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Examples of Negative Reinforcement


Students tend to have trouble really understanding the idea of negative reinforcement. It can be confusing. Here are some examples I think will help:




Umbrella (the classic example): do you get something good when you put up an umbrella? No. When you do it you avoid something bad (getting wet). So your reward for doing this behavior is not a candy or some other positive thing (that would be positive reinforcement), but rather you avoid a negative thing. Opening the umbrella is a behavior that is being reinforced. Thus, negative reinforcement.



Aspirin: why do you take a pill for your headache? Do pills taste good? (if they did you might have positive reinforcement). Like the umbrella example, you take the pills bec you hope to avoid something negative (a headache that lasts a long time). Thus negative reinforcement.



Exercise: most people don't really enjoy exercising.  There's no immediate reward.  In fact, most of us exercise in order to avoid something else: gaining weight.  So exercising is a great example of a negative reinforcer.






YouTube Red: YouTube is trying to use negative reinforcement by taking away video ads if you pay the montly subscription fee.  Your "reward" for paying the money is that something negative (the ads) do not appear when you watch a video.



Text Reminders on Your Cellphone: lots of places want you to sign up for their text message reminder service.  Take CVS for example. If you take a certain medication on a regular basis, you can sign up for a service that will send you a text reminder when it's time to pick up your medication. These reminders will repeat until you pick up your meds.  So, your behavior (picking up your meds) is "rewarded" by the cessation of the annoying text message reminders.


I hope any of these examples help!