Negative reinforcement is a behavioral management technique in which something is taken away from (or 'negated') a situation in order to increase the chances of the desired behavior happening, at all or in greater frequency. People in positions of authority use this to get their workers, students, congregation, children, whatever, to behave the way they want.

Negative reinforcement is frequently confused with punishment, because it just sounds so negative. When punishment is used to increase the likelihood of a behavior, technically thats positive reinforcement, because you are adding something to the situation to get the desired behavior out of your subject/student/worker/spouse/whatever.

Example: The makers of seatbelts want you to PUT THEM ON when you get in the car. For awhile, in some cars, a buzzer would go off until you clicked the seatbelt in place. The negating action (the 'taking away') was the buzzer going away when you did the desired behavior, which was to put the seatbelt on.

I can't take credit for the example, J. Pickens, PhD (Elon College) used it in a psychology lecture one semester, waaaay back when.

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