Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Positive/Negative Reinforcement & Punishment

In the post: Ignoring vs. Reinforcement, we were discussing the ABC's:

A - The Antecedent
(what takes place before the behavior)
B - The Behavior
(also called the target behavior)
C - The Consequence
(what takes place after the behavior)

For example:
A - The Dog Barks
B - The Bird Screams
C - The Human Yells at the Bird to Be Quiet

In this example, if the screaming behavior is maintained or increased, it is being reinforced by the stimulus of the human yelling.

In behavior terms, we would call this:
Positive reinforcement

Positive... because something was 'added' (the human yelling)
Reinforcement... because the behavior was maintained or increased.

What if the human yelled 'quiet' and the behavior (screaming) decreased?

Then in behavior terms we would call this:
Positive punishment.

Positive... because something was 'added' (the human yelling)
Punishment... because the behavior decreased.

After carefully observing the target behavior to determine if there has been an increase or decrease in frequency, it is then that we are able to conclude whether the consequence is reinforcing or punishing.

(Side note: As I mentioned in my post on the Changeability of Reinforcers, reinforcers are changeable, situational and personal. The same applies to punishers. What is reinforcing to one bird may be punishing to another; what is reinforcing or punishing one day may be the reverse on a different day or in a different situation, and so forth.)

The benefit lies in focusing on the target behavior, and observing whether the frequency of it increases or decreases.



There are 4 methods of changing behavior:

Positive Reinforcement
Negative Punishment
Negative Reinforcement
Positive Punishment


Examples:

Positive Reinforcement (if):
A - The Dog Barks
B - The Bird Screams
C - The Human Yells at the Bird to Be Quiet

**Results in the screaming increasing**

Positive Punishment (if):
A - The Dog Barks
B - The Bird Screams
C - The Human Yells at the Bird to Be Quiet
**Results in the
screaming decreasing**

These examples are positive (reinforcement or punishment) because something was added
(the human yelling).

On the flip side, we have negative reinforcement and punishment.

In the case of positive (reinforcement and punishment), something was added.

Of course for negative (reinforcement and punishment), something is removed.

Examples:

Negative Reinforcement (if):
A - The Dog Barks
B - The Bird Screams
C - The Human Leaves the Room
**
Results in the screaming increasing**

Negative Punishment (if):
A - The Dog Barks
B - The Bird Screams
C - The Human Leaves the Room
**
Results in the screaming decreasing**

The beauty of looking at behavior in terms of A, B and C, is that we observe the frequency of the target behavior itself. With this knowledge, we are then in position to design a plan toward behavior change.


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2 comments:

Ella said...

Great post! I realize now that negative might not be bad.

Robin Cherkas said...

Thank you, Ella! It is interesting how the words that are often used when discussing behavior sure bring different images to our minds than when used in different parts of life!

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