Environmental and Evolutionary Psychology Presentation

A proposal demonstrating how developmental psychologists can employ shaping and chaining, reinforcement schedules or one-trial learning techniques (only one) to teach a social skill to intellectually challenged youth.


Transition-age youth need specific skills in ar­eas such as Literacy, math, independent living among others. However, it is Important to note that skills in these areas will not guarantee successful outcomes if not coupled with adequate social skills(Barkow et al.,1995). The intellectually challenged have difficulties in acquiring the intellectual skills at the same perceived rate as their peers. They require modifications and accommodations to affect their acquisition of such skills. Due to their disabilities, they are normally faced with problems of social skills deficits.  Social skills form the basis for social competence. According to Gresham, Horner and Sogai (2001), the social skills have five relevant and basic dimensions which are; peer relational skills, self-management skills, academic skills, compliance skills and assertion skills. social competence among the youths can therefore defined as the degree to which youths  are able to establish and maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships, gain peer acceptance, establish and maintain friendships, and terminate negative or pernicious interpersonal rela­tionships.  There is therefore a need to teach the social skills to the youths with intellectual disabilities using various techniques to enable them acquire the social competency.


This research project will promote the effectiveness of multidisciplinary approaches of using reinforcement schedules in teaching the fundamental social skills among the intellectually challenged youths. They too, as their peers require the social competent attributes.


Whilst increasingly research and practice is inter-disciplinary, it is most common for assessments of youth’s disabilities like the intellectual disorders and approved ways of checking the disorders to reinforce existing frameworks and dominant perspectives on both the nature of youth and their relationship with social, economic, political and cultural institutions and processes. Furthermore, rarely does research, policy or program development involve young people or consider their views and perspectives as lived experience. This paper draws on: a systematic literature review on reinforcement; ways of promoting the basic acquired social skills relevant for the youths with intellectual disabilities, the youth friendly systematic approaches to effecting these social skill training skills  ; examples of program or policy initiatives that have targeted youth intellectual disabilities. Youths (those within the school program)with Intellectual Disabilities, are placed in an effective alternate curriculum program where they benefit from a highly structured program embedded with a multi-modal communication system and a consistent social skills program that address their academic and social-emotional challenges(Kahn & Kellert, 2002). These youths need consistent and effective instructional support in order to learn new concepts and tasks that many of their general education peers may learn incidentally. To promote learning aimed at promoting their intellects, some techniques must be put in place such reinforcement techniques that would increase the chances of conformity to the instruction material.


The targeted population for this proposal is the youth services care providers, the parents as well as the institutional bodies with integrated services for the intellectually challenged.  This should have an effect globally clearly demonstrating how reinforcement schedules are deemed significant in promoting the social-positive behavior, by teaching the basic social skills.


From the operant conditioning brought about by Skinner, it is evident that reinforcement is a fundamental process which is most applicable in promoting a behavior/skill or discouraging it. Reinforcement occurs when a stimulus is preceded by a behavior that increases its future probability. In reinforcement, a favorable consequence of the behavior plays a vital role making responses more likely and strengthening that behavior under another similar favorable consequential circumstance(Crawford & Krebs, 1998). For example when a youth waves at a neighbor across the street and seeing him smile and wave back reinforces the initial behavior of waving. Reinforcement has always been effective since it is often experienced as pleasurable.  There is both positive and negative reinforcement. In positive reinforcement; the preceding examples represent a certain type of reinforcement in which a stimulus is presented that increases the probability of a behavior. Negative reinforcement discourages the chances of future occurrence of a behavior.

As with positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement can follow socially inappropriate behavior and sustain it.  Reinforcement is done at different time intervals and sometimes jus once which introduces the reinforcement schedules.

How schedules of reinforcement can be employed in teaching social skills for the intellectually challenged youths

As seen earlier effective social problem solving requires reading one’s own and others’ feelings, and being able to accurately label and express those feelings. Such skills are aspects of social and emotional learning are relevant to all youths with the intellectually challenged inclusive.   With proper developed social skills, youth with disabilities develop strong and positive peer relationships. They succeed in school, and can therefore begin to successfully explore adult roles such as employee, co-worker/colleague, and community member. Reinforcement schedules therefore make it easy to time and reinforce the required behavior among the intellectually challenged.

A fixed-interval schedule of reinforcement

This makes reinforcement available after a certain fixed period of time. This will affect the temporal distribution of the behavior. For example, if an intellectually challenged youth wakes up in the morning waves to the neighbor or a sibling or the neighbor smiles and waves back, there are many chances that every morning at that fixed hour the youth will wake up wave and expect a smile back thereby working towards boosting his or her self esteem.

Fixed-ratio schedules of reinforcement

Reinforcement schedules can also be based on the ration of reinforcements instead of time.  They can be based on the ratio of reinforcements delivered to responses performed. These are referred to as. For example when teaching on the ability of the youths with mild intellectual disabilities to appropriately engage in the small talk that is part of any workplace. The youth can earn fifty points for every ten new customers he or she has persuaded to show interest in the product of promotion. The fixed ration therefore is 1:2. This is aimed at promoting the social skills of these youths. We notice that in work places, workers with intellectual disabilities who demon­strate competence in social skills are generally perceived more positively than those who lack such skills. Piecework wages based on high fixed-ratio schedules of reinforcement may be profitable for owners therefore becoming a pull towards putting more efforts leading to sharpening of the skills.

Variable-interval schedule

Reinforcement can be scheduled to occur after varying periods of time.

Variable-interval schedules of reinforcement produce a more steady response rate than fixed-interval schedules, without the post reinforcement pause seen in the latter. Variable-ratio schedules of reinforcement produce an even quicker and steadier response rate than fixed-ratio schedules. For example the reinforcement can be offered for the youths with intellectual disabilities at the time they demonstrate an effective social skills. The reinforcement can be issued depending on the intensity of the required outcome.

A multiple schedule

This is the one is one such complex schedule; it entails the successive presentation of two or more independent simple schedules, each accompanied by its own discriminative stimulus. Multiple schedules of reinforcement are common in everyday life and may take the form of different people. One can employ the combined schedules

Concurrent schedule

This is another complex schedule; they involve two or more schedules of reinforcement operating on two or more responses at the same time. Concurrent schedules of reinforcement also describe a wide variety of situations that humans encounter. Most of the time, a person chooses from an array of responses that are

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