next reward. Here are four examples of a fixed-ratio schedule:

**Manufacturing**: A factory worker gets paid for every twenty units of product they produce. After the twentieth unit, they receive their payment, reinforcing a fixed ratio of responses.**Book Club**: A student in a book club receives a free book after every five books they purchase. Here, the reinforcement (a free book) is delivered after a fixed number of responses (buying five books).**Sales Commissions**: A car salesman receives a bonus for every tenth car they sell. The bonus is the reinforcement and only occurs after the salesperson makes ten sales.**Coffee Shop Rewards**: A customer at a coffee shop receives a free cup of coffee after they buy ten. The reward of a free coffee (reinforcement) is only given after the customer makes ten purchases (responses).

**Fixed Ratio Schedule Vs. Variable Ratio Schedule**

Two major types of reinforcement schedules stand out: fixed and variable ratios. Both can powerfully influence behavior but in different ways.

As discussed above, a fixed ratio schedule delivers a reward after a set number of responses. For example, a rat receives a food pellet after pressing a lever ten times. This produces high, steady rates of response. The rat knows exactly how many lever presses will produce the next pellet.

Variable ratio schedules, on the other hand, deliver rewards after an unpredictable number of responses. A slot machine that pays out wins randomly is a good example. Since the next reward could come at any time, subjects tend to respond persistently, hoping the next try will hit the jackpot.

So, fixed ratios produce dependable, consistent behavior, while variable ratios drive higher response rates overall. The uncertainty of variable ratios acts as a powerful motivator. Understanding how these schedules work provides insight into the drivers behind our actions. Whether in the lab or in real life, the timing of rewards can profoundly shape behavior.

Criteria | Fixed-Ratio Schedule | Variable-Ratio Schedule |

Definition | Reinforcement is provided after a fixed number of responses. | Reinforcement is provided after a variable or random number of responses. |

Consistency | Consistent and predictable pattern | Inconsistent and unpredictable pattern |

Resulting Behavior | High rate of response with a pause following reinforcement (post-reinforcement pause) | Steady, high rate of response with little or no post-reinforcement pause |

Resistance to Extinction | Relatively low | Relatively high |

Example | A worker receives a bonus for every ten tasks completed. | A gambler wins money on a slot machine after a random number of plays. |

**Fixed Ratio Schedule Vs. Fixed Interval Schedule**

Assuming the basics of a fixed ratio schedule are pretty clear to you, here’s a quick introduction to a fixed interval schedule:

If a pigeon gets food every 30 seconds, it will learn to space out its key pecks more evenly over that 30-second interval.

Both schedules are predictable but produce different patterns of behavior. Fixed ratios elicit enthusiastic responses, while fixed intervals generate more methodical, measured actions. Understanding these basic differences can provide insight into motivation and productivity in both humans and animals.

Criteria | Fixed-Ratio Schedule | Fixed-Interval Schedule |

Definition | Reinforcement is provided after a fixed number of responses. | Reinforcement is provided after a fixed amount of time has elapsed. |

Reinforcement Trigger | Based on the number of responses | Based on the elapsed time |

Response Rate | High rate of response, with a post-reinforcement pause | Slower response rate, increasing as the interval approaches its end |

Consistency | Consistent pattern of responding, followed by a pause | Consistent rate of response over time |

Resistance to extinction | Relatively low | Relatively low |

Example | A customer earns a stamp for every coffee they purchase at a cafeteria. They receive a free cup of coffee after earning ten stamps (i.e., purchasing ten coffees). | A student can collect a reward every Friday for completing assignments during the week. |

**Prompting High Response Rates**

The fixed-ratio schedule offers a tried-and-true approach to shaping behavior. After a set number of responses, reinforcement promotes high response rates and a results-driven mentality. However, we must acknowledge its potential pitfalls, like post-reinforcement pauses.

This schedule empowers educators, managers, marketers, and behavior experts when applied fittingly. It’s an invaluable tool for decoding the complexities of behavior.

The fixed-ratio schedule provides a robust, time-tested framework for modifying actions. Despite some caveats, it remains a powerful resource for professionals seeking to understand and influence behavior and for all of us striving to unravel the intricacies of learning.