or visiting friends. Annoying behavior may be stopped by threats,
violence, giving in, requesting they stop, or leaving the situation.
This process of strengthening a prior behavior by removing
something unpleasant is also important in the development of fears
(chapter 5), procrastination, compulsions, dependency, obedience, and
anger. Why is anger so well learned in so many people? Because it
stops things we don't like (see chapter 7). The attacker's angry
response is strengthened by getting his/her way. The attackee gives in
to escape the attacker's anger and/or use of punishment (and learns
to be submissive, as mentioned earlier).
Many people confuse negative reinforcement with punishment.
Since negative reinforcement sounds like the opposite of positive
reinforcement (or a reward), people wrongly assume it is punishment.
Actually, punishment and negative reinforcement are opposites:
punishment causes pain, negative reinforcement avoids pain. Thus,
punishment and negative reinforcement have the opposite effect--
negative reinforcement strengthens the previous behavior, punishment
reduces or stops the preceding behavior (at least while the punisher is
around). The terms will be clear if you realize there are two kinds of
reinforcement and two kinds of punishment:
positive reinforcement: giving or getting something pleasant,
e.g. a weekly pay check or a compliment
negative reinforcement: taking away or avoiding something
unpleasant, e.g. avoiding stress by not trying for a position
positive punishment: administering or receiving something
unpleasant, e.g. being fired or spanked or getting an "F"
negative punishment: taking away or being deprived of
something pleasant, e.g. being denied TV or fun activity or the
Reinforcement usually increases the likelihood that the preceding
behavior will re-occur. Punishment usually reduces the chances the
behavior will re-occur. Further confusion comes from the fact that
negative reinforcement often involves escaping or removing the threat
of punishment or obtaining relief from something else unpleasant, like
anxiety or anger or guilt. For example, when we study hard for an
exam, the threat of getting a "F" because we didn't study is removed.
Not going to the dentist is a way of avoiding fears. All four concepts
are important (see chapters 8 for passivity, 9 for punishing children,
11 for self-punishment and self-applied negative reinforcement). Much
mysterious human behavior is the result of negative reinforcement.
Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation: when do rewards harm?
Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation