In our last post we take a look at what drives behavior. Our expert on this is Sara Ingvarsson, a Swedish psychologist working with Organizational Behavior Management (OBM). Thank you for trying out this best of-collection. How did you like the format? Reply to this email and tell us.

Consequences that reinforce behaviors can be further distinguished. In the terminology of OBM, there are two different kinds of reinforcement: positive and negative. 

In this context, the term “positive” doesn’t have the same meaning as in everyday language. Rather, it means that something is added as a consequence of the behavior. Along the same lines, “negative” means that something is removed as a consequence of the behavior. Both have the effect that the probability of the behavior increases in future similar situations. 

An example of negative reinforcement:

Reminder from coworker to finish a task (antecedent) → Performing the task (behavior) → Coworker stops reminding (consequence).

An example of positive reinforcement:

Reminder from coworker to finish a task (antecedent) → Performing the task (behavior) → Receiving thanks and appreciation from coworker (consequence).

Which type of reinforcement do you think will boost the organization’s results in the long run? Have a look at the consequences you’ve already identified in your organization and evaluate if they could work as positive or negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcements are often found in social situations - feedback from colleagues, customers or others. Sometimes positive reinforcements are built into the the task itself, for example by seeing good results or managing to tick off another subtask. Perhaps you could ask a coworker for their perspective on what functions the consequences have. 


Test if you’ve gotten a good understanding of positive and negative reinforcement by taking my short quiz (8 questions).

Here you’ll find a pdf with even more examples of behavior chains.


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