Definition of the concept
Differential reinforcement, also known discrimination training, is the ability to expose a particular behavior in response to a specific stimulus situation and extinguish the very behavior in a different stimulus situation. The cue that generates the reinforcement is known as the differential stimulus or the discriminative stimulus; SD. A different cue would create extinction by not inducing the same behavior. The stimulus that does not result into reinforcement is denoted as s-delta. In essence, discriminative reinforcement is the training of the mind to distinguish and respond differently to various stimuli.
Example of the concept
Ken is a 4-year old boy. At night whenever Ken wants to sleep her mother switches off the lights of his bedroom. After some time, he learns to switch off the lights by himself and does this before he goes to his bed. He gets used to this situation such that he can not sleep with the lights on. He believes that sleep only comes with darkness.
Application of the definition to the example
In the above example, there is a discriminative behavior with the light and darkness. The darkness and light are the stimuli. Ken’s behavior of sleeping can only be discriminatively reinforced when the lights are off. This same response is extinguished when the lights are on. The dark room is a stimulus situation and the switching of the lights off is the discriminative response and results into stimulus control. When the lights are on, it brings extinction. The boy will not respond by sleeping. The lights in this case would be the s-delta. This whole process by which Ken learns the differential reinforcement is the discrimination training.