Understanding Positive Reinforcement And Its Applications

“If you do what I tell you to do, I will give you a treat.”

This is a proven form of behavioral reinforcement theory used for animals in a laboratory. 

But its application is not necessarily limited to lab application.

In the present times, positive reinforcement is used in most internet applications. The interactions within the lab are constantly designed to make you go through consecutive positive reinforcement loops. So the next time you upload something on Instagram and get notifications about people liking your posts, understand that this is precisely what’s happening. 

Positive reinforcement is in work almost all times in our daily life. Let us dive deeper into the working of the theory and see how it translates into everyday life. 

Positive Reinforcement

How Does Positive Reinforcement Work?

Positive reinforcement in psychology is a technique that acknowledges and rewards desirable behaviors for internalizing them. This simple concept has the power to bring immense change in different aspects of our lives. The notion of positive reinforcement was first brought forward by B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning theory in the 20th century. 

Skinner conducted a series of experiments using laboratory rats. In one experiment, the rats were expected to press a lever inside a box to receive food. In another experiment, they needed to avoid the lever to save themselves from an electric shock. The operant conditioning theory, therefore, found the working of both positive and negative reinforcement. 

Positive reinforcement as a reward for a certain action leads to internalization and repetition of desired behavior. In sharp contrast, negative reinforcement or the absence of it will lead to less repetition of the behavior. 

Read more: 7 Characteristics That Set Self-Actualized People Apart

Applications Of Positive Reinforcement In Daily Life

Now that you know about the working of positive reinforcement, let us see how it is applied to different activities around us.

1. Workplace Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement help organizations create an environment where employees can survive and thrive, along with providing additional benefits of positivity and productivity.

A common form of positive reinforcement in workplaces includes bonuses. Bonuses are among the most common form of positive reinforcement in workplaces. Employers generally provide bonuses or raise in order to boost employee engagement and productivity. When an employee receives a bonus, it sets the stage for higher dedication and a continued desire to work harder.

2. Workplace in the education system

Education is an area where positive reinforcement is extensively used. Educators often use positive reinforcement to help students develop positive behaviors or achieve academic success. 

A common instance of positive reinforcement in classrooms is a teacher praising students or giving them candies for finishing homework on time or engaging in class discussions. 

Read more: Understanding And Utilizing The Primacy And Recency Effect 

3. Brand rewards

Another common application of Skinner’s positive reinforcement concept is the usage of brand rewards. Think of all the sign-up bonuses, free discounts, shopping coupons, and exchange points you get in e-commerce apps or shops. They are designed to reinforce the tendency or habit of shopping from the concerned app or store. 

4. Positive reinforcement in parenting

Positive reinforcement forms an effective parenting tool, especially for teenagers. Children respond extremely well to rewards and treats. For instance, when a child is praised for cleaning their room or helping in the kitchen, it tends to internalize those behaviors. They can also help the child in developing new skills. 

5. Customer service

Another prominent use of positive reinforcement comes in the form of customer care services. Brands pay special attention to customer queries and problems because it is a positive stimulus. In the future, this experience will help influence the customers’ buying decisions. 


Positive reinforcement is a concept from B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning theory. It aims to reward positive behavior and actions in a bid to encourage repetition. It is used frequently in classrooms, parenting, marketing, and at workplaces. 

Apart from positive reinforcement, another important concept in psychology that is extremely important and commonly used is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. To know more about the theory, click here

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