With regard to operant conditioning, what are the differences between positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment?
In order to understand this, we first have to understand the difference between reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement is meant to promote a given behavior and make it more likely to occur in the future. By contrast, punishment is meant to make a given behavior less likely to recur in the future. Thus, both attempt to change behavior, but one means to make a given behavior more likely while the other means to make it less likely.
Within each of these, there is a positive way to accomplish the goal and a negative way. The positive way introduces something that was not there before. The negative way takes away something that was there before. Let us look at examples.
A positive punishment introduces an unpleasant stimulus after a given behavior. If your cat scratches a chair and you spray it with water, it is a positive punishment because the spraying was not present before.
A negative punishment takes something good away after a given behavior. For example, if your child misbehaves and you take away their right to use the internet it is a negative punishment. You are trying to prevent the misbehavior by taking away something that had been present.
Positive reinforcement introduces a pleasant stimulus after a given behavior. If a dog performs a trick and you give it food, it is an example of positive reinforcement.
Negative reinforcement removes an unpleasant stimulus after a desired behavior is performed. If you are a coach and you release your team from having to do their daily sprints because they performed well in practice, you are engaging in negative reinforcement.