The idea of positive or negative reinforcement is present not only in history but our everyday lives. This is where one is rewarded if a certain action is completed, and only upon completing the action can the reward be given. There may also be a punishment, negative reinforcement, for the incompletion of the task. In the Lilienfeld "Psychology" textbook, and by many other psychologists, it is known as "operant conditioning."
The "law of effect" is the basis to operant conditioning and an important concept when it was being tested. Psychologist, E. L. Thorndike explains, "If a response, in the presence of a stimulus, is followed by a satisfying state of affairs, the bond between stimulus and response will be strengthened." He discovers this in an experiment constructed in 1898.
A hungry cat was placed in a box with fish outside of it, in sight of the cat. To escape, the cat needed to press a lever or pull a string inside the box. This experiment went through sixty trials. The cat learned by trial and error how to escape. Eventually, the time it took for the cat to escape drastically decreased gradually. (See page 212, chapter 6)
This is a concept that brought up a memory of mine in the past, displayed on a television show, "The Big Bang Theory". Not only can the concept teach cats how to escape a box, but also it can potentially create "a better girlfriend".
Psychology, From Inquiry to Understanding. Scott Lilienfeld
The Big Bang Theory. Created by Chuck Lorre & Bill Prady