Definition: The removal of an unpleasant or aversive stimulus, contingent on a particular behavior.

Quite Simply...


  • This is removing something irritating or painful (the negative stimulus) in order to reinforce a desired behavior.
Remember to think adding (+) stimulus for positive (+) and subtracting (-) stimulus for negative (-).

Examples of Negative Reinforcement


  • You take Advil to relieve the pain of a headache.
  • You put on headphones to remove the sound of your dogs barking.
  • Your mom keeps nagging you about studying, so you study to make her voice go away.
  • It's raining outside, you take an umbrella to avoid getting wet. The negative reinforcement would be avoiding an unpleasant stimulus (getting wet).
  • You put on a jacket to avoid being cold (the jacket removes the cold feeling).
  • Your mother keeps telling you to do your chores. She keeps annoying you and nagging you and you can't take it any longer. The negative reinforcement would be the lack of her yelling because you do your chores.
  • You are laying in bed, sleeping, and your alarm goes off, so you wake up and hit the button to get it to stop.
  • Your girlfriend will not stop nagging you about how her friend's boyfriend took her to the movies, so you find enough money to take her to the movies and finally get her to stop.
  • When you are in the car, you buckle your seat belt or turn off your turn signal to remove the annoying warning sounds.


Punishment vs Negative Reinforcement


Punishment is meant to decrease a certain behavior because it adds an unpleasant stimulus to annoy/hurt the organism into not doing that behavior anymore.
Conversely, negative reinforcement is meant to increase a specific behavior because it takes away an unpleasant stimulus to reward performing the behavior.
*BOTH HAVE DIFFERENT EFFECTS ON BEHAVIOR*

external image operant-conditioning.png

See Also


  • Negative reinforcement aims to change the operant (behavior) of the organism.
  • Operant conditioning is the form of conditioning that uses adding or removing stimuli, like negative reinforcement.
  • The reinforcer is the annoying stimulus that is removed in order to promote the behavior.
  • If the negative stimulus is applied enough times, due to the law of effect, the organism will have the desirable results (behavior) stamped into them.
  • Punishment has the opposite effect on people than negative reinforcement does.
  • Positive reinforcement is the other form of reinforcement that is used to increase a behavior.
  • An operant chamber can be used to negatively reinforce an animal into changing their behavior.
  • B.F Skinner was the founder of operant conditioning and invented the idea of negative reinforcement.