Positive Reinforcement Can Help Favorable Behaviors (2022)

Positive reinforcement is when a positive outcome or reward follows a behavior. This type of reinforcement is a concept in behavioral psychology that can be used to help teach and strengthen behaviors. This process can be used as part of a formal training program, but it is also something that can occur naturally in everyday situations as well.

This article discusses how positive reinforcement works and how it can be used to teach or modify behaviors. It also covers how positive reinforcement compares to negative reinforcement and how it is best applied.

What Is Positive Reinforcement?

In operant conditioning, positive reinforcement involves the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. When a favorable outcome, event, or reward occurs after an action, that particular response or behavior will be strengthened.

One of the easiest ways to remember positive reinforcement is to think of it as something being added. By thinking of it in these terms, you may find it easier to identify real-world examples of positive reinforcement.

Sometimes positive reinforcement occurs quite naturally. For example, when you hold the door open for someone, you might receive praise and a thank you. That affirmation serves as positive reinforcement and may make it more likely that you will hold the door open for people again in the future.

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In other cases, someone might choose to use positive reinforcement very deliberately in order to train and maintain a specific behavior. An animal trainer, for example, might reward a dog with a treat after the animal shakes the trainer's hand and pauses for a count of five.

Basics of Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning was introduced by the psychologist B. F. Skinner, who based the idea on Thorndike's law of effect. The basic idea behind the law of effect is that the consequences of behavior determine whether that behavior happens again. Reinforced behaviors become strengthened, while punished behaviors are weakened.

The four types of reinforcement/punishment are:

  • Positive reinforcement is the addition of a positive outcome to strengthen behavior.
  • Negative reinforcement is the removal of a negative outcome to strengthen a behavior.
  • Positive punishment involves taking away a desired stimulus to weaken a behavior.
  • Negative punishment involves applying an undesirable stimulus to weaken a behavior.

Examples of Positive Reinforcement

There are many examples of positive reinforcement in action. Consider the following scenarios:

  • Praise: After you execute a turn during a skiing lesson, your instructor shouts out, "Great job!"
  • Monetary rewards: At work, you exceed this month's sales quota, so your boss gives you a bonus.
  • Other rewards: For your psychology class, you watch a video about the human brain and write a paper about what you learned. Your instructor gives you 20 extra credit points for your work.

In each situation, the reinforcement is an additional stimulus occurring after the behavior that increases the likelihood that the behavior will occur again in the future.

Types of Positive Reinforcement

There are many different types of reinforcers that can be used to increase behaviors, but it is important to note that the type of reinforcer used depends on the individual and the situation.

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  • Natural reinforcers occur directly as a result of the behavior. For example, a student studies hard, pays attention in class, and does their homework. As a result, they get excellent grades.
  • Social reinforcers involve expressing approval of a behavior, such as a teacher, parent, or employer saying or writing, "Good job" or "Excellent work."
  • Tangible reinforcers involve presenting actual, physical rewards such as candy, treats, toys, money, and other desired objects. While these types of rewards can be powerfully motivating, they should be used sparingly and with caution.
  • Token reinforcers are points or tokens that are awarded for performing certain actions. These tokens can then be exchanged for something of value.

While gold stars and tokens might be very effective reinforcement for a second-grader, they are not going to have the same effect on a high school or college student.

For positive reinforcement to be effective, it needs to involve a reward that the individual wants or needs.

Positive Reinforcement vs. Negative Reinforcement

The goal of both positive and negative reinforcement is to increase the likelihood that a behavior will occur again in the future. The difference is in how each accomplishes this.

Positive reinforcement adds something to strengthen behavior, while negative reinforcement removes something.

For example, allowing a child to play on their tablet if they finish their homework is an example of positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement would be a child finishing their homework to avoid having their tablet taken away.

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Uses for Positive Reinforcement

When used correctly, positive reinforcement can be very effective. It can be used in various settings to make desired changes to behavior or teach new behaviors.

  • At home: Parents can use positive reinforcement to encourage kids to engage in all kinds of positive, desirable behavior. For example, a parent might use praise or other rewards to get a child to brush their teeth, get ready for bed, or clean up their room.
  • In school: Teachers can also use positive reinforcement to help kids engage in desired classroom behavior. An example of positive reinforcement in the classroom would be praising a child for raising their hand or giving them a sticker on their reward chart for turning their homework in on time.
  • In therapy settings: Therapists also use positive reinforcement to help teach new behaviors and coping skills. For example, positive reinforcement is commonly used as part of behavior modification, an intervention that focuses on reducing or eliminating maladaptive behaviors.

While different strategies can be used depending on the situation, some experts suggest that positive reinforcement should be used more often than negative reinforcement or punishment.

How to Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can be a useful learning tool in a wide variety of settings. There are things that you can do to make sure that it is used effectively.

Be Aware of Reinforcement Timing

Positive reinforcement is most effective when it occurs immediately after the behavior. Reinforcement should be presented enthusiastically and should occur frequently.

  • Deliver reinforcement quickly. A shorter time between a behavior and positive reinforcement makes a stronger connection.
  • Waiting risks reinforcing the wrong behaviors. The longer the time, the more likely an intervening behavior might accidentally be reinforced.

Use the Right Reinforcement Schedule

In addition to the timing and type of reinforcement used, the presentation schedule can also play a role in the strength of the response. Schedules of reinforcementcan have a powerful influence on how strong a response is and how often it occurs.

When you are first teaching a new behavior, you would likely use a continuous reinforcement schedule where you deliver positive reinforcement every single time the behavior occurs. Once the response is established, you would then switch to an intermittent or ratio schedule.

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Avoid Reinforcing the Wrong Behaviors

An important thing to note is that positive reinforcement is not always good. 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 them a toy in an effort to stop the behavior.

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

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 behaves well and then reward that good behavior with praise, treats, or even a toy.

A Word From Verywell

Positive reinforcement can be an effective learning tool when used appropriately. Sometimes this type of learning occurs naturally through normal interactions with the environment.

In other cases, parents, teachers, and therapists can use this behavioral technique to help teach new behaviors. When using positive reinforcement, it's important to be thoughtful about the type of reinforcers and the schedule that you use to train the new behavior.

FAQs

Is positive reinforcement a good thing explain your answer? ›

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.

How does positive reinforcement affect behavior? ›

Thus, positive reinforcement occurs when a behavior is encouraged by rewards. If a child enjoys candy and cleaning the room is the desired behavior, the candy is a positive reinforcer (reward) because it is something that is given or added when the behavior occurs. This makes the behavior more likely to recur.

Does positive reinforcement strengthen behavior? ›

Positive reinforcement is the addition of a positive outcome to strengthen behavior. Negative reinforcement is the removal of a negative outcome to strengthen a behavior. Positive punishment involves taking away a desired stimulus to weaken a behavior.

Does positive reinforcement have the greatest impact on behavior? ›

And generally, it has been rather effective in getting people to act within acceptable behaviors. Positive reinforcement, however, is most often the better way to condition people into positive behaviors — while building a valuable bond with the person you are conditioning.

Why is it important to use positive reinforcement? ›

Positive reinforcement reinforces what the child is doing right rather than concentrating on what the child is doing wrong. It increases the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated. It supports your child's positive deeds and qualities through enthusiasm, descriptive encouragement, and natural, logical rewards.

Why is it important to reinforce positive Behaviour? ›

Positive reinforcement helps develop a child's self-esteem

Children who are confident and have healthy self-esteem are the ones who are more likely to find success later in life. By using positive reinforcement, we are making our children feel good about themselves; especially when they have done something right.

What's another word for positive reinforcement? ›

What is another word for positive reinforcement?
reinforcerincentive
rewarddesirable stimulus
pleasurable stimulus

How do you use positive reinforcement on yourself? ›

Self-reinforcement can start with simple actions by giving yourself small rewards; like treating yourself to a nice dinner or going to the movies Pick rewards that are important to you, that you really love and don't feel guilty about.

What makes reinforcement more effective? ›

What effects reinforcer effectiveness? We must remember 4 different variables that effect reinforcer effectiveness. They are: deprivation/satiation, immediacy, size, and contingency. 1) Deprivation/Satiation: Often referred to as not enough or too much of a good thing!

What are examples of positive behaviors? ›

  • Use appropriate entrance. Walk to the right. Smile.
  • Be Friendly. Include others. Speak in a quiet voice.
  • Be polite. Use appropriate language. Stay in assigned area.
  • Keep to the right. Socialize on benches. Keep lockers clean.

What does the teacher do to reinforce positive behaviors behavior strategies? ›

Teachers can strengthen intrinsic motivation by recognizing and positively reinforcing positive actions when they see them. Recognition activities and items—such as tokens, stickers, and certificates—can be effective.

Is positive reinforcement better than punishment? ›

Praise and positive reinforcement are typically more effective than punishment because they help a child learn what is expected. If a particular behavior elicits a positive reaction from adults, the child will be likely to repeat the behavior in the future.

Who Defined positive reinforcement? ›

Definition. The concept of positive reinforcement is associated with the work of behaviorist 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.

Which of the following is an example of a positive reinforcement? ›

Give an allowance or treats to encourage children to complete their chores instead of nagging. Praise your child for undertaking a task without being asked, which will make the child want to do it again to win more approval.

What are the benefits of positive behaviour? ›

The benefits of positive behaviour support include: quality of life is improved for the individual and the support network who provide regular care. specific behavioural improvements. positive outcomes, such as being able to participate in the community.

What is your understanding of positive Behaviour support? ›

Positive behaviour support (PBS) is 'a person centred framework for providing long-term support to people with a learning disability, and/or autism, including those with mental health conditions, who have, or may be at risk of developing, behaviours that challenge.

What is an example of reinforcement? ›

For example, reinforcement might involve presenting praise (a reinforcer) immediately after a child puts away their toys (the response). By reinforcing the desired behavior with praise, the child will be more likely to perform the same action again in the future.

What is positive reinforcement Wikipedia? ›

Positive reinforcement occurs when a desirable event or stimulus is presented as a consequence of a behavior and the chance that this behavior will manifest in similar environments increases.

What is another word for positive feedback? ›

What is another word for positive feedback?
praiseapproval
acclaimacclamation
commendationlaudation
complimentkudos
recognitioncongratulations
171 more rows

How would you use reinforcement to achieve your objectives? ›

Use positive reinforcement to help you achieve your goals
  1. Aim for the biggest carrot. Set huge, crazy, almost unrealistic goals and then promise yourself an equally big reward. ...
  2. Make your incentive purposeful. ...
  3. Match your reward to the effort required. ...
  4. Set yourself up for success.
14 Jun 2013

What does self reinforcing mean? ›

Definition of self-reinforcing

: tending or serving to strengthen itself : reinforcing itself According to this thinking, a self-reinforcing feedback loop—bigger brains, better tools, more food—drove forward the process of human evolution.—

Is positive reinforcement better than negative reinforcement? ›

The most effective way to teach a person or animal a new behavior is with positive reinforcement.

Is positive reinforcement better than punishment? ›

Praise and positive reinforcement are typically more effective than punishment because they help a child learn what is expected. If a particular behavior elicits a positive reaction from adults, the child will be likely to repeat the behavior in the future.

Is positive reinforcement good for children? ›

Positive reinforcement can also be an effective way to motivate your child to be responsible, do their chores, get along with their siblings, or complete their homework assignments without arguing. Learn more about how to use this behavior modification technique, including positive reinforcement examples.

Which is better positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement? ›

Positive reinforcement is a process that strengthens the likelihood of a particular response by adding a stimulus after the behavior is performed. Negative reinforcement also strengthens the likelihood of a particular response, but by removing an undesirable consequence.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of positive reinforcement? ›

If your team members excel in their roles and meet all their goals, positive reinforcement makes them feel appreciated for all their work. However, if you continuously use positive reinforcement even when performance is lackluster, employees may begin to expect rewards regardless of how well they perform at work.

How do you use positive reinforcement on yourself? ›

Self-reinforcement can start with simple actions by giving yourself small rewards; like treating yourself to a nice dinner or going to the movies Pick rewards that are important to you, that you really love and don't feel guilty about.

What are examples of positive behaviors? ›

  • Use appropriate entrance. Walk to the right. Smile.
  • Be Friendly. Include others. Speak in a quiet voice.
  • Be polite. Use appropriate language. Stay in assigned area.
  • Keep to the right. Socialize on benches. Keep lockers clean.

How does reinforcement affect behavior? ›

Reinforcement is used to help increase the probability that a specific behavior will occur in the future by delivering or removing a stimulus immediately after a behavior. Another way to put it is that reinforcement, if done correctly, results in a behavior occurring more frequently in the future.

What's another word for positive reinforcement? ›

What is another word for positive reinforcement?
reinforcerincentive
rewarddesirable stimulus
pleasurable stimulus

How do you get good behavior? ›

Here are 10 ways to encourage positive behavior:
  1. Create and follow basic routines. ...
  2. Have fun together. ...
  3. Provide clear expectations and follow through. ...
  4. Practice healthy habits. ...
  5. Practice coping skills. ...
  6. Make time to talk about feelings. ...
  7. Choose your battles. ...
  8. Focus on the behavior, not the child.

Which reinforcement is the best? ›

Variable ratio: Variable ratio intermittent reinforcement is the most effective schedule to reinforce a behavior.

Which of the following is an example of a positive reinforcement? ›

Give an allowance or treats to encourage children to complete their chores instead of nagging. Praise your child for undertaking a task without being asked, which will make the child want to do it again to win more approval.

Should you reinforce positive behavior? ›

In operant conditioning, positive reinforcement aims to increase desired behavior by adding a favorable stimulus right after that behavior occurs. It is rewarding someone for what they do, and this reward encourages them to do it again. The reinforcing stimulus is a positive reinforcer.

What are the benefits of positive behaviour? ›

The benefits of positive behaviour support include: quality of life is improved for the individual and the support network who provide regular care. specific behavioural improvements. positive outcomes, such as being able to participate in the community.

What approaches could be used to support positive behaviour? ›

Some helpful strategies: Celebrate and build strengths and successes: Tell him what he does well and what you like. A sense of competence often fosters interest and motivation. Strive to give positive feedback much more frequently than any correction or negative feedback.

Who created positive reinforcement? ›

Originated by B. F. Skinner in the 1930s, operant conditioning attempts to define how different types of reinforcers and punishments can strengthen and weaken behaviors. There are two types of reinforcers that strengthen behavior: positive and negative.

Videos

1. A SOLUTION FOR BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS IN THE CLASSROOM - FREE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT TECHNIQUE
(itslitwithmrsc)
2. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Positive and Negative Reinforcement and Punishment
(flactemb)
3. Preschool How To: Reinforcement
(VCU RRTC)
4. Managing A Toddler Using Positive Reinforcement
(Cas☮︎︎)
5. How to motivate yourself to change your behavior | Tali Sharot | TEDxCambridge
(TEDx Talks)
6. What is Positive Reinforcement Based Dog Training? | Petco
(Petco)

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