Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Positive and Negative Reinforcement and Punishment

  • Ioulia PapageorgiEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1048-1



Consequences of behavior in operant conditioning that result in strengthening (reinforcement) or weakening (punishment) the frequency of that behavior.


During the operant conditioning process, the consequences of behavior affect the probability of future demonstrations of that behavior. Thorndike (1898, 1911) and Skinner (1938) have shown that reinforcement (also known as reward) strengthens a behavior, i.e., increases its frequency, whereas punishment weakens a behavior, i.e., decreases its frequency. Reinforcement can also be distinguished as primary/secondary and intrinsic/extrinsic.

Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Reinforcement is an environmental stimulus whose presentation results in the strengthening (increase of the frequency) of an exhibited behavior. An organism, after a number of contiguous presentations of behavior-reward, associates a specific...

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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NicosiaNicosiaCyprus

Section editors and affiliations

  • Menelaos Apostolou
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NicosiaNicosiaCyprus