Reinforcement it is a term with several meanings. In this case, we are interested in taking its use in the field of psychology, where the reinforcements are considered to be stimuli that increase or reduce the probability that a certain behavior will be rejected or repeated in the future.
Reinforcements, in this sense, can be divided into positive and negative. A positive reinforcement is one that favors the reiteration of the conduct from the awarding a prize or some kind of gratification. The negative reinforcementinstead, it implies the removal of a negative stimulus to avoid repeating the behavior.
The stimulus that is applied to get a subject to repeat a particular behavior is called reinforcer and this concept is opposed to that of aversive stimulus, one that is unpleasant for the individual who receives it and promotes the interruption of a behavior. In both cases, a stimulus must be defined based on the effect it has on the actions of the subject, and not based on its features inherent.
In other words, a stimulus considered a positive reinforcement (or reinforcer) to promote a certain behavior may immediately cease to be so in the treatment of a patient who does not react positively to it, or who directly ignores it. To cite an example, although food usually belongs to this group, there are many people who, either because they suffer from an eating disorder or because they are not very attached to the culinary field, and for them it is not special or attractive, since they seek pleasure by other means.
Positive reinforcements, in short, seek that the person who receives the reinforcement reiterates or maintains his behavior by giving him something that generates pleasure or wellness. Take the case of a child who must visit the doctor once a week for a certain treatment. His mother, due to the child’s lack of will, decides to give him a video game every time he visits the doctor and complies with all the instructions. The videogameIn this way, it works as a positive reinforcement.
In a similar sense, the owner of a business You can reward employees who are never absent or late for work with free tickets to various soccer games. Thus, at the end of the month, the employer recognizes those workers who stand out for their responsibility. The ticketsThey therefore act as positive reinforcers to encourage punctuality and attendance.
Positive reinforcement appears especially in the stream of psychology known as behaviorism, which is based on observing the conduct or behavior of a study subject and which defines it as the result of a series of relationships between stimuli and answers. We must not minimize the importance or depth of these concepts, since not everything is as simple as some graphic examples make it seem.
One of the most recurrent discussions revolves around the following question: should positive reinforcement have intrinsic qualities? This refers to whether the reinforcers should have properties that are absolutely independent of their relationship with the subjects, which simply respond to features of their own nature, or if they should be specially designed to seek the reaction desired in each case.
So far, there has not been a unanimous acceptance of the use of intrinsic qualities in positive reinforcement, since they should also be used in conjunction with other concepts. For example, food can be a reinforcer, and if an individual is prevented from eating, the deprivation; However, if he does not feel appetite, this stimulus is useless, despite its intrinsic qualities, such as ability to satisfy hunger.