Difference Between Positive & Negative Reinforcement

Reinforcement is the process that encourages or establishing a specific pattern of behavior. Reinforcement is used for increasing the probability that a specific behavior will occur with the delivery of a stimulus or item, immediately after a response or behavior is exhibited. The use of these reinforcement procedures has been used with both typical as well as atypical developing children, elderly people, animals and several psychological disorders.

There are two types of reinforcements; the positive and the negative reinforcement. Though it could be difficult to tell the differences between the two, we would try to find out the differences below.

Difference Between Positive & Negative Reinforcement :

The delivery or the presentation of anything positive is referred to as the Positive reinforcement; while, the removal, termination or reduction of anything that is negative is referred to as the Negative reinforcement. Though these two are different processes, they have the same effect of reinforcing or strengthening specific behaviors.

Basic Differences:

Positive reinforcement is a very potential and effective tool that helps to shape and change behavior. This process works, by presenting a motivating item or a reward to the person after the desired behavior is exhibited, and thus making the behavior more likely to happen in the future.

However, Negative reinforcement is when a certain stimulus or item is removed after a particular behavior is exhibited. Due to this process, there is an increase in the likelihood of the particular behavior to occur once again in the future, because of removing or avoiding the negative stimuli. It must be noted that Negative reinforcement should not be thought of as a punishment procedure, as with this type of reinforcement, you are increasing a behavior, whereas with punishment, you are reducing a behavior.

Examples of Positive and Negative Reinforcements:

Couple of examples of the Positive reinforcement includes, a mother gives her son candy for cleaning up his rooms, a little girl receives a reward of $5 or a visit to the park, for doing her chores.

However, some of the examples of the Negative reinforcement includes, Milley hates when her mother nags her to do the dishes. She starts doing the dishes immediately after finishing a meal so as to avoid her mother’s nagging, Robin always complains of a stomachache when it is time to start doing his homework. His parents allow him to sleep without doing his homework.


For positive reinforcement, try to think of it as adding something positive so as to increase a response. And for negative reinforcement, try to think of it, as to take something negative away so as to increase a response.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 21, 2018

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