Delayed reinforcement is a basic concept of behaviorism and is defined as a “behavioral consequence that is presented after a specified period of time (Dinsmoor, 2016). It has been used to modify behavior in various ways, including learning, motivation, and habit formation.

The concept of delayed reinforcement was first proposed by Edward Thorndike in the early 1900s. He proposed that animals will learn to perform a task more quickly if they are given a reward after a delay. This idea was later used by B.F. Skinner in his experiments with operant conditioning, which showed that animals (and humans) could be taught to respond to stimuli in different ways depending on the consequences provided.

Delayed reinforcement has been used in a variety of ways, including the reinforcement of desired behaviors in humans and animals. For example, it has been used to teach animals to perform complex tasks, such as opening doors or finding hidden objects. It has also been used to motivate people to complete a specific task, such as studying for an exam.

In addition to its applications in behavior modification, delayed reinforcement has been studied from a theoretical perspective. One model of delayed reinforcement is the Discounting Model, which suggests that the value of a reward decreases as the time until its delivery increases. This model has been used to explain why people are less likely to wait for a larger reward than to take an immediate smaller reward.

Delayed reinforcement has also been studied in the context of addiction. Studies have shown that delaying the delivery of a reward can reduce the strength of the addiction response. This suggests that delayed reinforcement can be used to reduce the craving for a substance or activity.

Overall, delayed reinforcement is a powerful tool for modifying behavior, and it has been used in many different areas. It can be used to teach animals complex tasks, to motivate people to complete tasks, to reduce cravings for substances, and to study theoretical models of behavior.


Dinsmoor, J.A. (2016). Theories of Learning and Behavior. In A.D. Woolfolk, Educational Psychology (pp. 99-128). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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