Difference Between Positive Punishment and Negative Punishment

Positive Punishment vs Negative Punishment
 

Though the aim of both is the same, the difference between positive punishment and negative punishment is in the idea and the approach that stems from that. In other words, positive punishment and negative punishment are two completely different categories of punishment in operant conditioning. This theory of operant conditioning was developed by the American psychologist B. F Skinner. In operant conditioning, the attention is paid to voluntary, controllable behavior. Skinner believed that by associating actions with consequences they can be changed. According to his theory, behavior can either be sustained or removed through rewards and punishments. The concept of punishment was developed in order to speak of the behavior that can be removed. Skinner spoke of two types of punishments. They are positive punishment and negative punishment. Most people confuse the difference between these two types. Through this article let us examine the difference between positive and negative punishment.

What is Positive Punishment?

First before moving on to the idea of positive punishment, it is important to pay attention to the concept of punishment. A punishment can be defined as a consequence that follows a behavior so that the recurrence of that particular behavior becomes less often in the future. For example, if a parent grounds a child for misbehavior, this is a punishment. The purpose of giving a punishment is to reduce its occurrence. A parent who punishes his child expects that the child would stop misbehaving.

Now let us move on to positive punishment. According to psychologists, positive punishment can be defined as the inclusion of something unpleasant so that the initial behavior would be reduced. For example, a driver who ignores road signs and drives as he pleases is asked to pay a fine. In this example, the misbehavior is driving irresponsibly. The inclusion is the paying of the fine.

Difference Between Positive Punishment and Negative Punishment

Fining a disobedient driver is an example for positive punishment

What is Negative Punishment?

Unlike in positive punishment where something unpleasant is added, in negative punishment, something pleasant is removed. For example, a child performs poorly in academics and makes no attempt to work hard. He plays around all day long and is completely disinterested in his studies. The parent decides to give his child a punishment by limiting the hours of leisure. This is an example of a negative punishment because something that the child enjoys (the activity of playing) has been removed.

Hence, the key difference between positive and negative punishment is that while something negative is added in positive punishment to reduce the recurrence of a particular behavior, something positive is removed in negative punishment. In both cases, by adding something or removing something a pattern of behavior that has been considered as wrong is discouraged.

 Positive Punishment vs Negative Punishment

Something positive is removed in negative punishment

What is the difference between Positive Punishment and Negative Punishment?

• Definitions of Positive Punishment and Negative Punishment:

• Positive punishment can be defined as the inclusion of something unpleasant so that the initial behavior would be reduced.

• Negative punishment can be defined as the removal of something pleasant so that the recurrence of a particular behavior would be reduced.

• Connection to Operant Conditioning:

• Both positive and negative punishment can be considered as subcategories of punishment in operant conditioning.

• Aim:

• Both positive and negative punishment aims to reduce the recurrence of a particular behavior.

• Approach:

• In positive punishment, something unpleasant is included to discourage a type of behavior.

• In negative punishment, something pleasant is removed to discourage a type of behavior.

 

Images Courtesy:

  1. A PRPD traffice officer writing a ticket on a “speeder” by User:Pumba572 (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. Don Grady with Frawley’s replacement William Demarest in My Three Sons (1969) via Wikicommons (Public Domain)