Essay on Function of Punishment in Altering Behavior

Essay on Function of Punishment in Altering Behavior

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Punishment is widely discussed in the field of psychology. It is a topic that is misunderstood, repeatedly misused, and very controversial. Punishment is not about punishing the person it about decreasing a behavior. The book defines it as when you add something aversive to decrease an unwanted behavior (Chance, 2008). Punishment does not always reduce the probability of a response.
The definition of law of effect says behavior is a function of its consequences (Chance, 2008). In this case, punishment is defined as a decrease in the strength of behavior due to its consequences (Chance, 2008). There are two types of punishment: Positive and negative. Positive punishment is when you add something to a situation, like a spanking, to decrease a behavior. Negative punishment is when you take something away from a situation, like a cell phone, to decrease a behavior. There is sometimes confusion between positive punishment and negative reinforcement because they both involve aversive events (Chance, 2008). The best way to discriminate between the two is to remember punishment means to decrease behavior and reinforcement means to increase behavior.
There have been two important theories to explain the phenomenon of punishment suppression (Dunham, 1971) The first one, proposed by Thorndike in 1913, stated that any painful or unpleasant event would weaken the response which preceded that event (Dunham, 1971) This was the negative Law of Effect and has not had much attention after Thorndike rejected the notion in 1932(Dunham, 1971). The second theory accounts for the punishment suppression phenomenon. This has been referred to as the alternative-response assumption, which states that the decrement in a punished response is caused by an ...


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Works Cited

Chance, P. (2009). Punishment. Learning and behavior: active learning edition (6th ed., pp. 207-225). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Taylor, G. T. (1974). Varied functions of punishment in differential instrumental conditioning. Journal Of Experimental Psychology, 102(2), 298-307. doi:10.1037/h0035968
Dunham, P. J. (1971). Punishment: Method and theory. Psychological Review, 78(1), 58-70. doi:10.1037/h0030304
Dinsmoor, J. A. (2001). Stimuli inevitably generated by behavior that avoids electric shock are inherently reinforcing. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 75(3), 311-333. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2001.75-311
Warden, C. J., & Aylesworth, M. M. (1927). The relative value of reward and punishment in the formation of a visual discrimination habit in the white rat. Journal Of Comparative Psychology, 7(2), 117-127. doi:10.1037/h0073058

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