Chapter 10 contained a section on reinforces and punishers versus incentives that caught my attention. Deckers (2010) said that learning what to do and actually doing it illustrate the separate effects of reinforces and incentives. The difference is based on the effects of past events versus the anticipation of future events. I will further explain these differences.
Learning what to do results from the action of reinforces. Events that increase the likelihood of a behavior occurring in the future are called reinforcers. For example, if a person goes to class and studies, they will end up getting good grades (reinforcers). According to Powell, Symbaluk, and Honey (2009), there are two types of reinforcement learning processes that are apart of operant conditioning, positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement occurs when the likelihood of a certain behavior increases as a result of the presentation of something pleasant after the behavior. An example of this is praising a child for good behavior. Negative reinforcement occurs when the likelihood of a certain behavior increases as the result of removing something unpleasant after the behavior. This is best exemplified in the following example. John’s mom always nags him about taking out the trash. Once day John decided to take out the trash before his mother could tell him to do it. Subsequently, the nagging stopped and John now takes out the trash without ever being told.
Learning what not to do results from the action of punishers (Decker, 2010, p. 240). Events that decrease the likelihood of a behavior occurring in the future are called punishers. For example, if a person skips classes and don’t study, the person end up failing an exam or the course (punishers). According to Powell et al., there are also two types of punishment learning processes that are apart of operant conditioning, positive punishment and negative punishment. Positive punishment occurs when the likelihood of a certain behavior decreases as the result of the presentation of something unpleasant after the behavior. An example of positive punishment is putting a child in time out for misbehaving. Negative punishment occurs when the likelihood of a certain behavior decreases as the result of the removal of something pleasant after the behavior. An example of negative punishment is when a parent grounds their child because of poor grades. I found two videos that further explain these types of learning processes.
Decker (2010) said incentives are things that motivate or induce behavior to occur. Some incentives make people better off and reward them for their actions (positive incentives) while other incentives motivates avoidance behavior, which prevent incentives from happening (negative incentives). An example of a positive incentive is when a person receives a good grade and, as a result, is motivated to study. An example of a negative incentive is when a person fails a class and, as a result, is motivated to avoid skipping classes.
As you can see, there is a big difference between reinforcers/reinforcement, punishers/punishment, and incentives.
Deckers, L. (2010). Motivation: biological, psychological, and environmental (3rd ed.). Boston, Mass.: Allyn & Bacon.
Powell, R. A., Symbaluk, D. G., & Honey, P. L. (2009). Introduction to learning and behavior (3rd ed.). Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.