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Premack Principle

  • By: Mary Lea Johanning
  • In: Encyclopedia of School Psychology
  • Edited by: Steven W. Lee
  • Subject:School/Educational Psychology (general), School Psychology, Educational Psychology

The Premack Principle is an operant conditioning principle that originated in David Premack's research with animals. According to Premack's (1965) principle, a behavior that has a higher probability of occurring may be used as a reinforcer for a behavior that has a lower probability of occurring. To increase the occurrence of a less preferred activity, a more preferred behavior should be made contingent upon the occurrence of the less-preferred, low-frequency behavior.

Several researchers replicating Premack's findings have conducted studies with both animals and humans to provide evidence supporting the Premack Principle. For example, Allen and Iwata (1980) were able to increase exercising behavior among a group of individuals with developmental disabilities by making time for playing games (high-probability behavior) contingent upon engaging in exercise (low-probability behavior). ...

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