Reinforcement Theories - Positive Reinforcement:- Negative Reinforcement

In 1911, psychologist Edward Thorndike formulated the law effect: Behavior that is followed by positive consequences probably will be repeated. This powerful law of behavior laid the foundation for country investigations into the effects of the positive consequences, called rein forcers that motivate behavior. Organizational behavior modification attempts to people’s actions. Four key consequences of behavior either encourage or discourage people’s behavior.

Positive Reinforcement:-

Applying a valued consequence that increases the likelihood that the person will repeat the behavior that led to it. Examples of positive reinforcers include compliments, letters of commendation, favorable performance evaluations, and pay raises. Equally important, jobs can be positively reinforcing. Performing well on interesting, challenging, or enriched jobs (discussed later in this chapter) is much more reinforcing, and therefore motivating, then performing well on jobs that are routine and monotonous.

Facts [+]

The 2011 Nielsen survey also showed that the top five dimensions students considered when it comes to seeking employment were high degree of independence at work, salary package, learning on the job, growth prospects and standing of the company in the market [Employer brand] respectively.

Negative Reinforcement:-

Removing or withholding an undesirable consequence. For example, a manager takes an employee (or a school takes a student) off probation because of improved performance. Frequent threatening memos admonished people to achieve every one of their many performance goals


Administering an aversive consequence. Examples include criticizing or shouting at an employee, assigning an unappealing task, and sending a worker home without pay. Negative reinforcement can involve the threat of punishment, but not delivering it when employees perform satisfactorily. Punishment is the actual delivery of the aversive consequence.

Extinction: –

Withdrawing or failing or failing to provide a reinforcing consequence. When this occurs motivation is reduced and the behavior is extinguished, or eliminated. Examples include not giving a compliment for a job well done, forgetting to say thanks for a favor, or setting impossible performance goals so that the person never experiences success.

The first two consequences, positive and negative reinforcement, are positive for the person receiving them: The person either gains something or avoids something negative. Therefore, the person who experiences these consequences will be motivated to behave in the ways that led to the reinforcement. The last two consequences, punishment and extinction, are negative outcomes for the person receiving them: Motivation to repeat the behavior that led to the undesirable results will be reduced.

Thus, effective managers give positive reinforcement to their high-performing people and negative reinforcement to low performance. They also punish or extinguish poor performance and other unwanted behavior.