Negative Reinforcement vs. Positive Reinforcement
Reinforcement is a topic that could very well show up on your LMSW or LCSW exam and is one that tends to trip many of us up. Because of our strong associations with the words negative (bad) and positive (good), it is all too easy to be thrown off by these otherwise straightforward questions on the LCSW and LMSW exams. When it comes to reinforcement, it is crucial to keep in mind that negative does not mean bad and positive does not mean good. Let me repeat that: when it comes to reinforcement on the LCSW and LMSW exams, negative does not mean bad and positive does not mean good. In the context of this term, negative reinforcement refers to taking something away and positive reinforcement refers to adding something. Negative=taking something away; Positive=adding something. Because of these associations, people often confuse negative reinforcement and punishment on the exam, despite the fact that these are two very different concepts. Let’s spend a little time looking at these three concepts.