Working through lots of reading material this week lots of things really started to fall in to place and although able to describe what happens with treatless clicks it has now taken on a whole new meaning. So here goes…..
As I understand it treatless clicks are intended to put the behaviour on a variable ratio of reinforcement. The idea being that this makes the behaviour more resistant to extinction (the reduction in frequency, or total loss, of a behaviour due to total withdrawal of reinforcement for the behaviour). Its intended to make the behaviour stay for a long time, if not forever.
In this approach to training, initially the click is contingently paired with the +Rer in use (the click means a +Rer is coming) each time there is a click. The click becomes a conditioned reinforcer (CR) which has been contingently paired with an unconditioned reinforcer (UR). Note; the click is not paired with the behaviour, its paired with the UR.
Then this continuous ratio (1:1) of click to +Rer changes to; every now and then when there is a click (CR) there is a +Rer (UR). However, because the contingent relationship is between the CR and the UR this means each time there is a click the behaviour IS being reinforced….so its not a variable ratio of reinforcement.
Over a period of time the presentation of the CR no longer has a reliable (contingent) relationship with the UR and so the relationship between click and +Rer gets damaged or broken (its no longer the consistent marker that +Rment will follow) and the learner will find something else that is a more reliable marker.
The click will stop acting as a CR and the behaviour is just as susceptible to extinction as it wasn’t put on a variable ratio f reinforcement (until the relationship between the CR and UR began to break down).
If we want to strengthen a behaviour against extinction then the most effective way to do this is to have a 1:1 CR-UR relationship at all times and build a long and strong reinforcement history with that 1:1 relationship. A behaviour that is more resistant to extinction is created from an increase in number, magnitude and quality of +Rment given.