No one would blame you for a misunderstood concept of negative reinforcement! But this article gives you some examples of negative reinforcement to help you understand it better.

Negative Reinforcement

The term Negative Reinforcement comes under the category called – Operant Conditioning which means describing the effects or the consequences of a particular behaviour due to its occurrence. Others falling under Operant Conditioning are: Positive reinforcement, punishment and extinction. A very common confusion is between punishment and negative reinforcement. The difference is that punishment weakens behaviour because a negative condition is introduced as a consequence of that behaviour while on the other hand negative reinforcement strengthens the behaviour because the negative condition is stopped. The word “negative” here does not indicate a “bad” behaviour. The only thing it means is increasing frequency of taking away something that is not good. One of the most common examples to illustrate this is: driving in traffic. Heavy traffic is the negative condition. If you leave home early one day, you avoid this traffic. So you make an everyday routine to leave early. Hence, leaving early is the behaviour that is strengthened. For more such examples, read ahead.

Negative Reinforcement Examples
  • Removing a stone that has lodged inside the shoe while walking is a good example where the stone stuck inside the shoe acts as a negative stimuli and removing it is only a natural tendency in response to this, thus strengthening the behaviour.
  • Closing the blinds in a room where there is a strong gust of wind. The gust of wind acts as a negative stimulus to which the behaviour reinforced is closing the blinds and thus removing the bad effects.
  • Aspirins are required to cure headaches! When you have a negative feeling such as a headache, you pop a pill and immediately feel better. This is a perfect example stating negative reinforcement as your behaviour has weakened the negative stimuli by removing it.
  • The bite of an insect can act as a negative stimulus to which you itch and strengthen the behaviour because the condition (itching) stops after this behaviour (scratching).
  • If a mess is created in the house, it acts as a negative reinforcer for you to clean it. Cleaning forms a part of the behaviour in response to this stimuli and it strengthens your act as the room does not look disgusting anymore!
  • Another example is wearing a condom to avoid AIDS. The negative stimulus here is AIDS! Changes in sexual behaviour can also be influenced by reinforcement. When you wear a condom, you are protecting yourself in response to the after effects i.e. AIDS.
  • During cold winters make you get home quicker. Why? Good example of negative reinforcement! Trying to escape the weather and running home in response to the cold is a behaviour that you will exhibit to avoid the negative stimulus (cold).
  • Smoking in order to reduce a negative emotional state. The negative emotional state acts as a negative reinforcer to smoking. In this case, two negatives definitely don’t make a positive!
Others include:

Negative Stimuli
Response Behaviour
Sound of a police car when seat belt is not in place
Wear the seatbelt!
Too much noise from a source
Shut your ears/turn off the noise!
Being locked up in jail
Prisoners try to run away!
Sound of a fire alarm in the building
Immediately evacuate/run out!
Boring class at school
Doodle on your notebook/daydream!
Fail grades
Study for the next exam well in advance!
Bad movie (that you are watching first day, first show!)

Leave the theatre!


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