Continuous reinforcement (CRF) is a type of operant conditioning in which a response is reinforced every time it is given. This type of reinforcement is believed to be the most effective way to create and strengthen a behavior, as the subject is constantly receiving reinforcement for the behavior. This article will discuss the history, advantages, and disadvantages of CRF.


Continuous reinforcement was first studied by Edward L. Thorndike in the late 19th century. Thorndike found that animals responded more quickly and accurately to a task when they were rewarded for each response they made. This finding was the basis of his Law of Effect, which states that behaviors which are followed by a pleasant outcome are likely to be repeated, while behaviors followed by unpleasant outcomes are less likely to be repeated. This law laid the foundation for the use of continuous reinforcement as a way to reinforce desired behaviors.


Continuous reinforcement is the most effective and efficient way to reinforce a behavior. This is because the subject is constantly receiving reinforcement, which increases the odds that the behavior will become stronger and more consistent. Additionally, CRF does not require any additional programming or cues, making it a simple and straightforward approach.


The main disadvantage of continuous reinforcement is that it is a time-consuming process. Since reinforcement is given for every response, the subject must be given the opportunity to respond multiple times to receive the reinforcement. This can take up a lot of time and resources. Additionally, CRF can lead to over-reinforcement if the subject is given too much reinforcement. This can lead to the subject becoming overly reliant on the reinforcement and neglecting other behaviors.


Continuous reinforcement is a powerful and effective tool for reinforcing desired behaviors. While it is time-consuming and can lead to over-reinforcement, its ability to strengthen a behavior quickly makes it a valuable tool for operant conditioning.


Thorndike, E. L. (1898). The effects of practice. Psychological Review, 5(4), 591-594.

Gardner, G. T., & Davis, K. E. (2005). Operant conditioning. In J. W. Kalat (Ed.), Biological psychology (8th ed., pp. 486-527). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Brennan, J. F. (2013). Operant conditioning: Reinforcement and punishment. In J. E. Maddux & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Social psychological foundations of clinical psychology (pp. 9-21). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

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