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Social reinforcement is reinforcement whose reward value depends for on the social context in which it is delivered and the significance it has for the recipient.

Social reinforcement can be verbal reinforcement or nonverbal reinforcement

Verbal reinforcement

Verbal feeback such as praise or words of encouragement may be seen as providing social reinforcement. However it is important to understand the role of context. Praise from a teacher may be a reward to an interested student but the same words given to the class clown who wants to impress his friends with his anti education stance may have the opposite effect.

Nonverbal reinforcement

Positive feedback can be provided through gesture and other means of nonverbal communication such as thumbs up signs, smiles, pats on the back etc.

See also


  • Vollmer, T. R., & Hackenberg, T. D. (2001). Reinforcement contingencies and social reinforcement: Some reciprocal relations between basic and applied research. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 34, 241-253.pdf