What is Positive and Negative Reinforcement?

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Positive Reinforcement

We have all experienced some form of reinforcement whether it was positive or negative.

Positive reinforcement is “roughly the same thing as a reward” and “refers to any pleasant or desirable consequence that follows a response and increases the probability that the response will be repeated” (Wood, Wood, & Boyd 147).

A form of positive reinforcement would be me receiving a desirable grade on my test. Receiving an 'A' on my test would cause me to want this positive response to be repeated.

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Negative Reinforcement

On the other hand, negative reinforcement is “the termination of an unpleasant condition after a response which increases the probability that the response will be repeated” (Wood, Wood, & Boyd 147).

A negative form of reinforcement would be the apprehension I experience about receiving a poor grade on my test. The thought of getting an 'F' on my test would cause me to want totally avoid this negative response.

Primary and Secondary Reinforcer

There are also functions of a primary and secondary reinforcer. A primary reinforcer, like food, fulfils our basic needs and does not rely on learning. While a secondary reinforcer is learned through association with other reinforcers, i.e. money.

I had always heard about positive reinforcement and I now understand how it and other types of reinforcement function. And hopefully you have too.

Reference

  • Wood, S., Wood, E., Boyd, D. (2002). Mastering the World of Psychology. New Jersey: Pearson.

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