Tag Archives: Negative Reinforcement

Operant Conditioning – Reinforcement and Punishment

I have spent the better part of the last two days sick. It is hard enough to study when you are feeling your best!

Anyway, part of my readings for this week included Operant Conditioning and the wonderful world of Positive/Negative Reinforcement and Positive/Negative Punishment. This really should be review for me as I have had all this information before, but for some reason I really never could wrap my brain around this. It confuses me how there could be negative reinforcement and positive punishment!!

Lucky for me, I have to be supervised by a BCBA (what I want to be when I grow up), so for this weeks meeting (done on the phone while she was headed for Chicago), she sorted it out for me in a way that I can understand. AND… because I love dearly how she explains things to me, I thought I would share so that maybe it will help this concept click with someone else!

The best way to figure out what is happening is to use the phrase…

“In the presence of ___Reinforcement (R) or Punishment (P)__, the behavior ___increased (+) or decreased (-).

So, let me give you some examples that make sense in the real world.

Positive Reinforcement

We want “J” to use his voice (speak out loud), so we will reinforce his talking behavior with a skittle.

In the presence of a skittle (R),”J’s” talking behavior increases (+).

Negative Reinforcement

“N” will sometimes avoid a math problem. We want him to pay attention. We will use his favorite chip as a reinforcement to decrease his avoidance behavior.

In the presence of “N’s” favorite chip (R), “N’s” avoidance behavior decreases (-)

Positive Punishment

“D” does not like speech. To him, it is a punishment. He escapes to the Tan Room for a break.

In the presence of speech (P), “D’s” escape behavior increases (+).

Negative Punishment

“E” will sometimes stomp at lunchtime. We want him to stop stomping. We remove his plate of food. He stops stomping.

In the presence of plate removal (P), “E’s” stomping behavior decreases (-)

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I sure hope this helps you as much as it did me!!

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Filed under Autism, Behaviors, Lessons