Reinforcing positive behavior is critical in many aspects. It helps parents, school teachers and managers seek positive behavioral responses from the subject whether it’s a child, adult or even an employee. “Reinforcement was first studied by Thorndike (1911), who illustrated that reinforcement is a process where the behavior is increased by the immediate consequence that follows. Thorndike placed a hungry cat in a cage and food outside the cage and the cat eventually learned to press the lever again and again to gain access to the food that was placed outside the cage. Thorndike called this “Law of Effect”, simply, because the cage-cat illustration showed how the animal learned (stimulus-response) through operant conditioning” (Thorndike 1911). Reinforcement can be either positive or negative (Miltenberger, 2011). Both have their own merits and demerits.
Positive reinforcement is often considered as more desirable, especially, since the negative reinforcement cannot be sustained for too long and also it has chances of revoking resistance. Positive reinforcement through both primary and secondary methods helps win the respect and loyalty of the subject most of the times. Sustainable reinforcement is a mixture of the two types: positive and negative. For personal behavioral modification, people mostly choose to get positive stimuli. They do not like to be hurt or punished in order to perform a task. Likewise, I also chose the positive methods and would prefer that I am given appreciation at home, school and/or my workplace because that will help me to demonstrate increased productivity, dedication and commitment and it will also reduce the level of stress. These positive factors of reinforcement may include improving the work environment, improving timings and/or offering conveyance services.
Behaviors are equally important at work as well as in our social lives. This is because positive behavior is connected to good performance and impact, and, negative behavior is connected to negative impact. During evaluation periods, employers review positive behavior from their employees and they focus on both positive and negative behavioral types when they looking to hire new employees. Behavior is a response that can be reinforced. Reinforcement concept of psychology helps find what reinforces positive behavior and which activities reinforce negative behavior. There are both positive and negative reinforces and there are benefits and consequences for both behavior type. In the workplace, the Manager is not only required to find the factors that help in reinforcing positive behavior, but, also to assess the comparative success of these factors in different work and home environments as well. A detailed analysis of reinforcement literature will assist in effectively modifying the behavior. Literature Review
B.F. Skinner used the reinforcement theory to positively encourage the mouse to find a way out and get cheese and today, Managers make use of reinforcement theories to motivate employees. Reinforcing positive behavior allows the managers to determine what can be expected from their employee(s). Daymut (2009) says that positive reinforcement helps in homes, schools, offices and almost anywhere. Reinforcement is supportive in increasing the chances of certain behavioral response. The probability of behavior can be increased by increasing the stimulus to which the individual or employee responds. The primary reinforcers are physical stimuli and the appreciation and non-monetary rewards are the secondary reinforcing agents. Punishment serves as negative reinforcers while gratitude serves as positive reinforcers.
People are inclined to different reinforcing factors based on their personality-type, the kind of environment they were brought up in and the things that are inculcated into their minds. The pleasure-pain principle suggests that some people are motivated better when they find pleasure in doing something, while, others may not indulge into an activity unless they find pain by not doing them. For example, getting ill due to over-eating and excessive weight gain is a negative reinforcing factor that will help an individual adopt a routine of healthy (adequate) eating choices and light exercising such as walking, etc. Reinforcement works differently in different environments. Some environments are better suitable for the positive reinforcement while the others are better for the negative reinforcement. However, in most of cases the positive reinforcement is considered more effective and useful (DeLeon, Neidert, Anders, and Rodriguez, 2001). The reinforcement of behavior is backed by some needs that can be personal, social or organizational.
People even use these strategies for helping people with psychological problems since they are not able to show response in normal conditions without induced stimuli. The stimuli in positive method should be such that they can be easily arranged as required. On the other hand, the negative factors should also not be too critical to result into a rebellious behavior of the subject. The common examples of positive stimulus or positive reinforcement includes but not limited to; offering gifts to children on getting good grades, paying extra amount for labor projects that were completed on time and/or increasing the salary of an employee or even promoting him/her. The example of negative reinforcement or negative stimuli includes but not limited to; punishing a child for not completing homework, asking an employee to sit late in office for not meeting sales target, etc. The type of reinforcement should not be selected based on the choices of manager, but, these choices should be made based on the behavior.
Negative reinforcement should not be used unless the positive reinforcement factors have failed (Cosgrave, 2007). Positive behavior of an employee is desired not only to make the system efficient, but, also to get the job merely done in the first place. While reinforcing a behavior, the management of a company or the parents at home or the teachers at schools should be confident that the reinforcement agent will be effective in the long term. For example, it is not possible to promote an employee every time he completes a project or give gifts to the successful child every time he passes the exam and/or give the child candy every time he/she finishes his work on time.
Secondary stimuli, making the contribution known and setting higher and more respectable targets can also serve as reinforcing factors that may be guaranteed in the long run. DeLeon, Neidert, Anders andRodriguez (2001) say that the positive reinforcement is very effective and has found to be helpful especially when positive behavior is to be evoked in the children with autism and other psychological diseases. Tuten et al (2014) say that friendly enforcement techniques are helpful for professionals as well as nonprofessionals. Treatment
B.F. Skinners and many others have found that positive reinforcement is effective in evoking positive psychological behavior. Skinner described positive reinforcement in his mice study and it was a success. My clients (investors) believe in me, value and appreciate me, but, sometimes they try to assign me to tasks that are not related to my skills, and, I think they tend to do this based on their perception of my capabilities and behavior. Sometimes, the work pressure is very high because I am given many tasks that are mandatory and need to be completed in a very short time frame and this make me feel stressed at work because (sometimes) because I work from home-all alone in the State of Georgia and the physical aspects of my job is located in other states (D.C.-Maryland area) and I have to rely on others to perform certain assignments in short time-frame. Therefore I suggest how reinforcement can be used in treating issues I face: Positive Reinforcement: I am requesting that my company provide me with an office space in Maryland-DC area where I can travel to every other month.
Also, my working hours should remain the same with some flexibility. Further, my company should allow me to hire a part-time assistant to help take care of some of the footwork, i.e., post court notices on doors, file legal paperwork in the courts, etc. Next, I perform better between the hours of 6am to 3:30pm and I would like to keep that schedule, if I can have an assistant. Therefore, I believe that if I am afforded the opportunity to work during those times that suit me then my performance will be 110% better. Negative Reinforcement: The management can announce that my salary will be deducted if I do not work for set number of hours every day. Also they can penalize me if for not completing my projects by its deadline dates which in return can also affect other projects in the company and lead to legal problems and loss of money.
The negative reinforcement should be given only once in a while and it should not be introduced unnecessarily. What I wrote above is a good example of what I do as a Property Manager and I’ve described it in a way that would benefit me if I worked for an Employer. I am self-employed and my job can be stressful at times, so I hire local contractors in D.C.-Maryland area to help me achieve 20% of my work goals to reduce some of my stress. I think positive reinforcement is not only beneficial towards work-related behavior changes, but I would also suggest that people use positive reinforcement strategies to modify their own personal behavior as well. I would like to suggest that all of us should help others adopt these strategies, too. Conclusion
Without controlling behavior, a person cannot successfully perform the routine tasks of life. It is sometimes not possible for an individual to control his behavior and feel motivated. In such situations, external motivation factors are required that can be either appreciation or consequences for negative behavior. These positive and negative reinforcement factors should be used strategically because there are merits and demerits of each. I will prefer positive reinforcement because this will help me in feeling motivated and engaged. The negative reinforcement is connected to unpleasant feelings of shame and insult that will not be beneficial in the long run. Both individuals and organizations can use a combination of the two methods to get a positive outcome.
1. Miltenberger, R.G., (2011). Behavior Modification: Principles and Procedures. 5th Ed. 2. Thorndike, E.L. (1911). Animal Intelligence: Experimental Studies. NewYork:Macmillan 3. Cosgrave, G., (2007), “Negative Reinforcement”, Retrieved from: http://www.educateautism.com/behavioural-principles/negative-reinforcement.html#.U4XAT2dZrIU 4. Daymut, J. A., (2009), “Positive Reinforcement: A Behavior-Management Strategy”, Retrieved from: http://www.superduperinc.com/handouts/pdf/238_PositiveReinforcement.pdf 5. DeLeon, I. G., Neidert, P. L., Anders, B. M., Rodriguez, C. V., (2001), “Choices between positive and negative reinforcement during treatment for escape-maintained behaviour”, Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 34(4):521-525 6. Tuten, L. M., Jones, H. E., Schaeffer, C. M., Stitzer, M. L., (2014), “Reinforcement-Based Treatment for Substance Use Disorders: A Comprehensive Behavioural Approach”, ISBN: 978-1-4338-1024-4