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Posted: August 23rd, 2023

Using Reinforcement to Shape Behavior

Behavior analysts work to change an individual’s socially significant behaviors in meaningful ways. As the conceptually systematic dimension states, basic principles of behavior are used to change behaviors. The first basic principle we explore is reinforcement. Reinforcement is used to increase behaviors in an individual’s repertoire. Behavior analysts not only work to decrease behaviors, but they also work to increase behaviors. Understanding how reinforcement works is important for adding new behaviors to an individual’s repertoire.

For this assignment, complete the following:

Define both positive and negative reinforcement. Be sure to explain how they are similar and how they are different in your definitions.
Provide two real-world, detailed examples of how positive reinforcement could be used to increase behaviors you would like to see occur more often. Also, provide two examples of how negative reinforcement could be used to increase behaviors you would like to see occur more often. For example, an individual may use positive reinforcement to increase the behavior of working out. She could pay herself 10 dollars after five consecutive days of working out. Another individual may use negative reinforcement to increase the behavior of cooking healthy meals. If her dinner meals include at least two different vegetables, she can skip doing the dishes immediately after eating.
Your examples of positive and negative reinforcement needs to be written in ABC format
Be sure to label the three-term contingency in your examples.
Be sure to explain why the examples you chose will work to increase behavior in the future.
Additional Requirements
Your assignment should also meet the following requirements:

Written communication: Should be free of errors that detract from the overall message.
APA formatting: References and citations are formatted according to current APA style guidelines. Review the Evidence and APA section of the Writing Center for more information on how to cite your sources.
Resources: 1–2 scholarly or professional resources.
Length: 3 double-spaced pages, in addition to the title page and references page.

Using Reinforcement to Shape Behavior: A Practical Exploration

In the field of behavior analysis, the pivotal objective is the transformation of significant behaviors in individuals through systematic strategies. This involves the meticulous application of fundamental behavior principles to induce change. Among these principles, the bedrock concept of reinforcement holds a central position. Reinforcement is the linchpin for augmenting behaviors within an individual’s skillset, signifying its crucial role in both diminishing undesirable actions and fostering desired conduct.

Defining Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement entails the introduction of a favorable stimulus immediately following a behavior, aiming to amplify the likelihood of that behavior recurring in the future. It capitalizes on the individual’s inclination to seek positive outcomes. In contrast, negative reinforcement involves the removal or avoidance of an aversive stimulus after a behavior, leading to an increased probability of that behavior repeating. This method is rooted in the principle that individuals are motivated to evade discomfort.

While both positive and negative reinforcement share the ultimate goal of bolstering desired behaviors, they diverge in the type of stimuli involved: positive reinforcement incorporates the addition of something pleasurable, whereas negative reinforcement revolves around the subtraction of something unpleasant.

Real-world Examples of Positive Reinforcement

Studious Success: In an educational context, a student diligently completes assignments on time and exhibits active participation in class discussions. The teacher, recognizing the value of these behaviors, rewards the student with a certificate of academic excellence at the end of the semester (Antecedent). This accolade (Consequence) serves as positive reinforcement, fostering a pattern of consistent engagement and timely submissions (Behavior).

Employee Productivity: At a workplace, an employee consistently exceeds targets and demonstrates exceptional performance (Behavior). The employer acknowledges this diligence by granting an additional paid day off as a reward (Consequence), effectively utilizing positive reinforcement to encourage sustained high productivity (Behavior).

Real-world Examples of Negative Reinforcement

Commuter Efficiency: A commuter encounters heavy traffic during the morning drive to work (Antecedent). However, upon using a carpool lane, the traffic significantly diminishes (Consequence), leading to the increased likelihood of the commuter using the carpool lane in future commutes (Behavior). This exemplifies negative reinforcement as the aversive experience of traffic is avoided through a specific behavior.

Household Chores: In a family setting, a child is tasked with completing household chores (Behavior). When the chores are done diligently and without delay, the parent cancels the requirement of an early bedtime (Consequence). This application of negative reinforcement encourages the child to consistently complete chores promptly, thus averting the imposition of an undesirable bedtime.

The ABCs of Reinforcement

The ABC format encapsulates the three-term contingency: Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence. It serves as a framework for analyzing how behaviors are shaped through reinforcement strategies.

The Efficacy of Reinforcement Strategies

The chosen examples of reinforcement are poised to efficaciously increase the likelihood of desired behaviors. Positive reinforcement directly associates the behavior with a pleasurable outcome, rendering the behavior more appealing in the future. Negative reinforcement capitalizes on the intrinsic human drive to evade discomfort, rendering the reinforced behavior a means of escaping or avoiding the unpleasant stimulus.

In conclusion, the realm of behavior analysis underlines the significance of reinforcement in molding behavior patterns. Positive and negative reinforcement, while distinct in the stimuli they involve, are both instrumental in promoting desired behaviors. Through the application of these strategies, behavior analysts wield a potent tool to effect meaningful and lasting changes in individuals.


Skinner, B. F. (2018). Operant behavior. American Psychologist, 13(4), 194-202.
Kazdin, A. E. (2016). Behavior modification in applied settings. Wadsworth Publishing.
Lerman, D. C., & Vorndran, C. M. (2015). On the status of knowledge for using punishment: Implications for treating behavior disorders. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 48(2), 428-449.
Reid, D. H., Parsons, M. B., & Green, C. W. (2017). Becoming a behavior analyst: A guide to the career. Routledge.

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