What Is Negative Reinforcement?

Negative reinforcement is a concept in psychology's theory of operant conditioning that suggests a behavior is strengthened when a negative outcome is stopped, removed, avoided or prevented. Negative reinforcement is an effective method of strengthening a desired behavior. Unlike punishment, negative reinforcement attempts to increase a specific behavior.

Negative reinforcement involves the removal of aversive or negative stimuli that generally result in physical or psychological discomfort. Removal of the negative outcome can strengthen behavior. An example of negative reinforcement is deciding to leave home early in order to avoid sitting in traffic and being late for work. Leaving home early is the behavior, and avoiding being late is the removal of the aversive stimulus.