What are some examples of positive punishment?

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In this blog we will discuss some examples of positive punishment.

We will also briefly explore what positive punishment is, what operant conditioning is, the components of operant conditioning, and its applications.

What are some examples of positive punishment?

Here are some examples of common positive punishments:

  • Scolding someone or reprimanding them when they do something that should not have been done. 
  • Getting burned when you touch a hot stove or a hot surface.
  • Slapping someone’s hand when they try to take something that should not be taken. 
  • Someone getting fired for not getting the job done. 
  • Getting restrictive rules in place when someone does something wrong such as being given a curfew.
  • Getting arrested for breaking the law. 
  • Verbally scolding your dog when they do something wrong like chewing shoes.
  • Spanking, a controversial parenting approach, to correct children’s behavior. 

Positive punishment refers to any unfavorable outcome to a behavior that is considered negative or undesirable and it is done with the objective of decreasing that unfavorable or undesirable behavior.

Oftentimes, positive punishment can simply be a natural consequence of something that should not be done, for example, a child eats an excessive amount of chocolate and gets a stomach ache- the stomach ache is a positive punishment which should prevent the child from doing the same behavior again. 

Positive punishments are unpleasant outcomes and serve as a tool to correct behavior because at the end of the day, it is natural to avoid these unpleasant consequences to one’s behavior. 

For example, a cow might avoid the electric fence after getting electrocuted a couple of times or even once. So this stops them from going close to the fence and in effect leaving their designated grazing area.

These positive punishments are most effective when they follow unwanted behavior immediately and constantly. Meaning that every time the cow toques the fence, they are electrocuted immediately and consistently. 

What is positive punishment?

Positive punishment is a concept that was developed by B.F. Skinner in his theory of behaviorism called Operant conditioning. 

According to this theory, Positive punishment involves presenting any unfavorable outcome to a behavior that is considered negative or undesirable and it is done with the objective of decreasing that unfavorable or undesirable behavior.

For example, if the subject or the individual does something that is unwanted- like a cow trying to cross the fence- a negative outcome is applied- the electrical shock that comes when it is touched. 

Positive punishment is a tool that is aimed to change behavior or modify behavior and it involves adding a negative or unpleasant consequence to the action that is discouraged- hence the word positive (to add).

What is operant conditioning?

Operant conditioning, also known as instrumental conditioning, is a concept of learning that was developed by behavioral theorist B.F. Skinner.

According to this theory, consequences of the behavior is what determines the likelihood that it will happen again. Skinner theorized that when a certain behavior is reinforced or rewarded, it is likely to happen again as opposed to when it is punished where the behavior will less likely occur. 

This particular theory developed because Skinner believed that classical conditions did not explain complex human behaviors and that one of the ways to understand human behaviors that are complex is by overserving the action and the consequences and how they influence each other. 

According to BF Skinner there are two different types of behaviors-and Respondent behavior and Operant behaviors. 

Respondent behaviors are those that occur as a reflex such as pulling your hand back from a hot stove. These behaviors are not learned and occur automatically whereas operant behaviors are those that are under our control and can occur purposely.

However, according to Skinner, these operant behaviors and their occurrences depend on the consequences of these actions and it is the consequences that determine whether they will occur again or not. 

Operant conditioning takes into consideration these operant behaviors and the various components that form the key concepts of operant conditioning as a whole. 

These key concepts in operant conditioning include:

Reinforcements

Reinforcement which refers to any consequence of a behavior that strengthens the behavior or increases the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. There are two kinds of reinforcements: Positive reinforcements and Negative reinforcement.

  • Positive reinforcements are outcomes or consequences of a behavior that are desirable or favorable, For example, getting praised for a certain behavior or getting a promotion or a reward for one’s efforts at work.
  • Negative reinforcement involves the removal of something that is warranted as unfavorable or that an unwanted outcome is removed after the behavior. Here, the behavior is strengthened because something unpleasant is removed which is considered a positive by the individual doing the behavior. For example, a child cleaning their room inorder to avoid parents yelling at them. 

Punishments

Punishment  refers to the adverse or unwanted consequences of a behavior that most likely decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. 

There are two kinds of punishment: Positive and Negative punishments.

  • Positive punishment where there is an unfavorable outcome to a behavior that is unwanted in order to weaken the behavior or decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For example, Spanking for misbehavior.
  • Negative punishment where a favorable outcome is removed after an unwanted behavior in order to weaken the behavior or decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For example, taking away the child’s freedom by grounding them after failing a test.

Reinforcement Schedules

Now another concept that is part of the Operant Conditioning theory is reinforcement Schedules

Skinner observed that there are a number of factors that can influence how new behaviors are learned and how this learning is maintained. 

He observed that how and when the reinforcement is applied also plays a huge role on how fast the behavior is learned and how long this learning is maintained. 

So he determined various kinds of timing and frequency of reinforcement that impact the conditioning process and he called these schedules as schedules of reinforcement. The various schedules include:

  • Continuous reinforcement where there is a reinforcer every time a desirable behavior occurs. In this kind of schedule, learning occurs quickly but is not maintained for long after the reinforcement stops. 
  • Fixed-ratio schedules where the desirable behavior is reinforced only after a specific number of responses have occurred. This is a type of partial reinforcement. Fr example, a dog is reinforced only after five times of sitting down on command. This type of schedule leads to steady maintenance and response rate. 
  • Fixed-interval schedules is when the behavior is reinforced only after a certain interval of time has elapsed. In this kind of reinforcement, the maintenance rate is steady and heavoorus increases as time for reidncement draws closer but decreases after the time elapses. 
  • Variable-ratio schedules is where the reinforcement is given after a number of responses and is linked to high rates and lower extinction rate of the behavior.
  • Variable-interval schedule involves reinforcing the behavior after differing amounts of time. This type of schedule leads to a fast response rate and one of the slowest extinction rates.

What are the applications of Operant conditioning?

The application of operant conditioning can be observed in therapeutic settings as well as other institutional settings where there is effort being made to change behaviors. Some of the applications include:

Behavior Modification where external forces are changed with respect to the behavior. For example, reinforcing or punishing behaviors to change.

This can include either reinforcing the behavior with primary and secondary bebopr or using punishment instead. Techniques that apply operant conditioning include:

  • Token economy where the targeted behaviors are reinforced with tokens and these tokens are later exchanged for rewards.

Tokens can be in the form of fake money, buttons, poker chips, stickers, or stars etc. and these form the secondary rewards which are then exchanged for primary rewards such as privileges, activities, snacks etc. 

For example, a child works for four weeks on chores and at the end of each week is given a star. The child then exchanges these four stars at the end of the four weeks for a privilege such as going out to the movies. 

  • Another technique is Behavior Shaping where the behavior is shaped using successive approximations where the behavior is changed through a series of rewards and punishments to encourage gradual movement towards desired behavior. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed some examples of positive punishment.

We have also briefly explored what positive punishment is, what operant conditioning is, the components of operant conditioning, and its applications.

What is an example of negative punishment?

Negative punishment where a favorable outcome is removed after an unwanted behavior in order to weaken the behavior or decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For example, taking away the child’s freedom by grounding them after failing a test.

Is detention a positive punishment?

Detention is more of a negative punishment where a favorable outcome is removed after an unwanted behavior in order to weaken the behavior or decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again.

In detention, the child’s freedom is taken away hence, something positive or desired is removed. 

What is positive punishment?

Positive punishment where there is an unfavorable outcome to a behavior that is unwanted in order to weaken the behavior or decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For example, Spanking for misbehavior.

What is operant conditioning with an example?

Operant conditioning, also known as instrumental conditioning, is a concept of learning that was developed by behavioral theorist B.F. Skinner.

According to this theory, consequences of the behavior is what determines the likelihood that it will happen again. Skinner theorized that when a certain behavior is reinforced or rewarded, it is likely to happen again as opposed to when it is punished where the behavior will less likely occur. 

For example, a child works for four weeks on chores and at the end of each week is given a star. The child then exchanges these four stars at the end of the four weeks for a privilege such as going out to the movies. 

What are the 4 types of operant conditioning?

Operant conditioning takes into consideration these operant behaviors and the various components that form the key concepts of operant conditioning as a whole. 

These key concepts in operant conditioning include:

  • Positive reinforcements are outcomes or consequences of a behavior that are desirable or favorable, For example, getting praised for a certain behavior or getting a promotion or a reward for one’s efforts at work.
  • Negative reinforcement involves the removal of something that is warranted as unfavorable or that an unwanted outcome is removed after the behavior. For example, a child cleaning their room inorder to avoid parents yelling at them. 
  • Positive punishment where there is an unfavorable outcome to a behavior that is unwanted in order to weaken the behavior or decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For example, Spanking for misbehavior.
  • Negative punishment where a favorable outcome is removed after an unwanted behavior in order to weaken the behavior or decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For example, taking away the child’s freedom by grounding them after failing a test.

References

Cherry.K.What Is Operant Conditioning and How Does It Work? Verywellmind. Retired on 20th Feb 2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/operant-conditioning-a2-2794863#toc-types-of-behaviors

McLeod. S. What Is Operant Conditioning and How Does It Work? Simple Psychology. Retrieved on 20th Feb 2022. https://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html

 Pietrangelo.A. What Is Positive Punishment? Healthline. Retrieved on 20th Feb 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/positive-punishment

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