What is primary vs secondary reinforcement?

reinforcement:a consequence that follows a behavior and increases the likelihood of that behavior being repeated in the future  

primary: something the species of animal needs to survive. Primary reinforcement would be things like food or water, however an animal does not have to be motivated to receive primary through starvation or dehydration. The animal has an instinctual desire to obtain these necessities and thus if the animal responds to it, it does not mean the animal is especially hungry or thirsty. In training marine mammals, primary is fish. 

secondary: something the animal enjoys, but does not need. Secondary in marine mammal training includes toys, pats, rub-downs, hoses, ice and jello. All respectable facilities make large use of secondary reinforcers. Places such as the Shedd Aquarium and the National Aquarium in Baltimore use secondary quite often in their shows. Other facilities, like the Miami Seaquarium, use secondaries (EEDs) as reinforcement after a particularly good show. 

The use of secondary and primary reinforcers help show the variety in marine mammal training programs. Each training session is unique with a unique reward that usually combines the two forms of reinforcement. In this way the animals are kept guessing, thinking and anticipating. This adds to their overall quality of life by acting as a form of mental stimulation and is the reason why training is so important to the care of captive animals.


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