Differential Reinforcement

Health and Human Services

Decreasing Behavior Through Differential Reinforcement Procedures

Problem behavior is often a way students communicate something. Using differential reinforcement teaches them to use other more acceptable behaviors in place of the problem behaviors. Using differential reinforcement is also a way to use positive approaches instead of using punishment or negative reinforcement procedures.

When choosing a behavior reduction procedure, reinforcement procedures have many benefits. Reinforcement doesn’t have the adverse side effects of punishment and extinction procedures. Another limitation of punishment and extinction is that they do not teach an alternative behavior that can be used to replace the mal-adopted behavior. Reinforcement procedures should be used first, before punishment and extinction procedures are used.


Differential reinforcement is a procedure involving two separate behaviors. One behavior is being reinforced and strengthened while the second behavior is put on extinction.