Negative Reinforcement can be Positive Reinforcement

It is all about control and choice.  Imagine the feeling when we are asked to do something.  Perhaps wash a load of dishes for a family member.  We comply, with some feeling.  Avoiding the argument if we say no.  And perhaps with the hope for a free moment where there are no expectations for our services to that family member.  We wash.  In the washing, we are 'doing'.  The moment the washing is done, we sit down, feel the load of the work done, sigh and in that moment, we are 'being'. 

So.  The argument has been avoided.  The training theory calls this - negative reinforcement.  However, there is something more fundamental going on.  In our sitting and relaxing, we have our choice and control back.  Being victim to the expectations of that family member are a thing of the past.  We are the master of the sit and sigh once more.  In achieving choice and control, we have been afforded something.  In training theory, when we receive something, it is positive.

Choice and control are more fundamental than food.  You never saw an antelope stop to eat his favourite treat while the carnivore was chasing him.  His choice and control were more important than his food.  So, a primary reinforcer is something that does not have to be conditioned. 

Sometimes when we train animals, we actually have to teach them to eat from our hands.  We never have to teach them to look out for their safety - which, fundamentally is when they feel in control - and being in control, means there is choice.

This thought is linked to one on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation - that is a subject for another blog.  Happy sighing!!!


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