Instrumental decay is a psychological concept that refers to the decline in behavior that occurs when the reinforcement that previously maintained the behavior is no longer present. This decay occurs over time and can result in a complete cessation of the behavior.

Examples of instrumental decay in psychology include:

  1. Parenting: When a child throws a tantrum to get attention from their parents, the behavior is reinforced by the attention they receive. However, if the parents begin to ignore the tantrums, the behavior may eventually decay and the child may stop throwing tantrums altogether.

  2. Substance abuse: When an individual uses drugs or alcohol to cope with stress, the behavior is reinforced by the relief they experience. However, if the individual is unable to access the substance, the behavior may eventually decay and the individual may seek out other coping strategies.

  3. Learning: In operant conditioning, a behavior is reinforced by a consequence. If the reinforcement is no longer provided, the behavior may decay over time. For example, if a student is rewarded for studying for a test, but the reward is removed, the student may stop studying altogether.

Similar concepts in psychology include extinction and habituation. Extinction refers to the reduction in behavior that occurs when a previously reinforced behavior is no longer reinforced. In extinction, the reinforcement is intentionally removed, while in instrumental decay, the reinforcement simply disappears. Habituation refers to the decrease in response that occurs when a stimulus is repeatedly presented. Habituation is not related to reinforcement, but rather to the repeated exposure to a stimulus.

Another related concept is the concept of satiation, which occurs when the individual is repeatedly exposed to a reinforcing stimulus, resulting in a decrease in the effectiveness of that stimulus. For example, if an individual is repeatedly given their favorite food as a reward, the effectiveness of that reward may decrease over time as the individual becomes satiated.

In conclusion, instrumental decay is a psychological concept that refers to the decline in behavior that occurs when the reinforcement that previously maintained the behavior is no longer present. Examples of instrumental decay include parenting, substance abuse, and learning. Similar concepts in psychology include extinction, habituation, and satiation. These concepts are important for understanding the role of reinforcement in behavior and how behavior can change over time.

Instrumental decay: See also --->Instrumentation.

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