Positive Reinforcement

Some people are so special, so beautiful and have so much to offer this world. Sad thing is they just don’t see it. They need positive reinforcement. Tell them, ‘If you could see only half of what I see in you, then one day you’d realize how truly amazing you really are.

—–Marc Mero

When it comes to the principle of behavioral analysis, reinforcement is one of its most significant pillars. This implies that reinforcement shapes how people behave in their daily routines.

Consider the following list of duties that almost everybody does daily;

  • Brushing your teeth
  • Going for work to get paid
  • Taking coffee at break time
  • Taking painkillers such as aspirin to relieve pain
  • Using an umbrella to protect yourself from rainfall
  • Checking out your phone when it beeps

What makes people make the above list of things? The answer is straightforward, reinforcement.

So, what is Reinforcement?

Reinforcement can be defined as the consequence of strengthening behavior. In other words, the objective of strengthening the action is to ensure that it occurs now and again, even in the future. Look at the above list of activities.

If you have a headache today, you will take painkillers. In a short period, the pain will go away. In the future, if you experience the same pain, you will take the same painkillers to relieve yourself.

Your phone rings, checking the inbox, you find your friend has sent you a message. Once you open the message, you find that the friend has sent you a funny video that makes you laugh loudly. This will make you to look at the video whenever friend calls you.

What do these examples imply? They demonstrate that reinforcement increases behavior recurrence.

Types of Reinforcement

In Applied Behavior Analysis, there are two types of reinforcements, namely positive and negative reinforcements. It can be a daunting task to distinguish the two, but the article will set the record straight regarding the two types of reinforcements.

  • Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement implies presenting a motivating factor to somebody for exhibiting a specific character. In most cases, this in the form of gifts. The primary aim of this alternative of reinforcement is to ensure that the prescribed behavior is repeated.


  • A father praises his daughter (Reinforcing stimulus) for being top in class (recognized behavior)
  • The autistic child receives $10 (reinforcing stimulus) for every word he pronounces right (recognized behavior)
  • A mother buys her daughter a brick game (reinforcement stimulus) for being indoor the whole day (recognized behavior)
  • Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement means that an individual behavior refers to avert inevitable consequences. The consequences are, in most cases, negative. In other words, this is a form of positive punishment.


  • Sally cleans sofa set (behavior) to avoid her nagging mother (an averting mechanism)
  • Bob can only leave the dining room (an averting mechanism) when he eats some ripe bananas (behavior)
  • Tim presses the red button (behavior) to turn off the loudspeaker (an averting mechanism)

How to effectively apply reinforcement

To achieve the intended results, reinforcement must have the following protocols;

  • Contingency, this means that reinforcement should be applied immediately once the desired behavior is identified. If you use reinforcement later, the receiver may not value the prescribed character. Quick reinforcement increases the occurrence of a particular action or personality.
  • The reinforcement should be the most preferred; if the Reinforcement receiver does not like you, the receiver will continue with the attitude no matter the reinforcement’s size. Therefore, build a positive relationship before indulging in reinforcement. The rule of the thumb is that the reinforcer should be compatible with the receiver.
  • Involve praise with the tangible reinforcers; talk of what you’ve identified in the receiver and how it is imperative. Motivate the receiver before giving them tangible reinforcers.
  • Reinforcement should fit the behavior, do not overpraise or over appreciate; the reinforcement should exactly match the conduct. This means that don’t make something small appear too big; the receiver can doubt you, hence, making the reinforcement useless. On the other hand, do not underappreciate; the receiver will not see the prescribed behavior’s value.

Bottom line

Reinforcement is one of the most outstanding components for achieving specific results. This mechanism aims to ensure that a particular behavior keeps on occurring. But as a reinforcer, you should be cautious with the application modalities. Ensure that the modalities are tailor-made for the receiver and have no negative implications. Good luck in your reinforcing expedition.

Good books have been written on Positive reinforcement. Some of them include: –

  • The power of positive reinforcement by E Judith Favell

Ø How to Raise Disciplined and Happy Children: Mastering the Power of Positive Reinforcement by Jerry Adams

Ø Positive Reinforcement: Activities and Strategies for Creating Confident Learners by Peter clutterbuck

Link for some learnings: –


Questions for reflection: –

What am I most proud of myself for?

What actions did I take today that align with my next level self?

What did I learn today that I can apply tomorrow?

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