Abstract The relative contribution of the rewarded and non-rewarded stimulus in the learning of a visual discrimination task in various species is unclear. A number of different parameters have been suggested as influencing the importance of the one over the other, among them the type of reinforcement. Our results show that with both positive reinforcement (using water as reward after a correct choice, and no reinforcement after an incorrect choice) and negative reinforcement (electroshock punishment after an incorrect choice) mice use the position of the incorrect stimulus as a cue for the discrimination. Mice trained by positive reinforcement without the added negative reinforcement of blocking the door on which the incorrect stimulus is projected, do not learn a brightness discrimination task. This suggested that the added negative reinforcement of the closed door had a strong influence on the learning behaviour in our experiments.