Difference Between Positive Reinforcement and Negative Reinforcement (With Table)

Behavioral issues are common they can begin at a young age, and if not dealt with accordingly they can be carried on through entire life. Reinforcement is used to increase the probability of a certain behavior to occur again with the help of an item or stimulus as the required response is shown.  

The reinforcement procedures are generally used with animals, the elderly, teenagers, children, and for several psychological disorders. Positive and negative reinforcement are used which have different outcomes. The terms are also diametrically opposite to each other, and both are quite different from one another. 

Positive Reinforcement vs Negative Reinforcement 

The main difference between terms positive and negative reinforcement is that stimulus is added when the desired behavior is exhibited in person in positive reinforcement. On the other hand, in negative reinforcement, a stimulus is removed when undesirable behavior occurred in person. The consequence of positive reinforcement is pleasant, whereas the consequence of negative reinforcement is unpleasant. 

Positive reinforcement is a powerful and effective tool to cultivate behavior. In this, a person is presented or giving some motivating thing to do that thing again and again in the future. For example, a little girl receives gifts for scoring high in the exam, which encourages that girl to do more in the future.  

Negative reinforcement is the termination or removal of a particular item or stimulus after some specific behavior is done. There is a possibility of that specific behavior occurring again due to removing or terminating a particular thing. For instance, a child who always complains about a headache to avoid homework and parents allow taking rest. 

Comparison Table Between Positive Reinforcement and Negative Reinforcement 

Parameters of ComparisonPositive ReinforcementNegative Reinforcement
InterpretationWhen the desired behavior is exhibited in person then stimulus is added.When undesirable behavior occurs in a person then stimulus is removed.
StimuliAddedRemove
Reinforcement RewardPeanlty
ConsequencesPleasantUnpleasant
ExampleGood students get praises.Weak students attend summer school.

What is Positive Reinforcement? 

In positive reinforcement, there is an addition of reinforcing stimulus in concern of behavior. It is made sure that this kind of behavior will occur again and again in the future. A particular behavior or response will be strengthened if a favorable reward, event, or outcome occurs after an action.  

Sometimes this behavior occurs naturally. For instance, when a person holds the door open for another person then he might receive praise. That affirmation set out as positive reinforcement and motivation to do that thing again. In other cases, positive reinforcement may use very deliberately to maintain and train a specific behavior.  

One thing to keep in mind is that it is not always good to have positive reinforcement. It can also strengthen undesirable behaviors. For instance, some parents may give extra attention or even buy any item if a child in a store starts misbehaving. So, the solution is when a child displays good behavior then only use positive reinforcement instead of rewarding in case of misbehavior.  

There are several types of reinforcers to increase behavior, but the type of reinforcer used majorly depends on the situation and the individual. A natural reinforcer, tangible reinforcer, social reinforcer, and token reinforcer are kinds of positive reinforcement. 

What is Negative Reinforcement? 

In negative reinforcement, a behavior or response is strengthened by avoiding, removing, or stopping an aversive stimulus or negative outcome. In this, an undesirable stimulus or outcome is removed which serves as a reward after performing a particular behavior. It mainly strengthens the behavior that may precede it.  

Aversive stimuli involve some type of discomfort, either psychological or physical. Behaviors that allow escaping from aversive stimuli allow us to avoid the stimuli before they happen. For instance, take an antacid before taking a spicy meal. This is an engagement in an action to avoid a negative result.  

To strengthen any desired behavior, negative reinforcement is an effective way. It can be more effective if reinforces are presented just after following a behavior. The response can be weaker if there is a long period of elapses between the reinforcer and the behavior.  

Negative reinforcement can powerfully affect behavior, it can be useful if used as a solution in short term. It is important to figure out which type of reinforcement is used, but how often and how quickly it is given also plays a vital role in the strength of response. 

Main Differences Between Positive Reinforcement and Negative Reinforcement 

  1. Positive reinforcement works as motivation. On the other hand, negative reinforcement works as a lesson.  
  2. In positive reinforcement, a person is given some motivating aspect to do that task again in the future. But in negative reinforcement, a particular feature is removed after some specific behavior is done still there are chances of reoccurring that behavior.  
  3. Positive reinforcement strengthens the probability of a certain behavior to occur again, while negative reinforcement teaches to behave in a manner to get rid of nasty responses.  
  4. When it comes to effects, positive reinforcement results in maintaining and strengthening the process, whereas negative reinforcement results in escaping and avoiding responses.  
  5. In positive reinforcement, there is a presentation or delivery of anything positive. On the flip side, in negative reinforcement, there is a reduction or termination of anything negative. 

Conclusion 

It can be concluded that reinforcement strengthens a specific behavior to make it occur in the future. The procedure of reinforcement is commonly used with the elderly, teenagers, animals, children, and for several psychological disorders. Positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement are two of the reinforcement which has different outcomes.  

In positive reinforcement, the desired behavior is exhibited in person then stimulus is added. It results in maintaining and strengthening the process. In negative reinforcement, a stimulus is removed when an undesirable behavior occurs. It results in escaping and avoiding responses. So, they both are used in a particular situation for different outcomes. 

References 

  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1961-01957-001
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1901/jaba.1987.20-361
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