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The Simpsons- Negative Reinforcement


This clip is from The Simpsons’ episode: “Brush with Greatness.” After Bart and Lisa see an attractive commercial urging them to visit Mount Splashmore, a water park, they force their father to take them there by using negative reinforcement.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Did Homer want to bring his kids to Mount Splashmore? If not, why did he agree to?
  2. Should people in the workplace use negative reinforcement to get what they want? Why or why not?
  3. Although negative reinforcement works in this clip, is it always effective?
  4. How do you think Bart and Lisa should have asked Homer for permission to go to Mount Splashmore?


Bart and Lisa demonstrate the concept of negative reinforcement here.  Negative reinforcement, or a reinforcement contingency where the removal of an aversive stimulus results in desired behavior, gives Bart and Lisa what they want: a visit to Mount Splashmore. After they see the commercial, they follow their father Homer and repeatedly ask him, “Will you take us to Mount Splashmore?” Their constant badgering acts as the aversive stimulus in this case, and Homer eventually caves in so that they stop asking him. Homer shouts in despair, “If I take you, will you two shut up and quit bugging me?” Of course, Bart and Lisa agree. Homer behaves favorable—by saying “yes”—thus, Bart and Lisa stop bothering him.

Although comical, negative reinforcement in this clip does not produce results effectively for both parties. Although the kids get what they want, Homer does not really. Homer does get something he wants–the kids to stop annoying him–but he does not really want to take his kids to Mount Splashmore. Bart and Lisa force Homer to succumb to their wish by constantly pestering him. To simply end this pestering, or negative stimulus, Homer has to agree to do something he does not truly wish to do. This is how negative reinforcement works. It increases the likelihood of behavior (Homer saying “yes”) when taken away.

While children often badger their parents and use this type of negative reinforcement to get what they want, people in the workplace probably should not. Managers should not have to badger their employees to complete tasks by using operant conditioning; they should motivate them. This endless asking is tiresome for both parties in a workplace, although it may result in desirable outcomes, as shown in this clip.

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11 Responses to “The Simpsons- Negative Reinforcement”

  1.   By sp578 on Apr 4, 2010 | Reply

    Although it takes time to get to the actual point (half of the clip), the part about the negative reinforcement part is great!!! Hillarious. I think its a great example of a negative reinforcement – small simpsons bugging their Daddy to take them to the park. Just be sure to define the concept and explain which behavior is increased when the negative condition is taken away.

  2.   By wjs99 on Apr 4, 2010 | Reply

    The clip shows Homer giving up in the end, and he offers some conditions. If the kids stop asking if they can go to the park, Homer will take them there.

    This shows negative reinforcement because the kids are willing to stop annoying Homer (withdrawal of negative consequence), if Homer is willing to take them to the park.

  3.   By sk839 on Apr 5, 2010 | Reply

    Funny clip!

    This is a good example of negative reinforcement. I would consider including something about punishment, as the annoying chant of “will you take us to mt. splashmore” almost functions as a punishment for not taking the kids there or at least saying yes.

  4.   By Shane Jackson on Apr 5, 2010 | Reply

    Very funny clip. It actually works too, I’ve done it plenty of times with my parents. Great example of negative reinforcement. Annoy someone until they change their mind. I would have used some duct tape and rope if it were me.

  5.   By jc984 on Apr 5, 2010 | Reply

    I agree that this clip demonstrates negative reinforcement; make somebody constantly feel annoyed about doing something until they change their actions.

  6.   By jam657 on Apr 8, 2010 | Reply

    This clip definitely demonstrates negative reinforcement. When Homer agrees to take Bart and Lisa to Mt. Splashmore, the two of them take away the negative stimulus (the constant questioning).

  7.   By Fico - Books on Success on Mar 5, 2011 | Reply

    I agree that it is negative reinforcement. But I don’t think that’s really the way to go in order to motivate someone properly!

  8.   By Nike Lunar+4 Mesh Mens Grey Grey Black Red on Jul 19, 2011 | Reply

    You really created a large number of good in your blog, I just want to say it’s time to be together in their own this very much. I read yourblog again in the future. Thank you very much.

  9.   By noclegi szczawnica on Jan 5, 2012 | Reply

    I do not like The Simpsons’, but overall nice blog :-), I wish that I did not write. :-(

  10.   By CaravaningWorld on Jan 5, 2012 | Reply

    I like The Simpsons’ and I read yourblog again in the future ;):)

  11.   By Identyfikacja wizualna on Jan 10, 2012 | Reply

    Good example, Simpsons are always helpful. ;)

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