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What Is Positive Reinforcement In Psychology

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Coaches Can Also Benefit From Understanding The Concepts Of Positive And Negative Reinforcement And Positive And Negative Punishment As They Relate To Motivation Although Coaches Use A Mixture Of Both Reward And Punishment Using Rewards And A Positive Approach Is Arguably The Best Approach Because It Focuses On What Athletes Should Do And What They Did Right

Difference Between Positive and Negative Reinforcement

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning-4th Edition With Web Resource, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.

Coaches can also benefit from understanding the concepts of positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment as they relate to motivation . Positive reinforcement is the act of increasing the probability of occurrence of a given behavior by following it with a positive action, object, or event such as praise, decals on the helmet, or prizes and awards. Negative reinforcement also increases the probability of occurrence of a given operant, but it is accomplished through the removal of an act, object, or event that is typically aversive. For example, if the team showed great hustle in practice , then the coach could announce that no wind sprints would be required at the sessions end. This coaching reinforcement style focuses attention on what the athlete is doing correctly.

Developed by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Fourth Edition, is the fundamental preparation text for the CSCS exam as well as a definitive reference that strength and conditioning professionals will consult in everyday practice. The book is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online at the NSCA Store.

Positive Reinforcement And Negative Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement involves presenting favorable outcomes after the display of the desired behavior. These favorable outcomes then result in repeating behaviors preceding such outcomes. Accordingly, the term positive in positive reinforcement refers to adding rewards or favorable outcomes to the situation. These outcomes further increase the probability of the occurrence of such behaviors in the future.

Thus, you use positive reinforcers to strengthen desired behaviors or encourage skill acquisition. For instance, you promising your child a bed-time story if he brushes his teeth. This will help in developing the habit of brushing teeth before hitting the bed at night. However, reading bed-time stories acts as a positive reinforcer only if reading is your childs preferred activity. Thus, there are a number of behaviors that you want your child to repeat in the future. These include using kind words, practicing good manners, learning lessons, sharing things, etc. Likewise, you can also help your child learn skills Likewise, you can use a number of outcomes that act as positive reinforcers each time your child displays a behavior

Whereas, negative reinforcement involves the removal of aversive consequences to strengthen desired behaviors. The word negative here refers to removal of the aversive consequences. Accordingly, the removal of negative consequences is reinforcing for the individual to perform desired behaviors.

Benefits Of Positive Reinforcement

Although the other types of training are effective in the right contexts, there are unique benefits to positive reinforcement.

People often find positive reinforcement easier to swallow than other methods of training, since it doesnt involve taking anything away or introducing a negative consequence.

Its also much easier to encourage behaviors than to discourage them, making reinforcement a more powerful tool than punishment in most cases.

Perhaps most important, positive reinforcement can simply be more effective, especially in the long-term. Learning accompanied by positive feelings and associations is more likely to be remembered, even beyond the end of the reinforcement schedule .

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Continuous Vs Partial Reinforcement

There are a few ways to approach positive reinforcement. You can either offer continuous reinforcement or partial reinforcement. Most likely, you have experienced giving or receiving reinforcement through both of these schedules.

Continuous reinforcement is a process in which a person or animal is given reinforcement every time they complete a behavior. This means that your dog gets a treat every time they sit on command. Your app says good job every time you finish a workout, without fail. Psychologists have found that this is the best way to introduce a person or animal to a new behavior. Continuous reinforcement establishes the way things work.

Partial reinforcement, on the other hand, is a process in which the person or animal is given their reinforcement sometimes. A parent may not have ice cream in the fridge every time their child cleans their room. A coffee shop cant afford to give out a free coffee every time their customers buy one. Partial reinforcement, while sometimes random and other times on a strict schedule, is less effective than continuous reinforcement but can still get the job done.

Aba Therapy And Autism

Reinforcement Theory of Motivation

Along with being an effective tool for training neurotypical children, adults, and animals, positive reinforcement is useful for children, adolescents, and adults with an autism spectrum disorder .

In fact, positive reinforcement is one of the main strategies in Applied Behavioral Analysis , a type of therapy commonly implemented with ASD children. ABA is used to help improve language and communication skills, decrease problem behaviors, and improve attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics .

In ABA, positive reinforcement is typically implemented via the following method:

  • The therapist identifies a goal behavior.
  • Each time the child successfully engages in the desired behavior, they get a reward.
  • The reward must be something that is meaningful to the individual and desirable. As the person continues to receive rewards, the behavior will become more ingrained .

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    Positive Reinforcement And Positive Punishment

    As mentioned earlier, positive reinforcement involves positive reinforcers. That is the desired behaviors that follow positive outcomes. These positive outcomes, in turn, increase the probability of the occurrence of such behaviors in the future. Thus, positive reinforcement results in the strengthening of desired behaviors.

    Positive punishment, on the other hand, involves undesirable outcomes that follow specific actions. Thus, you do not undertake behaviors preceding such outcomes to avoid undesirable outcomes.

    Using Positive Reinforcement To Change Behavior

    Positive reinforcement over punishment is a powerful and effective tool to change behaviors. The aim of behavior modification is to alter behavioral patterns that impact ones social life. Also, such behavior changes help in improving some parts of an individuals life.

    For instance, you use reinforcement and punishment to stop your child from misbehaving. For example, being impulsive, whining for not doing homework, being a choosy eater, etc. Also, you can use these behavior modification techniques to encourage good habits in your children. These could be being kind, maintaining hygiene, being patient, helping others, etc.

    Thus, you can use positive and negative consequences to reinforce certain behaviors and prevent misbehaviors. Behavior is nothing but the things we say or do. And anything we choose to say or do has an outcome or a consequence. For example, if you exercise and eat healthily, you stay fit.

    Similarly, when your child is kind, he makes friends easily. Or if he prepares his lesson well, he gets acknowledged for the same by his teacher. Likewise, if he is impulsive, he gets scolded.

    Therefore, you need to teach your child how his good or bad actions can lead to positive or negative consequences. Some of the examples of positive and negative consequences are as follows:

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    Positive Punishment Vs Negative Punishment

    While the goal of reinforcement is to reinforce the desired behavior, the goal of punishment is to make an undesired behavior less likely to happen, continue or strengthen in the future.

    As with reinforcement, the technical meanings of positive and negative punishment refer to adding or removing a factor to obtain the results.

    They do not refer to the quality or impact of the punishment.

    Is Positive Reinforcement Always A Good Thing

    Operant conditioning: Positive-and-negative reinforcement and punishment | MCAT | Khan Academy

    An important thing to note is that positive reinforcement is not always a good thing. Positive reinforcement can also strengthen undesirable behaviors. For example, when a child misbehaves in a store, some parents might give them extra attention or even buy the child a toy.

    Children quickly learn that by acting out, they can gain attention from the parent or even acquire objects that they want. Essentially, parents are reinforcing the misbehavior.

    In this case, a better solution would be to use positive reinforcement when the child is displaying good behavior. Instead of rewarding the misbehavior, the parents would want to wait until the child is behaving well and then reward that good behavior with praise, treats, or even a toy.

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    Child Behaviour Parent Management Training

    Providing positive reinforcement for appropriate child behaviors is a major focus of parent management training. Typically, parents learn to reward appropriate behavior through social rewards as well as concrete rewards . In addition, parents learn to select simple behaviors as an initial focus and reward each of the small steps that their child achieves towards reaching a larger goal . They may also use indirect rewards such through progress charts. Providing positive reinforcement in the classroom can be beneficial to student success. When applying positive reinforcement to students, it’s crucial to make it individualized to that student’s needs. This way, the student understands why they are receiving the praise, they can accept it, and eventually learn to continue the action that was earned by positive reinforcement. For example, using rewards or extra recess time might apply to some students more, whereas others might accept the enforcement by receiving stickers or check marks indicating praise.

    Where Does Positive Reinforcement Come From

    The concept of positive reinforcement is credited to 20th-century behaviorism psychologist B. F. Skinner. As part of his work during the 1930s and 1940s, Skinner considered ways in which behavior could be changed by treating someone differently based on what they did. This idea is known as operant conditioning and is most often associated with Skinners theories. Positive reinforcement was one of four techniques that Skinner theorized could be used to alter behavior.

    Think about a lab rat in a box with a green button. We want to teach the rat to press the button after hearing a bell. In this scenario, the ringing of a bell is the stimulus, something that will trigger a behavior. When the rat hears the bell, the responses we care about are pressing the green button or not pressing it. The rat pressing the green button is the response we want.

    In positive reinforcement, the desired response is encouraged by adding something the rat likes when it performs the response we want. In this case, if the rat presses the green button after hearing the bell, we will give the rat a slice of tasty cheese. If the rat doesnt press the button, it gets nothing. In positive reinforcement, we never punish the rat for doing unwanted behavior .

    What about that negative reinforcement we mentioned? In negative reinforcement, an enjoyable thing is taken away in reaction to unwanted behavior. In our example, we would take toys away from our poor rat if it refuses to press that button.

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    Positive Reinforcement In The Classroom

    One of our examples given for positive reinforcement was a teacher handing out gold stars to students who turn their work in on time this is just one of the many ways positive reinforcement can be applied in the classroom.

    Some teachers may choose to hand out stickers, others might be generous with their praise or high-fives, and others may hand out candy or other small treats when students behave appropriately.

    Positive reinforcement can be extra effective in the classroom because of one important factor: social atmosphere, or peer pressure. Children often want to do the right thing and may get embarrassed if caught doing something wrong in front of their friends and peers. When there is a whole classroom of students watching, children are more receptive than usual to a reward.

    If youre a teacher who would like to implement positive reinforcement in the classroom, keep these tips from the University of Minnesotas College of Education and Human Development in mind.

    When choosing a reinforcer:

  • Observe the student. What is currently reinforcing their behavior and what activities do they seek out?
  • Present the student with a list of choices and ask what they would prefer to earn through good behavior
  • Monitor the student and discuss progress with them periodically to determine whether the reinforcing is still a good choice or whether a new one would work better
  • Evaluate the reinforcers effectiveness with a formal preference assessment.
  • When delivering a reinforcer

    Workplace Culture Of Fear

    Positive Reinforcement

    Ashforth discussed potentially destructive sides of leadership and identified what he referred to as petty tyrants: leaders who exercise a tyrannical style of management, resulting in a climate of fear in the workplace. Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt. When employees get the sense that bullies are tolerated, a climate of fear may be the result.

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    Try The Checklist To Evaluate Your Reinforcement Behaviors

    Graduate students in our sport coaching and leadership program use this reinforcement checklist to take an inventory of their reinforcement behaviors. The checklist asks you to grade yourself on each reinforcement principle, then provide an overall grade for your reinforcement strategy. You can use the checklist as a way to target improvements to your reinforcement strategy. Its also a great activity for an entire coaching staff to complete it can be a conversation starter for a mentor meeting, or it can be the topic for a staff training.

    Please give attribution if you reuse or re-purpose this checklist.

    For most people, our perceptions of our actual behaviors skew positively. We think we follow all of these principles quite well. But how well do your perceptions line-up with reality? Ask a colleague to complete the same checklist for you, and see how well your scores line-up. If you want to be more adventurous, have a colleague or parent videotape you at practice. If you have never seen a video of yourself coaching, it is probably one of the most insightful learning experiences you will ever have as a coach.

    Examples Of Positive Reinforcement In Action

    Positive reinforcement is perhaps the most widely used method of conditioning, and there are many examples you will likely be familiar with:

    • A dog trainer giving a dog a biscuit when she performs a trick
    • A father providing his child with a piece of candy for picking up his toys
    • A teacher handing out gold stars to children that turn in their homework on time
    • A babysitter telling her charge Great job! when he puts away the dishes
    • A boss offering her employee a raise when he goes above and beyond on a project.

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    Using The Right Positive Reinforcement

    Taking that idea further, Turner, Foa, and Foa focused on resources that act as positive reinforcement specifically in human interactions. Under the right circumstances, providing any of the resources they identified can be rewarding to people. Therefore, when you are interested in shaping the behavior of someone else, providing one of these resources as a consequence is a good place to start. Specifically, their list includes:

    • Love: expressions of affectionate regard, warmth, or comfort.
    • Status: expressions of evaluative judgment, conveying prestige, regard, or esteem.
    • Services: activities performed for another person, such as labor.
    • Information: advice, opinions, or instructions.
    • Goods: tangible products and objects.
    • Money: currency that has some unit of exchange value.

    The Difference Between Positive And Negative Reinforcement

    Positive Reinforcement

    Behavioral issues can begin at a young age and carry on through a persons entire life if not dealt with accordingly. Reinforcement is what we use to help increase the probability that a behavior will occur with the use of a stimulus or item as soon as the required response or behavior is shown. If this doesnt make sense, in simple terms it is a reward for a certain behavior.

    Reinforcement procedures have been commonly used with children, teenagers, the elderly, animals, and for many psychological disorders. The reinforcement used can be either positive or negative, each having different outcomes completely. It can be quite difficult to differentiate between positive and negative reinforcement, which can often cause problems.

    Positive Reinforcement

    Positive reinforcement is an extremely powerful tool that has proven to help change and create new behavior. It works by rewarding the person with a motivating item after the behavior is achieved, making it more likely to happen again in the future.

    An example of positive reinforcement is: A child receives money for doing chores.

    Negative Reinforcement

    Negative reinforcement is where instead of being rewarded with an item for making positive choices, and item or stimulus is removed after a specific behavior is shown.


    Just like reinforcement, there are also two types of punishment: Negative and positive. Also, like reinforcement, it can be difficult to determine the difference.

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    Is Positive Reinforcement More Effective

    These four types of conditioning are all valid and effective ways to teach or train however, their effectiveness will vary based on the context. For some situations, negative punishment may be much more effective than positive punishment, or positive reinforcement may be the best choice.

    It all depends on the person or animal you are trying to teach, the behavior displayed, and the desired outcome. Positive reinforcement is most effective when the person or animal you are training is not given to bad behavior and is eager to please, and it can improve your bond at the same time.

    This makes it an excellent choice for both training animals and encouraging good behavior in young children, among other situations.

    Commonly Used Positive Reinforcers

    The following can be used as pleasant outcomes for dog training using positive reinforcement.

    • petting
    • ear rub
    • toys like Kong classic bone chew, etc

    Further, if you are using a food treat, a toy, or an activity as a reinforcer, make sure it is something that interests your pet.

    But, rewarding your pet with praise, a toy, a food treat, or any preferred activity is not sufficient. You must know how to communicate with your pet to effectively reinforce her for the desired behavior.

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