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What is Intermittent Reinforcement?

Intermittent reinforcement in today's article context is the situation in which reward is given to a person ( you can also name it as the victim ) at irregular and random intervals after a behavior. Individuals exposed to intermittent reinforcement spend much more effort to achieve the reward than other types of reinforcement (fixed interval and predictable reinforcement), and moreover, even if the reward does not appear on the horizon for a long time, they continue to make effort because they believe that it will come one day.

For example, if you get a chocolate bar every time you put one euros into a vending machine, this is predictable reinforcement, and if you put money into the vending machine once or twice and do not get chocolate from the machine for some random error, you will not put money into that vending machine again. This is very much expected and easy to move on from the situation.

In the intermittent reinforcement, the individual is not get rewarded every time they show the desired behavior or also not rewarded according to a regular schedule (they are rewarded randomly).

For example, the gamblers who use slot machines in casinos do not receive a reward every time they place their money, and they occasionally receive a large or small reward even though they lose their money. They are excited by the possibility of this reward. Those machines in casinos are perfect examples of intermittent reinforcement. It creates such a whirlpool for the users and make them believe that they will win big time at some point. Why there would be casinos exist if this would be such a situation? Think about it.

Reinforcement Theory is a field of behavioral psychology that deals with the reactions of humans and animals to rewards given according to various schedules. Studies on mice show that the best way to keep a mouse working the longest is to reinforce (reward) a certain behavior at unpredictable intervals, rather than at regular and predictable intervals.

Intermittent reinforcement theory and other reinforcement theories are used extensively in technology and business in people management, marketing and also in the machine learning. When designing mobile apps and social media platforms, intermittent reinforcement is used in the form of schedules that appear random to users but are actually designed to keep them in the app the longest. For example, “likes” may be displayed when the algorithm detects that the user is about to leave the Instagram. Also , for example, thanks to these algorithms, Facebook can detect when a teenagers are insecure and show them the things that will boost their self-confidence.

Online gambling and internet addiction demonstrate the same principle: The user receives the rewards (in the form of profits or entertainment) at just enough levels, at sufficiently frequent intervals, to encourage continued use.

Well of course let's get closer to the most interesting part of that manipulaition technique.

Intermittent reinforcement is a manipulation tool that partners with narcissistic and/or borderline disorders use unconsciously but skillfully in relationships.

The toxic partner turns the victim partner into a needy lover by occasionally and suddenly rewarding their partner with intimacy or sex, in a relationship that is generally full of conflict and suffering. But of course it is very hard to be seen from behind the manipulation curtain.

The victim partner, who has been kept in agony for a long time, is already hungry for the slightest show of closeness, care and affection. These attention, care and intimacy traps, thrown randomly from time to time becomes an oasis in the desert for the victim partner, and even though the victim partner is crushed in long-term suffering to obtain them, they remain in the relationship (more and more in need).

As I also mention in my other article, such manipulators cannot get everyone into their network. For such manipulation to occur, the victim must be open to it. However, before you blame yourself, you need to remove this manipulator from your life.

If you have been subjected to manipulation and intermittent reinforcement for a long time, this is very difficult for you. Because manipulation is already done to make you addicted to it, and if you are exposed to it for a long time, you become addicted to it without realising.

But if you are starting to become addicted to your partner and you suspect that this is the result of the manipulation, you need to leave this person immediately. In fact, if you have become a weaker person in a relationship than you were before the relationship, you need to leave that relationship at all cost.

Nothing can change such manipulators from their behaviour. You have to value yourself more and take the hard step. At the same time no matter what, get as much help as you can in such a situation. Get professional help, join support groups. You have to ask your friends and family about your relationship if you have any doubts about it. A third eye would tell you a lot.

Always feel free to reach me out. In case you want to stay anonymus, you can use the website chat function.

Stay connected, see you at my next articles.

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