Positive vs Negative Reinforcement
Reinforcement means to increase the force, to strengthen. When we hear of reinforcement in a war, we know that either more troops or supplies like weapons are being increased. In psychology, reinforcement is a word used to imply any stimulus that increases the likelihood of a specific behavior. However, there are concepts of positive and negative reinforcements that confuse many as they feel that negative reinforcement is more of a punishment. This article attempts to find out the differences between positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement to be better able to tackle with the problem of behavior correction at the office or home.
Suppose you want your dog to sit when you give him a command for this purpose. If you give him his favorite dog biscuit every time he obeys you, you are trying to reinforce sitting reaction as the dog eventually learns that sitting in response to your command will get him a biscuit.
Without knowing, we are using the principle of positive reinforcement; we make our kids learn many things in this manner. The mere response of very good or excellent from us is enough to make a child excited and happy and likely to repeat a behavior. Similarly, when your boss praises your efforts in a project, in front of others, you feel happy about it and try to keep up the same level of performance. If you get a bonus or a raise, this works as a positive reinforcement, to increase the likelihood of good performance level at office. Thus, rewards like a candy from the mother or a praise from a teacher are generally regarded as positive reinforcement, to increase the likelihood of a behavior.
Taking away something negative also works as a reinforcement and increases the likelihood of a behavior. Take this example. David’s mother was always nagging about David not giving the garbage to the garbage truck which comes every week. Fed up with listening to all the curse every week, David gets up and gives the garbage to the garbage collecting truck. To his amazement, his mother does not nag. This means that the nagging, which he did not like got removed with his behavior, and that will increase the likelihood of repeating the behavior. Elimination of a negative stimulus is the basic principle behind negative reinforcement, and it should not be confused with punishment.
We all are used to heavy traffic when returning from home every evening. One day we finish the work early and get a chance to leave for home early. To our surprise, we find that the traffic is light, and we drive easily. This will have the effect of making you finish the work early to get a better driving experience as negative stimulus of heavy traffic is removed.
Positive Reinforcement vs Negative Reinforcement
• The principle of positive reinforcement is easily understood by most of us as we are aware of the process of praise and rewards in our daily lives.
• It is the use of the word negative that confuses many when trying to understand negative reinforcement. Punishment is meant to decrease the likelihood of a behavior while negative reinforcement tries to increase the likelihood of a behavior by removing a negative stimulus.