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Negative Reinforcement

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In the behavioral sciences, the terms "positive" and "negative" refer when used in their strict technical sense to the nature of the action performed by the conditioner rather than to the responding operant's evaluation of that action and its consequence(s). "Positive" actions are those that add a factor, be it pleasant or unpleasant, to the environment, whereas "negative" actions are those that remove or withhold from the environment a factor of either type. In turn, the strict sense of "reinforcement" refers only to reward-based conditioning; the introduction of unpleasant factors and the removal or withholding of pleasant factors are instead referred to as "punishment," which when used in its strict sense thus stands in contradistinction to "reinforcement. " Thus, "positive reinforcement" refers to the addition of a pleasant factor, "positive punishment" refers to the addition of an unpleasant factor, "negative reinforcement" refers to the removal or withholding of an pleasant factor, and "negative punishment" refers to the removal or withholding of an unpleasant factor.

When you see the term negative used with reinforcement then think of something being subtracted.


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