According to Miltenberger, reinforcement is classified as either positive or negative (Miltenberger & University of South Florida, 2022). Reinforcement of both types works by adding a stimulus or taking one away to encourage that behavior. However, reinforcement differs from punishment as the goal is to strengthen behavior and not weaken or discourage one (Miltenberger & University of South Florida, 2022).
Positive reinforcement is a method used to encourage or discourage a particular behavior. For example, with a dog, a trainer may give a piece of chicken to reinforce the trick of rolling over. The dog knew that the trainer would give him a treat in this scenario if he rolled over. The chicken motivates the dog to do the behavior the trainer desired.
Negative reinforcement is also a method to encourage a behavior, but instead of receiving a “treat,” an aversive stimulus is removed (Miltenberger & University of South Florida, 2022). For instance, a house’s fire alarm has a siren that goes off every 30 seconds because you did not change the battery on time. Once you replace the battery, the ear-piercing siren ceases; this silence reinforces the behavior of setting a reminder so that every 90 days, they remember to change the batteries, so they do not have a siren waking them up.
Reinforcement in the Bible
Throughout the two books of Samuel, the Davidic covenant is explained, revealing the terms and the promises that come with it (Crossway, 2001). The Davidic covenant is an example of (primarily) positive reinforcement. God desired David to follow the terms of the Mosaic covenant, which can be read in 1 Kings 9:1-9 and 2 Samuel 23:2-7 (Crossway, 2001). If David followed the terms of the Mosaic covenant, then he was promised a kingdom that would be everlasting (2 Sam 7:13, Crossway, 2001). God reinforced the behaviors by promising “a treat.”
Crossway. (2001). English Standard – ESV Classic Reference Bible. Crossway Bibles.
Miltenberger, R. G. & University of South Florida. (2022). Behavior Modification: Principles and Procedures by Raymond G. Miltenberger (2015–01-01) (6th ed.) [E-book]. Wadsworth Publishing. https://ebooks.cenreader.com/#!/reader/016eeeda-4726-4f3d-9d2f-72f15b262a33/page/758a39896cdf87baf7a6aadddffd418f?search=establishing%20operation