This paper will provide the behavioral definition of punishment and give examples of both positive and negative punishment in different types of settings. The guidelines for the effective use of punishment, as well as legal and ethical issues that should be considered by the Behavior Analyst while designing a behavior intervention plan are identified.
The term punishment as used in operant conditioning refers to any change that occurs after a behavior happens that reduces the likelihood that the behavior will follow again in the future. Punishment occurs when a response is followed immediately by a stimulus change that decreases the future frequency of similar responses. Behaviorist B.F. Skinner was the first psychologist to identify two different kinds of aversive stimuli that can be used as punishment (Cooper, 2007). Positive punishment occurs when the presentation of a stimulus or an increase in the intensity of an already present stimulus immediately following a behavior results in a decrease in the frequency of the behavior. Negative punishment involves the termination of an already present stimulus or a decrease in the intensity of an already present stimulus immediately following a behavior that results in a decrease in the future frequency of the behavior (Cooper, 2007).
Punishment can be used to yield rapid, long lasting suppression of problem behavior. Punishment may be a choice of treatment when a problem behavior causes serious harm and must be addressed quickly, reinforcement-based treatment have not reduced the target behavior or the reinforcers maintaining the behavior cannot be identified or withheld (Cooper, 2007). Once one has selected punishment as a means of intervention, one must select an effective and appropriate punisher.
The word "pain" comes from the Greek and Latin word for punishment (Skinner, 1974). The mere mention of the word punishment as in the origin of the word make most people think of causing pain when in fact negative punishment is very different from corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is the use of physical force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain but not injury for the purposes of correction or control of the child's behavior (Gershoff, 2002). Behavior change strategies based on negative punishment involve taking away a desirable stimulus after a behavior occurs.
Punishment has occurred when a response is followed immediately by a stimulus change to decrease the future frequency of the behavior. Positive punishment aids in the decrease in the problem behavior. Reprimand is one of the most common forms of positive punishments. A firm "No" or "Stop" delivered immediately on the occurrence of an undesirable behavior will significantly reduce the chance of the behavior being repeated in the future.
Verbal praise is a form of positive punishment. In a study using 2 ½ to 7-year-olds praise was used to reward compliance by the parents in the home (Owen, 2012). ...