Positive Reinforcement in Psychology (Definition + 5 Examples)
Positive Reinforcement in Psychology (Definition + 5 Examples)

Positive Reinforcement in Psychology (Definition + 5 Examples)

Positive Reinforcement in Psychology If you read our earlier piece on positive punishment , you know that there are different methods of teaching and instilling good habits and behaviors.

One of the most powerful and effective methods is one that you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with: positive reinforcement.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Positive Psychology Exercises for free . These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology including strengths, values and self-compassion and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students or employees.

What is the Meaning of Positive Reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement refers to the introduction of a desirable or pleasant stimulus after a behavior. The desirable stimulus reinforces the behavior, making it more likely that the behavior will reoccur.

It’s a positive parenting method used for a variety of purposes and in a wide range of contexts, as it capitalizes on the good behaviors that are already being displayed, rewarding the natural tendencies towards good behavior in the individual you are working to train.

The Psychology of Positive Reinforcement Theory

Although it sounds like a simple idea, it was not always the “go-to” method for teaching. Punishment has always been a popular method for teaching—whether it was for training children, pets, or adults.

In fact, positive reinforcement is only one of the four types of conditioning according to famed behaviorist B. F. Skinner’s model. A Brief Look at B.F Skinner and His Operant Conditioning Model

Skinner’s model of operant conditioning is based on the assumption that studying a behavior’s cause and its consequences is the best way to understand and regulate it. This theory grew from Thorndike’s “law of effect” which stated that a behavior that is followed by pleasant or desirable consequences is likely to be repeated, while behavior that is followed by undesirable consequences is less likely to be repeated (McLeod, 2018). B.F. Skinner Circa 1950. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons The model defined by Skinner goes further, outlining four methods of conditioning:

Positive reinforcement: a desirable stimulus is introduced to encourage certain behavior.

Positive punishment : an undesirable stimulus is introduced to discourage the behavior. Negative reinforcement : an undesirable stimulus is removed to encourage the behavior. Negative punishment (also called extinction): a desirable stimulus is removed to discourage the behavior. Each of these four methods of conditioning can be implemented to teach, train, and manage behavior. Positive Reinforcement vs. Positive Punishment Although both methods include the word “positive,” we know that this does not mean they are “good.”As noted above, positive reinforcement refers to introducing a desirable stimulus (i.e., a reward) […]

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