Premack Principle (Grandma’s Law)

The Premack Principle is also known as “Gradmas’s Law.” Parents (and Grandmas) use it naturally all the time. It is the principle that offering something that happens often in a free operant situation to be contingent upon something else that happens with low frequency. So, for example, “You can watch television after you have finished your homework.” Or, “You can have ice cream for dessert after you’ve eaten all your broccoli.”

In 1974, Timberlake and Allison came up with response-deprivation hypothesis. This gives us a model to predict whether access to one behavior (the contingent, awesome behavior) will be reinforcing for another behavior (the instrumental response, or the broccoli).

The idea is that restricting access to a behavior creates a deprivation for that more probable behavior (I want ice cream!) and acts as an establishing operation (EO), making the opportunity to engage in that behavior a reinforcement for the less probable behavior (Ugh, broccoli).

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