Talk the Talk: Reinforcement

Talk the Talk: Reinforcement

Technical definition:


A change in the environment that occurs after a behavior and increases its occurrences in the future. Reinforcement can be positive or negative. If the change added something to the environment (e.g., a peer starts talking to a learner), it is referred to as positive reinforcement. If the change removed something from the environment (e.g., teacher taking a worksheet off of a student’s desk), it is referred to as negative reinforcement.

Layman’s definition:

A consequence that ultimately strengthens behavior. Reinforcement occurs immediately following a behavior and raises the future probability that the behavior will happen again under similar conditions. These consequences can be “good or bad” but are considered reinforcement if the behavior continues to occur in the future. For reinforcement, something can be added or taken away from the environment, this is where we get positive and negative reinforcement.


When you do the dishes without being asked and your partner tells you how grateful they are. You continue to do the dishes without being asked as a result of this feedback. After being pulled over for speeding, you tell the officer you were speeding because you really needed to use the restroom. They let you off with a warning. You’re more likely to use that excuse in the future.


Saying hi to a coworker and being ignored. You no longer say high to the coworker. Your child asks if they can have cookies for dinner. Each night when they ask you, you tell them no. By the following week, they stop asking.