Most behaviourists define Punishment based on the impact it creates on behaviour: it reduces the frequency with which the response is followed. There are two types of Punishment. Punishment entails the administration of an aversive stimulus, such as a reprimand or a failing grade. Punishment II entails the removal of a pleasant stimulus; examples include monetary fines for misbehaviour and loss of privileges.
Many people use the term "negative reinforcement" when they mean "punishment." Although both phenomena involve aversive stimuli, they differ in two critical ways. For starters, as you can see, they have opposing effects: Negative reinforcement increases response frequency while Punishment decreases it. A second critical distinction concerns the sequence of events. In the case of negative reinforcement, the aversive stimulus ceases when the response is released.
In Punishment, however, the aversive stimulus begins when the response is generated.
Thorndike (1932a, 1932b) and Skinner (1938) found that Punishment was unlikely to reduce the behaviour it induced. Skinner (1938), for example, discovered that when rats were punished for a previously reinforced response, the response was temporarily suppressed but quickly returned to its pre-punishment frequency. However, subsequent research revealed that Punishment could be effective in various situations. As a result, many behaviourists have reincarnated Thorndike's original law of effect's "punishment" component, asserting that responses triggered by an unpleasant state of affairs are diminished.
Punishment frequently has a rapid effect on behaviour. In one study, Punishment virtually eliminated aggressive behaviour in 7-year-old Andrea, who was deaf. Andrea initially pinched and bit herself and also anyone who interacted with her. The frequency of this behaviour was high, and on regular school days, more than 72 times, making her schooling challenging for her and the people interacting with her. To eliminate this behaviour, her teacher, whenever Andrea pinched or bit her, pointed sternly at her and shouted, "No!" Even though Andrea was deaf, the shouting and pointing silenced her.
Punishment in various forms is proven effective in eradicating inappropriate behaviour in children and adolescents. Three of them—verbal reprimands, restitution, and overcorrection—involve the imposition of presumably unpleasant consequences and thus are Punishment examples. Three others, time-out, in-house suspension, and response cost, all involve the withdrawal of reinforcers and thus are Punishment II examples.
Reprimands verbally Although some students find any form of teacher attention to be reinforcing, most students (including Andrea) view a verbal reprimand—a scolding or admonishment—as Punishment. Reprimands are most effective when they are immediate, brief, and emotionless. They also work best when said quietly and close to the person being punished, possibly because they are less likely to draw the attention of peers. A reprimand, ideally, should also convey that the individual is capable of better behaviour.
Overcorrection and restitution
Restitution and overcorrection entail requiring students to take actions that correct the consequences of their mistakes. In restitution, a misbehaving individual must restore the environment to its state prior to the misbehaviour. For example, a child who breaks a window must purchase a new one, and a child who causes chaos must start cleaning up.
Restitution is an example of a logical outcome in which the Punishment is directly proportional to the wrongdoing.
The punished individual must make things better than before the inappropriate behaviour in the case of restitution overcorrection (Foxx & Azrin, 1973; Foxx & Bechtel, 1983; Rusch & Close, 1976). For example, a student who throws food in the lunchroom may be required to mop the entire lunchroom floor, or a student who offends a classmate may be required to apologize to the entire class.
Positive-practice overcorrection entails having a person repeat an action, but this time doing it correctly. For example, a student who runs around the school causing danger for themself or fellow students must ask to back up and walk down the hall properly. Similarly, a driver's education student who fails to stop at a stop sign may be instructed to drive around the block, return to the same intersection, and come to a complete stop (perhaps counting aloud to five) before continuing.
A time-out involves placing a poorly behaved person in a dull, tedious (but not frightening) environment, such as a separate room designated for time-outs, a seldom-used office, or a remote corner of a classroom. A person in time-out cannot interact with others or receive reinforcement. The key to effectively using time-out is that the inappropriate behaviour must cease before the person is set to release from the time-out circumstance; thus, discharge from time-out (a negative reinforcer) is conditional on appropriate behaviour.
In-house suspension at school is similar to time-out in that punished students are placed in a quiet, dull room within the school building. However, rather than only a few minutes, it usually lasts one or more days, with students being constantly monitored by a school staff member. Students must bring their schoolwork to the suspension room and complete classroom assignments quietly. As a result, they have few opportunities for social interaction with peers that many find reinforcing, and they must stay caught up in academic subjects they dislike.
The withdrawal of a previously earned reinforcer is the response cost. Two examples are a speeding ticket (resulting in a fine) and the loss of earned points or privileges. Response cost reduces misbehaviours such as aggression, inappropriate language, disruptiveness, and hyperactivity.