Types of Reinforcement
People have been using the theory of reinforcement even though they have not properly studied this theoretical concept. They have been employing this theory to strengthen the response for a particular stimulus or environmental event (Huitt and Hummel). Reinforcement theory generally states that the frequency of eliciting the same response will likely increase if it is followed by a reinforcer.
The probability of repeating the same behavior in the future is dependent on what occurs after the individual engages in that behavior (Malala, et al. ). There are four types of reinforcement.
Each type of reinforcement is distinguished by the kind of stimulus presented after the response. In positive reinforcement, for instance, a positive stimulus is presented after a certain response to increase the frequency of that response of behavior (Malala, et al. ,; Huitt and Hummel). The positive stimulus usually comes in the form of rewards. Positive reinforcement has been used in school settings to reinforce positive attitude towards studying. For example, academic awards such as medals and certificates are given to students who excel academically or in a certain field such as sports.
While the previous example used a tangible positive reinforcer, it could also be intangible. To cite an example, according to Kobus and her associates (48), the praise, support, and encouragement of teachers and significant others (e. g. , parents) motivate grade school students to work hard and increase their self-efficacy (i. e, confidence in one’s capability). Positive reinforcement has often been used by parents as well. They reward their children with a reinforcer such as money for their hard work in school or for cleaning their room.
The concept has also been applied by companies for their employees. Salary increase and promotion, for example, are awarded to hardworking employees for their outstanding performance. On the other hand, in negative reinforcement, the reinforcer, which is something negative, is withdrawn after the response. Repetition of this phenomenon will increase the occurrence of the response. This is usually observed when a person wants to avoid the negative reinforcer (Huitt and Hummel). For instance, children obey the house rules so that their parents will not get mad at them.
In this example, the negative reinforcer is the anger of the parents while the response is the obedience of children. At work, employees meet their requirements and deadlines to avoid being reprimanded by their boss. Most people think that negative reinforcement and punishment is the same, which is a misconception. While negative reinforcement elicits a positive response due to the removal of the negative reinforcer after the response, punishment lessens the frequency of a response or behavior by presenting a negative stimulus after the response (Huitt and Hummel).
Punishment has been used at home, in school, and in the workplace. For example, at home, parents ground their children when they do not come home at the time agreed. In school, punishment is imposed to discipline students. A simple example of this is reprimanding noisy students for disrupting the class. Punishment has been a system adopted in schools in the form of disciplinary policies where punishment for specific types of school offense are indicated (Gaustad 3). In the workplace, an example of punishment could be reducing the salary of employees when they do not report to the office without filing a leave.
As punishment, they will not be paid for the days they did not come to work. The fourth type of reinforcement is extinction. In extinction, the frequency of a response or behavior is weakened when the reinforcement of a previously reinforced behavior is removed (Huitt and Hummel). To cite an example, in the field of psychology, extinction learning has been used in treating disorders such as anxiety disorder. The goal of the treatment is to extinguish fear by teaching the patients that the stimulus they fear no longer results in harmful consequences (Anderson and Insel 319).
For instance, the patient is exposed to a previously feared event associated with an unpleasant outcome to get him or her accustomed to the event until he or she does not fear it anymore. Extinction can also occur in a corporate setting. When a company stops giving bonuses to hardworking employees, they may lose motivation to work hard, resulting in a decline in productivity. Based on the examples stated earlier, it could be concluded that reinforcement affects the behavior of individuals, children and adults alike.
Reinforcement can either increase or decrease the frequency of a certain behavior depending on the stimulus or reinforcer presented (or removed) after the behavior. Hence, it could be inferred that behavior can be modified according to the pleasantness of the reinforcement that can be experienced for doing a certain behavior. For example, an individual’s positive or desired behavior can be maintained with positive or negative reinforcements, while his negative or unwanted behaviors can be extinguished through punishment or extinction.