Problems & Principles for Effective
Punishment is often misused, probably
because it is viewed at retribution for a "crime". Just because it is
often misused doesn't mean it has to be. For formal definitions of some of the
concepts used on this page, see Confusing
Consequences: A Brief Introduction to Operant
problems with the use of punishment include:
effects may only be temporary.
This is more of a problem when
the aversive stimulus used is mild.
is not as clear of a source of information as is reinforcement.
Reinforcement provides the
organism with more information than does punishment. Reinforcement tells
the animal "what you did is good", while punishment tells the
animal "stop that".
may lead to escape, avoidance, aggression, & other negative emotional
The mechanism by which this
occurs is called classical conditioning.
principles for the effective use of positive punishment include:
must be prompt.
It should follow the
occurrence of the undesired behavior
must be consistent.
It should occur each and every time the undesired behavior
alternative behavior should be made available
which can be reinforced.
The purpose here is to
overcome the problem of punishment not being as good of a source of
information as is reinforcement.
times a conditioned punisher should be used.
A conditioned punisher is a
word (exs. "eheh",
"no", or "wrong") and/or body posture (exs. a frown and/or stiffening of the body) that
predicts that punishment will occur if the offending behavior
continues. This eventually becomes an informational signal can reduce the
need for actual punishment.
1996-99, Marty Plonsky, Ph.D.† email@example.com.† All
rights reserved.† Please view his site Dr. Pís Dog Training.