Remember when we discussed operant conditioning? One of the most important concepts discussed by the American psychologist B.F. Skinner was negative reinforcement. While many mistaken negative reinforcement for punishment, it is definitely not the same thing! In this post, we’ll explain what it is along with 12 negative reinforcement examples that can help you understand the concept better.



What is Negative Reinforcement?

punishment procedure.

In fact, it can cleverly be used to decrease the frequency of bad behaviour. Below is a list of negative reinforcement examples that illustrate negative reinforcement in action.


12 Negative Reinforcement Examples

To help you gain a better understanding about its outcomes, here are a few negative reinforcement examples:


Example 1

Suppose a young boy named Max dislikes eating vegetables. Every time his parents bring a plate of vegetables forward, Max screams out in anguish. Because his parents can’t tolerate the screaming, they resort to giving Max something else to eat.


Example 2

Bob notices that his mom constantly complains every time he doesn’t do the dishes. To stop her from nagging, bob makes it a point to do the dishes every night.


Example 3

Jackson is a disgruntled employee who spends most of his time on social media. Irritated, his manager now keeps a close eye on him to ensure Jackson completes all his work. The fear of being watched keeps Jackson in line (though it also takes a toll on Jackson’s relationship with his boss).


Example 4

Jill and Holly have decided to go to the beach. But before stepping out, the girls always lather themselves up sunscreen to avoid getting sunburned. In this case, the fear of getting sunburnt is the aversive stimulus.


Example 5

Kevin has noticed that his pet dog becomes frantic when his neighbors play loud music. To ensure his pet stays calm and is not discomforted, Kevin has requested his neighbors not to blast loud music from their homes.


Example 6

Some workplaces use negative reinforcement to create the desired environment. This may be done by conducting random drug tests to inculcate fear amongst employees. While this obviously won’t affect employees who don’t use banned substances, it will prevent others from indulging in bad behavior. The fear of getting fired will thus prevent employees from using drugs.


Example 7

Kate always winds up getting stuck in traffic while going to work. This causes her boss to lash out at her during meetings. To curtail the situation, Kate has started waking up earlier and also tries to go to bed early at night to reduce her chances of oversleeping. However, for better long-term results, Kate’s boss should use positive reinforcement to ensure employees are punctual.


Example 8

Sarah has noticed that her parents take away her TV privileges every time she comes home with a bad grade. Afraid of being punished, Sarah now resorts to hiding her report card every time she doesn’t do well on a test. In this situation, her teachers and parents should work together and opt for positive reinforcement techniques instead.


Example 9

Suppose you have a pet dog that has developed a habit of chewing pillows. To prevent your pet dog from destroying all cushions in sight, you’ll have no other option but to put away all your pillows in a closet. In the meanwhile, you can distract your pet by giving him a chew toy.


Example 10

For added safety, some cars produce a loud buzzing noise if the driver is not wearing a seatbelt. The loud and irritating noise compels the driver to pay attention to safety rules and put on his/her seat. This is among the most popular negative reinforcement examples out there.


Example 11

A class of young students is lagging behind in their studies. In order to persuade them to work harder, their teacher has threatened to keep them back for extra classes until their grades start to pull up. This form of negative reinforcement can actually be harmful for the kids in the long run. Instead, teachers should look for more encouraging ways to motivate students.


Example 12

A young girl constantly nags her older sibling to take her to the mall.  Eventually, her older sibling gets tired of her behaviour and drives her to the mall. In this case, the annoying behaviour ends when the young girl gets her desired response. This is another classic example of negative reinforcement.


Outcomes of Negative Reinforcement

According to some experts, negative reinforcement should only be used sparingly in educational settings. Instead, positive reinforcement should be applied to encourage students to perform well in academics.

While negative reinforcement almost always offers immediate results, it is best used for short-term use.

Positive and negative reinforcement can both be used to create generate favourable outcomes. However, you’ll need to examine the situation to determine which reinforcement would be most appropriate.


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