Compare and contrast positive and negative reinforcement.In operant conditioning.

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main thing that these two have in common is that they are both meant to make a certain behavior more likely.  This is in contrast to punishment, which seeks to make the behavior less likely.

In operant conditioning, positive reinforcement is given in the form of a reward when a subject performs the desired behavior.  When a subject gets this reward for performing the behavior, it makes them more likely to do that behavior again in the future.

Negative reinforcement is not punishment.  Instead, it involves taking away something that the subject does not like when the subject performs the desired behavior.  This makes the subject more likely to perform the desired behavior because doing so results in the removal of some unpleasant stimulus.

Yojana_Thapa's profile pic

Yojana_Thapa | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Positive Reinforcement

Strengthens a response by presenting a typically pleasurable stimulus after a response

Ex. Giving a dog a treat because he sat when you told him to and that increases the likelihood he’ll seat

Negative Reinforcement

Strengthens a response by removing or reducing something undesirable or unpleasant. (Do something to make something bad go away) not a punishment; removing aversive stimulus

rohanpsychology's profile pic

rohanpsychology | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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yes many people confuse and normally mixed up between negative reinforcement and punishment. But these both are different. i assume that you are clear what positive reinforcement is?

remember, it's "reinforcement" so the behavior increases, and because it's "negative," the reinforcer is removed after the response.

some example will make you morec clear.

  1. Studying for an exam to avoid getting a poor grade. Low grade as a negative reinforcer for studying (but.. a high grade is a positive reinforcer for studying at the same time).
  2. Loud buzz in some cars when ignition key is turned on; driver must put on safety belt in order to eliminate irritating buzz, the buzz is a negative reinforcer for putting on the seat-belt.
  3. Smoking in order to reduce a negative emotional state. Negative emotional state as negative reinforcer to smoking.


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