Have your parents ever given you an allowance for completing a task such as cleaning your room? If they have, this is an example of Positive reinforcement. In this example, cleaning your room would be “the behavior” and the allowance or money your parents are giving you would be the reward. Positive reinforcement is usually used in order to strengthen the chances of desired behavior. B.F Skinner’s theory led to his experiment involving a rat in a closed container which contained a lever inside. If the rat stepped on the lever, food would fall into the box and the rat would be rewarded or in other terms positively reinforced. During his experiment as the rats moved around the box looking for a way out, they quickly began to learn that the lever inside would drop pellets of food which resulted in them consistently pressing the lever.
Reinforcers may not always be positive; in some circumstances the reinforcers will be negative. If your parents do not want to give you an allowance but wish for you to have your room clean each week on Friday, they may say “if your room is not clean each Friday, you are grounded for the weekend”. To avoid being grounded over the weekend, the child will clean their room by Friday, and this is an example of negative reinforcement. In this case, the behavior would still be cleaning your room, but the reinforcer would now be being grounded. For Skinner’s experiment with negative reinforcement, he placed the rats in the box, but this time gave them a small electric shock which resulted in them going around the box and hitting the lever. Once the lever was hit the shock was turned off and the rats soon learned to go immediately to the lever.
Although there are differences between positive and negative reinforcement and one can seem much better than the other, each reinforcer is resulting in the same outcome. The end goal will result in the same behavior and the type of reinforcement does not matter. As far as reinforcers go for me personally, I tend to lean more towards the positive reinforcers, and I feel they produce the best outcome. Growing up, I would be sure to keep my room clean and do the dishes whenever I came home in order to earn the allowance my mom would give me. At the time I did not know she was positively reinforcing my behaviors, but it seemed to have worked easily.
McLeod, S. A. (2018, January, 21). Skinner - operant conditioning. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html