Sample Psychology Essays on Misconceptions of Negative Reinforcement

Misconception of Negative Reinforcement and How Science of Behavior Analysis Defines It

The common misconception of negative reinforcement is that it is often confused or associated with punishment. In many cases when people hear the word “negative,” they tend to think it is something terrible because it is what that word denotes commonly. As such, it is unsurprising that using the word together with the “reinforcement” may lead to individuals that are not well conversant with the science of behavior analysis. Contrary to the mentioned belief about the term “negative reinforcement,” is identified within Applied Behavioral Analysis a response or a behavior that is strengthened by removing or avoiding a negative outcome or an aversive stimulus (George, 2019). An aversive stimulus tends to involve some type of discomfort either physical or psychological. Behaviors are negatively reinforced when individuals are able to avoid or stop an aversive stimulus from happening.

What I Agree with About the Concept of Negative Reinforcement

            What I agree with the concept of negative reinforcement is that it allows can be used to help teach specific behaviors. With negative reinforcement, an individual can respond to something uncomfortable or unpleasant by taking it away in response to a stimulus. Negative reinforcement helps to increase the target behavior once the unpleasant thing is taken away.

Why I think Misconception Exists

Negative reinforcement is commonly misunderstood because of the term negative. Many people tend to relate it to punishment because they think that the concept reinforces an unwanted behavior. However, that should not be the case. People should know that negative reinforcement helps to remove an aversive stimulus to allow the increase in behavior. Therefore, for negative reinforcement to occur, the behavior has to increase in the future. Individuals should be educated about the various terms used to refer to reinforcement including positive and negative reinforcement (Nevin & Mandell, 2017). Individuals should understand that reinforcement results to a positive outcome, rather than a negative outcome.

Real-Life Examples

I encounter negative reinforcement in various real-life situations. an example is when I turn off lights at night whenever I want to sleep. Before I sleep, I have to turn off the light and to ensure that I have to press the light switch. My behavior of turning off the light is often reinforced by my inability to fall asleep when the light is on. Remember that when something is taken away (the light) as a result of a behavior (inability to sleep when the light is) and being taken leads to an individual engaging in that behavior again (switching off the light every time before I asleep). Thus, negative reinforcement occurs. Another example of a life-situation in which I have encountered negative reinforcement is when I used to sleep in the same room with my brother who snores loudly. That behavior used awake me every night and I became exhausted, therefore, I decided to buy a pair of earplugs. I tried to wear the earplugs before sleeping to avoid being awaken at night by the aversive stimulus (loud snore). So before I slept, I used to wear those earplugs. Another example of real-life situation in which I encountered negative reinforcement is when I used to drive to school. I used to drive through a rush hour traffic to get to school and it was stressful and annoying as I used to be one hour late for school. Therefore, I decided to change the route to get to school quick.



George, O. (2019). Negative Reinforcement Mechanisms in Addiction. Neural Mechanisms of Addiction, 179–188.

Nevin, J. A., & Mandell, C. (2017). Comparing positive and negative reinforcement: A fantasy experiment. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 107(1), 34–38.