The Big Bang Theory

Some days ago, on Canine Companion by Certified Trainers, published a video of Big Bang Theory , where Sheldon explained Operant Conditioning and they asked if someone knew what was the error of Sheldon.


After answered correctly and awarded myself a “Gold Star” , I thought to publish the episode and after my explanation.

First of all watch the episode Big Bang Theory

Have you found the error?  I think “YES” but in any case following you can find my explanation

Sheldon is using Operant Conditioning to explain the difference between getting cake and being electrocuted. He states that getting chocolate is a positive reinforcement and being electrocuted is a negative reinforcement. However, this is incorrect.
In operant conditioning, Positive means adding and Negative means removing. 
There are 4 ‘contexts’:
Positive Reinforcement: Adding a pleasant stimulus. 
Negative Reinforcement: Removing an unpleasant stimulus. 
Positive Punishment: Adding an unpleasant stimulus. 
Negative Punishment: Removing a pleasant stimulus. 
 As we can see from the table above, being electrocuted is NOT negative reinforcement. Being electrocuted represents adding an unpleasant stimulus, which we know is Positive Punishment.
So the cake was (correctly) a Positive Reinforcer. However, electrocution would be Positive Punishment, not a Negative Reinforcement as Sheldon said. Negative Reinforcement is the complete opposite.



by Cristina Cozza

Dog Behaviorist – Low Stress Handling


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