Reinforcement and Punishment

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Submitted By taw1
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A reinforcer makes a behavior happen more.

This is one of the most significant points that students forget and get confused about…

We are used to positive meaning good and negative being bad; but in operant conditioning - positive means you are adding to the environment and negative means you are taking something away from the environment. You have to think in math terms ;)

POSITIVE means to add something and NEGATIVE means to take something away.

Therefore, positive reinforcement is the presentation of something, which STRENGTHENS a behavior.

This is something that occurs to all of us throughout our lives.

For example, your child does his chores and is given a weekly allowance as a reward.

The behavior that is increased is doing the chores and the addition into the environment is the weekly allowance.

We have added (money) to strengthen the behavior - added equals positive, strengthen means reinforce.

Remember, operant conditioning is more like math with + and -

Negative reinforcement is what often gets confused with punishment. But stay with me with this rationale... it is still reinforcement.

I think negative reinforcement is confusing to students because we think of negative as something BAD; however, in operant conditioning, it might or might not be something bad but it *ALWAYS* means the removal of something.

Taking away TV or money (minus) to get them to strengthen chore behavior.

Remember, taking away can be used to strengthen a behavior ; thus negative reinforcement.

Do you see the difference in + and - reinforcement?


Punishment is to make a behavior decrease – or happen less.

Punishment is not the same as negative reinforcement. Whereas negative AND positive reinforcement both strengthen behavior; punishment attempts weakens it.

Punishment occurs in two…...

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