Reinforcement and Punishment – Positive and Negative

Reinforcement - ChildrenOn a first note, I must warn you that I don’t have children of my own, this is just based on current theories of reward/punishment behavior. So, this is just a theoretical view with no related first hand knowledge on my end.

When children start to grow, often parents struggle with the need to discipline their kids. With discipline I mean both negative and positive reinforcement as long as punishment, in an effort to promote good behavior.


Positive Reinforcement


Positive reinforcement creates motivation for an individual to increase the likelihood they will engage in some specific behavior again.

– When a child has good grades at school he is rewarded with a visit to Disneyland. That hopes to reinforce in the child the idea that effort equals good things.

Negative Reinforcement


Negative reinforcement happens when an aversive stimulus is removed to increase the likelihood of that behavior occurring again.

– To avoid the reprimand of this mother of father, the child cleans his room. With good behavior (cleaning his room) the child has no aversive stimulus (reprimand)

Positive and negative reinforcement have the same objective, to encourage a specific behavior, yet with different kind of stimulus.

Then you have positive and negative punishment. Punishment is the action taken after bad behavior on the individual’s part, to prevent that behavior from happening again.


Positive Punishment


Positive punishment presents a negative consequence to some specific behavior with the intend of diminishing the chance of that behavior happening again.

– When an individual gets a parking ticket, he has to pay a fine.

Negative Punishment


Negative punishment is used by suspending some stimulus that is considered positive by the individual with, again, the intent of reducing the likelihood of that behavior being repeated.

– When a child enjoys playing video-games, but forgets to do his homework, he is forbidden to play video-games.

In games most of them are already part of the game’s main mechanics:

-The reward systems, points, badges, etc act as positive reinforcement for specific actions.
-The temporary loss of particular skills due to bad in-game choices is a good example of negative punishment.
-The loss of in-game lives  is a good example of positive punishment.

This means that gamification can help in the education of one’s children. By understanding these mechanics but also all the other parts integrating the gamification theory, parents can create a different and more informed approach on a way of implementing a system which helps them teaching their children how to properly behave.

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