Reinforcement

Reinforcement is defined as a consequence that follows an operant response that increase (or attempts to increase) the likelihood of that response occurring in the future.


Positive Reinforcement

In an attempt to increase the likelihood of a behavior occurring in the future, an operant response is followed by the presentation of an appetitive stimulus. This is positive reinforcement.

 

If you stroke a cat's fur in a manner that is pleasing to the cat it will purr. The cat's purring may act as a positive reinforcer, causing you to stroke the cat's fur in the same manner in the future.


Negative Reinforcement

In an attempt to increase the likelihood of a behavior occurring in the future, an operant response is followed by the removal of an aversive stimulus. This is negative reinforcement.

 

When a child says "please" and "thank you" to his/her mother, the child may not have to engage in his/her dreaded chore of setting the table. Therefore, not having to set the table will act as a negative reinforcer and increase the likelihood of the child saying "please" and "thank you" in the future.


Reinforcer

A behavior (operant response) is sometimes more likely to occur in the future as a result of the consequences that follow that behavior. Events that increase the likelihood of a behavior occurring in the future are called reinforcers.


Positive Reinforcer

A positive reinforcer is an appetitive event whose presentation follows an operant response. The positive reinforcer increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring again under the same circumstances.

click here for an example of a positive reinforcer


Negative Reinforcer

A negative reinforcer is an aversive event whose removal follows an operant response. The negative reinforcer increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring again under the same circumstances.

click here for an example of a negative reinforcer


Primary Reinforcer

A primary reinforcer is a reinforcer that is biologically pre-established to act as reinforcement.

 

Food, water, and sex are all primary reinforcers because they satisfy biological desires.


Conditioned Reinforcer

A conditioned reinforcer is a previously neutral stimulus. If the neutral stimulus is paired with a primary reinforcer it acquires the same reinforcement properties associated with the primary reinforcer.

Money is a conditioned reinforcer. The actual paper bills are not themselves reinforcing. However, the paper bills can be used to acquire primary reinforcers such as food, water, and shelter. Therefore, the paper bills become reinforcers as a result of pairing them with the acquisition of food, water, and shelter.

Index | Quotations | Home