So first let’s look at the basic terms used here and what they mean in this context.
Positive simply means something is given to the learner.
Negative means to take something away from the learner.
Reinforcement is something that will increase the chances of a behavior being repeated.
Punishment is something that will decrease the chances of a behavior being repeated.
Positive Reinforcement is adding good things that the learner finds appealing and that they are willing to work towards getting to increase the likelihood of a behavior being offered. (food, petting, praise, toys, play)
Negative Reinforcement is taking away or delaying those good things in decrease the likelihood of a behavior being offered.
Positive Punishment is adding something that the learner wishes to avoid, increasing the likelihood of a behavior being offered. (leash corrections, time outs, scolding, shocks)
Negative Punishment is taking away something that the learner wishes to avoid, decreasing the likelihood of a behavior being offered.
When it comes to punishment though there are many punishers that are bad, we must not think of it as being, Punishment = bad things. The value of reinforcements and punishers, lies in the opinion of the learner. Not every punisher is an aversive.
Let’s use the example of a dog lunging towards a stranger and break it down to the science of learning.
Fluffy and her dad are out walking in the park when she sees a stranger coming toward her. Fluffy loves attention and so she lunges out to the end of her leash, standing up on her back feet trying to reach the stranger to greet her. Dad sees what is happening, and askes the stranger to wait and not pet Fluffy until her feet are back down on the floor. As the stranger moves away Fluffy sits down to wait for her to come back and is rewarded with getting some attention and petting from the stranger.
When we look at this example there is nothing that should be considered a bad thing right?
Let us first look at the basics and where everything falls on the above chart. The Positive Reinforcer is the stranger’s attention, and the Negative Punishment is the stranger backing away and withholding that attention.
As Fluffy jumps up and lunges out, the stranger backs away taking with her the attention that Fluffy finds very appealing (thus why the attention is a Reinforcement). Then when Fluffy sits the stranger approaches and give the desired attention, teaching Fluffy that if she keeps her feet on the ground she can get the attention she wants.
Let’s look at another example, barking at other dogs.
Say Fluffy is out walking with his mom and every time he sees another dog, he explodes in a barking fit. Mom yanks up on the prong collar he is wearing and Fluffy stops barking for a moment, so mom stops giving the leash corrections.
When Fluffy barks at the other dogs, his mom starts giving Positive Punishments of popping the leash with the prong collar. He stops barking, and mom stops giving the leash corrections. Negative Reinforcement mom removing the leash corrections after Fluffy has stopped barking.