Positive reinforcement is a highly recommended concept that is grounded in behavioral psychology and is used regularly within applied behavior analysis services.

Positive reinforcement refers to the addition of a stimulus [a reinforcer] after a particular behavior with an increase in the frequency of that behavior occurring in the future.

Sometimes the concept of positive reinforcement can be misunderstood. Sometimes the use of positive reinforcement is seen as something that is only used in a structured or contrived manner.

It is important to remember that positive reinforcement occurs often in everyday situations for all people.

Let’s go over examples of how positive reinforcement is present within common situations (with the assumption that the behavior that was the focus of the example occurs more often in the future).

Examples of Positive Reinforcement in Everyday Situations

  1. A child is told to clean the living room, he cleans the living room [behavior] and is then allowed to play video games [reinforcer].
  2. A girl brushes her hair in the morning before school [behavior] and then receives a compliment at school about her hair [reinforcer] and then she brushes her hair more often in the future.
  3. A toddler sits in the laundry basket [behavior] and her mom laughs and smiles at her [social reinforcer].
  4. A woman eats one chip [behavior], the chip tastes delicious [reinforcer]. The woman eats more chips.
  5. A mother goes for a walk [behavior]. She escapes the noise in her house and experiences her desired alone time while gaining more energy, as well [reinforcer]. She goes for more walks.
  6. A young adult often eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After putting peanut butter on the bread [behavior], he puts jelly on the bread [reinforcer as present within the chain of making a PB&J].
  7. The family dog walks into the kitchen whenever someone is cooking [behavior]. The family members occasionally give the dog a piece of food [reinforcer].