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Training Theories: Negative Reinforcement

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In behavioral training theories, the words “positive” and “negative” actually don’t refer to “good” or “bad”; but instead refer to whether you are adding something, or removing it. So you can have positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement, and both of these are a type of reward that will increase the likelihood of a behavior being repeated.

And so, negative reinforcement it is the removal of pressure or discomfort, and is actually a reward (not a punishment). In riding horses you might pull on the reins to cue the horse to do something, but the release of pressure is the (negative) reinforcement or reward.

Punishment is always something that is intended to prevent a certain behavior from happening in the future. Punishment can also be negative or positive – with negative meaning you are taking away something that was pleasant (food, privileges), or applying an unpleasant stimulus (yelling, hitting, etc).

Written by Stephanie Marie Roeter

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