Operant conditioning refers to a learning type, wherein outcomes of an action regulate one’s behaviour. The consequence can be a reward or penalty. It was coined by famous behaviourist B. F. Skinner, who hold that behaviour is something which can only be described by observing it and not by thoughts and motivation.
Reinforcement and punishment are the two fundamental notions of operant conditioning wherein the former, stimulates a particular behaviour, the latter, discourages a specific behaviour. These two are quite commonly confused by the people but there are a number of dissimilarities. By the end of this article, you will be able to differentiate between reinforcement and punishment in the context of operant conditioning.
Content: Reinforcement Vs Punishment
|Basis for Comparison||Reinforcement||Punishment|
|Meaning||Reinforcement, implies the process of supporting or promoting a pattern of behavior.||Punishment entails the act of penalizing or forfeiting something of value, to repress an undesirable behavior.|
|What is it?||An enthusiastic outcome.||An aversive outcome.|
|Response||Strengthens response||Weakens response|
|Consequence||Increases the probability of behavior.||Decreases the probability of behavior.|
|Encompasses||Gain of desirable stimulus or forfeiture of undesirable one.||Imposition of unpleasant stimulus or withdrawal of a pleasant one.|
Definition of Reinforcement
In operant conditioning, reinforcement denotes anything that accelerates the probability that a response will happen. It is described as the consequence of behaviour which either strengthens a response or enhances the probability of its recurrence. The strength of a response can be measured regarding intensity and degree, while its frequency is ascertained by calculating the number of time the response occurs.
Reinforcement encompasses all those things which cause increase in the pattern of behaviour, such as events, situations or stimuli. It is classified as:
- Positive Reinforcement: It refers to adding something, to encourage a behavioural pattern.
- Negative Reinforcement: It implies taking away something to enhance a behavioural pattern.
In human resource management, the reinforcement theory assumes that the behaviour having a rewarding experience is likely to recur. It implies that when the performance level of the employee is followed by the monetary reward, will lead to the similar performance in future. However, if monetary reward does not follow the high performance, will make its recurrence unlikely. Some examples of reinforcement can be promotion, increment, add-on benefits, lapse of privilege and so forth.
Definition of Punishment
In operant conditioning, punishment means the imposition of a disagreeable consequence or penalty on someone, as a result of undesirable behaviour. In short, it modifies one’s behaviour, by providing a negative response to the unfavourable behaviour.
It aims at reducing or removing the frequency of the occurrence of that behaviour. It is a suitable tool, used to shape and control the behaviour of organisms. Some common examples of punishment can be the pay cut, suspension, loss of privilege and so on. There can be two forms of punishment:
- Positive Punishment: It refers to exhibiting or implementing an aversive stimulus if the behaviour repeats in future.
- Negative Punishment: The punishment which involves removal of a pleasant stimulus, on the recurrence of behaviour.
Key Differences Between Reinforcement and Punishment
The following points are pertinent so far as the difference between reinforcement and punishment is concerned:
- The process of supporting or augmenting a pattern of behaviour, to let it happen again in future is called reinforcement. On the contrary, punishment means inflicting a penalty or any other undesirable outcome, to discourage bad behaviour.
- While reinforcement is an enthusiastic outcome, for good performance, punishment is an averse consequence, of wrongdoing.
- Reinforcement strengthens response, whereas punishment weakens the same.
- The result of reinforcement will increase the frequency of behaviour. Conversely, punishment will lead to the decrease in the frequency of behaviour.
- Reinforcement involves gain of desirable stimulus or forfeiture of undesirable one. As against this, punishment entails the imposition of unpleasant stimulus or withdrawal of a pleasant one.
To sum up, reinforcement will increase the tendency that the targeted behaviour will occur again. On the contrary, punishment tends to decrease the chances of recurrence of the targeted behaviour. Both reinforcement and punishment are the fundamental concepts of behaviourism, whose aim is to alter and regulate the behaviour of the organisation and occurs positively or negatively.