Defining behavioral science: Positive Reinforcement

If you’ve been reading The Real Thinking Mom for a while now, you may be thinking, “You keep using that word: reinforcement.”

Let’s talk about reinforcement. Do you know what reinforcement is really? 

Check out the following Big Bang clip:

Sheldon gives Penny chocolate every time she does something he likes because he wants her to keep doing those things. Reinforcement at work!

Reinforcement is something that you get after something that you do that makes it so that you want to do that thing again. 

As caregivers, its our focus to construct behavior, or build up the behavior that we want to see. We want to tell children what we want them to do with our actions and make it likely that they will do that again and again in the future. We do this through reinforcement

Reinforcement—at least the behavioral definition of reinforcement—can be confusing because we use that word in our everyday speech in a way that is not as precise as it is in behavioral science.

When we talk about reinforcement in everyday language, we think of something good and pleasurable. In ABA, reinforcement is anything that increases the likelihood that a behavior will occur again. Per this definition, reinforcement doesn’t have to be good and doesn’t have to be pleasurable, but it has to increase behavior

Why does it matter? Because you, as a caregiver, want to have control over which behaviors you choose to increase. 

Want to dig deeper? Read: How to keep from reinforcing the wrong thing!


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