Punishment/ Reinforcement

When reading about positive and negative punishment/reinforcement, I found myself getting confused very quickly. I was thinking of the terms too literally for how we use them in everyday life. Punishment sounds something of a negative experience all the time. However, in pysch terms, punishment is a consequence that follows a behavior that will likely decrease that behavior from happening in the future. Continued, reinforcement is a behavior that would likely increase that probability that a specific behavior would happen in the future. When something is added there is a positive tacked on to the name. When something is removed, negative is placed in front. Here are some examples:
Positive Punishment: Child touches hot iron and feels pain.
Negative Punishment: Child fighting with brother and has favorite toy taken away to make him stop.
Positive Reinforcement: Child receiving money for good grades.
Negative Reinforcement: Child pressing alarm button to shut off loud noise.


  1. I also did a post similar to this! I found a table online breaking down each punisher and reinforcer; it's so much easier to understand when you can relate to the examples given.


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