Reinforcement refers to the process of strengthening or reducing a behavior (Malott & Shane, 2014). This can be accomplished through encouragement and reward or punishment and removal of a stimulus. Two common types of reinforcement are positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement, which was developed from operant conditioning, is the implementation of a reinforcing stimulus such as a reward so the desired behavior is more likely to be repeated (Malott & Shane, 2014). Also from operant conditioning, in negative reinforcement, the desired behavior is strengthened by the halting or removal of a stimulus (Malott & Shane, 2014). To avoid the adverse outcome or aversive stimulus, the individual will exhibit the desired behavior. Some reinforcing methods though, may work for one person and fail to work for another.
Take the scenario of a mom who is attempting to increase the number of peas that her two children consume. She rewards her children at the end of each week based on the number of stickers they have accumulated on a chart she created where the stickers depict the amount of peas they have eaten each day. The mom realizes that the stickers and weekly reward system works well for one child and not the other. The mother is concerned and wonders for what reason does this occur.
Based on this scenario, the mom is trying to reinforce the amount of peas her children consume through positive reinforcement. Immediately after eating their peas, the children are rewarded with a sticker on the chart. This reward is sufficient, at least for one child, and the children continue to eat their peas. The child in which the approach was effective may be thrilled by the sticker chart and a reward at the end of the week whether it is a sweet treat or an hour of television. This system did not work for the other child because he or she may not be interested the stickers or sweet treats or an...