Reinforcement from Baby and Parent’s Point of View

Sometimes as parents it can be difficult recognizing examples of Positive and Negative Reinforcement. Often, but not always, in many scenarios both forms of reinforcement can be in effect, depending on your perspective. Here is a scenario (with some graphics) with which I’m sure most parents are all too familiar:

Baby just wants his pacifier, but he doesn’t know how to get it so he cries. If parent gives Baby the pacifier, it increases the likelihood that Baby will cry the next time he wants his pacifier. If Baby cries to gain access to his pacifier, then this would be an example of Positive Reinforcement for Baby’s crying.

In negative reinforcement, an unpleasant stimulus is withdrawn from the equation, once the desired response is generated. Looking at this situation from the parent’s point of view, she just wants Baby to stop crying. So she gives him his pacifier to get him to stop. If he stops crying, then the parent no longer has to listen to the crying (which is what the parent is trying to avoid). The removal of the crying can become Negative Reinforcement for the parent’s behavior of giving Baby a pacifier whenever he cries.


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