The concept of reinforcement is one of the most important and utilized principles in applied behavior analysis. The basic definition of reinforcement goes as follows: When a type of behavior (R) is followed by reinforcement (S^R) then an increased frequency of the behavior will follow.
There are three qualifications for understanding if the effects of reinforcement will occur.
- The timing between the end of a given response and the onset of the stimulus change.
- The relationship between the stimulus conditions present when the response was emitted.
- The role of motivation.
Types of Reinforcement
Reinforcement means that a behavior will happen more often in the future when something is added or taken away immediately after a behavior.
Positive reinforcement occurs when a response is followed immediately by the presentation of a stimulus change (reinforcement) that leads to an increase of the future occurrences of that response.
- Something is added (or given) to the individual after a behavior occurs and that behavior occurs more often in the future
- Ex. A child receives candy (reinforcing stimulus) from his parents after cleaning up his room (behavior). The child then cleans his room more often in the future.
Negative reinforcement is a contingency in which the occurrence of a response produces the reduction which then leads to an increase of future occurrences of that response.
- Something is removed (or taken away) from the individual after a behavior occurs. Making that behavior more likely to occur in the future.
- Ex. An individual presses a button (behavior) that turns off a loud alarm (aversive stimulus). That individual presses that button each time the loud alarm goes off.
Ultimately, the main purpose of reinforcement is to increase a target behavior. Positive reinforcement is adding something positive to increase a behavior/response. While negative reinforcement is the taking away of something negative in order to also increase the behavior/response.
Reference: Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2019). Applied Behavior Analysis (3rd Edition). Hoboken, NJ: Pearson Education.
Written by Morgan Valentine, Student Analyst