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Updated April 01, 2009


In behaviorism, reinforcement refers to the consequences of desired behavior. Reinforcement may be either positive or negative, depending on its application.

In positive reinforcement, a reward is given for the desired behavior. For example, a parent might allow a child to stay up an hour late.

In negative reinforcement, something undesirable is taken away as a consequence of the desired behavior. For example, a parent might relieve a child from dishwashing duties for the evening.

Many experts believe that reinforcement is more effective than punishment in shaping long-term behavior. Punishment focuses on negative behaviors, while reinforcement ignores those and focuses only on desired behaviors.

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