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Chapter 9 - Motivational Strategies ____________________________________________________

Punishment ______________________________________________

From the discussion of positive and negative reinforcement, you learned that both types of reinforcement strengthen a behavior. In contrast, the effect of punishment is usually to weaken or extinguish a behavior. In the operant conditioning context, punishment refers to a consequence that decreases the likelihood that a behavior will occur. For example, a child plays with an attractive matchbox and gets burned (punished) when one of the matches is lit. In the future, the child is less likely to play with matches. If a student interrupts the teacher and the teacher verbally reprimands the student, the student subsequently stops interrupting the teacher. So, punishment is not to be confused Coaches tend to use punishment a lot more than they with negative reinforcement, in which a use positive reinforcement. response increases because of its consequences. Perhaps the following example should help you distinguish between negative reinforcement and punishment. When an alcoholic consumes liquor to alleviate uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, the probability that the person will use alcohol in the future increases. The reduction of the withdrawal symptoms is a negative reinforcer for drinking. But if an inebriated alcoholic is seriously injured in a car wreck and subsequently drinks less, the incident served as punishment because drinking subsequently decreased. Again, it is important to note that negative reinforcement is not the same as punishment. Punishment refers to a stimulus that decreases the probability that a prior behavior will occur again. Unlike negative reinforcement, which produces an increase in behavior, punishment reduces the likelihood of a prior response. If we receive a shock that is meant to decrease a certain behavior, then, we are receiving punishment. But if we are already receiving a shock and do something to stop that shock, the behavior that stops the shock is considered to be negatively reinforced. In the first case, the specific behavior is apt to decrease because of the punishment. In the second, it is likely to increase because of the negative reinforcement. The positive/negative distinction also can be applied to punishment, although it is not used as widely as in reinforcement. In positive punishment, a behavior decreases when it is followed by an unpleasant stimulus. In negative punishment, a behavior decreases when a positive stimulus is removed. For example, a time-out of play is a form of negative punishment in which an athlete is removed from a positive reinforcement. If an athlete is disrupting the team cohesion, the coach might put him on the bench or send him to the locker room. The distinctions between the two types of punishment, as well as positive and negative reinforcement, might seem confusing initially, but the following rules can help you to distinguish these concepts from one another: 1. Reinforcement increases the frequency of the behavior preceding it. 2. Punishment decreases the frequency of the behavior preceding it. 3. The application of a positive stimulus brings about an increase in the frequency of behavior and is referred to as positive reinforcement. 4. The application of a negative stimulus decreases or reduces the frequency of behavior and is called positive punishment. 5. The removal of a negative stimulus that results in an increase in the frequency of behavior is termed negative reinforcement. 6. The removal of a positive stimulus that decreases the frequency of behavior is called negative

Negative reinforcement is not the same as punishment.

Chapter 9 - Motivational Strategies ____________________________________________________


The Pros and Cons of Punishment: Why Reinforcement Beats Punishment _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Is punishment an effective way to modify behavior? Punishment often presents the quickest route to changing behavior that, if allowed to continue, might be dangerous to an individual. For instance, a parent might not have a second chance to warn a child not to run into a busy street, so punishing the first incidence of this behavior might prove to be wise. Moreover, the use of punishment to suppress behavior, even temporarily, provides the opportunity to reinforce a person for subsequently behaving in a more desirable way. There are some rare instances in which punishment can be the most humane approach to treating certain severe disorders. For example, some children suffer from autism, a psychological disorder that can lead them to abuse themselves by tearing at their skin or banging their heads against the wall, injuring themselves severely in the process. In such cases and when all other treatments have failed, punishment in the form of a quick but intense electric shock has been used to prevent self-injurious behavior. Such punishment, however, is used only to keep the child safe and to buy time until positive reinforcement procedures can be initiated. Several disadvantages make the routine use of punishment questionable. For one thing, punishment is frequently ineffective, particularly if it is not delivered shortly after the undesired behavior or if the individual is able to leave the setting in which the punishment is being given. An athlete who is reprimanded by the coach might quit the team, a ballplayer who is benched for inappropriate behavior may perform poorly the next time out on purpose to get back at his coach. In such instances, the initial behavior that is being punished might be replaced by one that is even less desirable. Even worse, physical punishment can convey to the recipient the idea that physical aggression is permissible and perhaps even desirable. A coach who yells at and hits his players (Bobby Knight comes to mind) for misbehaving, teaches his players that aggression is an appropriate, adult response. The players might soon copy their coachâ€&#x;s behavior by acting aggressively toward others. In addition, physical punishment is often administered by people who are themselves angry or enraged. It is unlikely that individuals in such an emotional state will be able to think through what they are doing or control carefully the degree of punishment they are inflicting. Ultimately, those who resort to physical punishment run the risk that they will grow to be feared. Punishment can also reduce the self-esteem of recipients unless they can understand the reasons for it. There is also the possibility that when you punish someone, you could hurt them either physically or psychologically. And there is also the possibility that if you punish someone, they could retaliate physically or psychologically. Punishment does not convey any information about what an alternative, more appropriate behavior might be. To be useful in bringing about more desirable behavior in the future, punishment must be accompanied by specific information about the behavior that is being punished, along with specific suggestions concerning a more desirable behavior. Punishing an athlete for staring at the crowd while he is sitting on the bench waiting to get in the game could merely lead him to stair at the cheerleaders instead. Unless we teach him appropriate ways to respond, we have merely managed to substitute one undesirable behavior for another. If punishment is not followed up with reinforcement for subsequent behavior that is more appropriate, little will be accomplished. It might also be noted that many coaches associate punishment of athletes with yelling at them or fining them. All too often, though, aversive stimuli like these do not do what they are intended to do‌namely, decrease an unwanted behavior. Some coaches turn too quickly to aversive stimuli‌perhaps because they were harshly disciplined when they were playing and they are just repeating how their coaches dealt with them, because they have developed a style of handing stress by yelling or

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screaming, because they feel they can effectively exercise power over their athletes charges, or because they are unaware of how positive rein forcement or other techniques, such as shaping, can be used to improve athletic performance and/or behavior. In short, reinforcing desired behavior is a more appropriate technique for modifying behavior than using punishment. Both in and out of the sports arena, then, reinforcement is usually better than punishment.

Timing, Reinforcement, and Punishment _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How does timing of reinforcement and punishment influence behavior? And does it matt er whether the reinforcement is small or large? Inquiring minds what to know…and so do you if you want a grade in here.

- Immediate Reinforcement and Delayed Reinforcement As is the case with classical conditioning, learning is more efficient in operant conditioning when the interval between a behavior and its reinforcement is a few seconds rather than minutes or hours, especially in lower animals. If a food reward is delayed for more than 30 seconds after a rat presses a bar, it is virtually ineffective as reinforcement. However, humans have the ability to respond to delayed reinforcers. Sometimes, the question is whether to obtain a small immediate reinforcer or to wait for a delayed but more highly valued reinforcer. For example, you can spend your money now on clothes, trinkets, parties, and the like, or you can save your money and buy a house and car later. You might play around now and enjoy yourself in return for immediate small reinforcers, or you can study hard over the long haul for delayed intermediate and long term stronger reinforcers such as good grades, a scholarship to graduate school, and a better job. The same is true in sports. You can party, eat improperly, and drink, or you can train hard over the long haul for delayed intermediate and long term reinforcers such as greater skill and greater athletic opportunities.

- Immediate Punishment and Delayed Punishment As with reinforcement, in most instances of research with lower animals, immediate punishment is more effective than delayed punishment in decreasing the occurrence of a behavior. However, also as with reinforcement, delayed punishment can have an effect on human behavior. Why do so many of us postpone such activities as going to the dentist, scheduling minor surgery, or payin g campus parking fines? If we act immediately, we experience a weak punisher…it hurts to have our Teeth drilled, it is painful to have minor surgery, and it is not pleasurable to pay a campus parking fine. However, the delayed consequences can be more punishing…our teeth might fall out, we may need major surgery, and our car might be towed away or we might be thrown in jail if we delay paying a campus parking fine…Paris Hilton comes to mind. Actually, she seems to come to mind a lot!!!

- Immediate and Delayed Reinforcement and Punishment How does receiving immediate small reinforcement versus delayed strong punishment affect human behavior? One reason that obesity is such a major health problem is that eating is a behavior with immediate positive consequences (food tastes great and quickly provides a pleasurable feeling) and potential delayed negative consequences (obesity and other possible health risks). When the delayed consequences of behavior are punishing and the immediate consequences are reinforcing, the immediate consequences usually win…even when the immediate consequences are minor reinforcers

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and the delayed consequences are major punishers. Smoking and drinking follow a similar pattern. The immediate consequences of smoking are reinforcing for most smokers…a powerful combination of positive reinforcement (tension relief, energy boost) and negative reinforcement (removal of craving). The punishing aspects of smoking are primarily long term such as shortness of breath, sore throat, coughing, emphysema, heart disease, and cancer. Likewise, the immediate pleasurable consequences of drinking override the delayed consequences of a hangover or even alcoholism. Now think about the reverse situation, when the initial consequences of a behavior are punishing and the delayed consequences are reinforcing. Why are some of us so reluctant to take up a new sport, try a new dance step, go to a social gathering, or do almost anything different? One reason is that learning new skills often involves minor punishing consequences such as initially looking and feeling stupid, not knowing what to do, having to put up with sarcastic comments from onlookers, and so on. In these circumstances, reinforcing conse quences are often delayed. For example, it may take a long lime to become a good enough golfer or a good enough dancer to enjoy these activities.

Shaping ________________________________________

When a behavior takes time to occur, the learning process in operant conditioning can be shortened by rewarding an approximation of the desired behavior. Shaping is the process of rewarding approximations of desired behavior. In one situation, parents used shaping to toilet train their 2 year old son. The parents knew all too well that the grunting sound the child made signaled he was about to fill his diaper. In the first week, they gave him candy if they heard the sound within 20 feet of the bathroom. In the second week he was given candy only if he grunted within 10 feet of the bathroom. In the third week only if he was in the bathroom. The fourth week, he had to use the toilet to get the candy. It worked! Now I get candy only when I use the toilet. Seriously though, that is basically the processed used in shaping. As you might have imagined, shaping is extensively used in training animals. For example, shaping can be used to train a rat to press a bar to obtain food. When a rat is first placed in a Skinner box, it rarely presses the bar. Thus, the experimenter may start off by giving the rat a food pellet if it is in the same half of the cage as the bar. Then, the Shaping is also used to train rat‟s behavior might be rewarded only when it is within 2 inches of the animals to perform tricks. bar, then only when it touches the bar, and finally only when it presses the bar. Shaping is also used to train animals to perform tricks. A dolphin that jumps through a hoop held high above the water has been trained to perform this behavior through shaping. You can use shaping to teach a dog tricks. For example, say that you want to teach a dog to “shake hands” with you. You first speak the command to “shake” and wait until the dog moves one of its forepaws a little bit (oper ant behavior). Following this behavior, you give your dog a food treat (consequence). After requiring increasingly closer approximations to shaking your hand, the dog finally performs the desired behavior to the verbal command “shake.” This may interest you. In my introduction psychology class at the University of Georgia, each of the students in the class were required to use “shaping” to teach a mouse to perform some type of skill. What we would do is starve our mouse half to death and use food to reinforce the behavior we wanted. Of course, with food as the reinforcer, we could only work with our mouse for about twenty minutes before he was satiated. We would have to wait for a few hours until he was starving again before we could work with him. Most of the students would spend the entire semester trying to teach their mouse some simple skill like running a stupid little maze. Well, do you know what I got my mouse to do? I had him start off upstairs in a bed in this little dollhouse. Then, I had an alarm clock go off. The mouse would get out of bed, run down stairs, and go over to a little tape deck. He would push the start button and the Star Spangle Banner would begin to play. He would run outside to a little flagpole, pull up the American flag, and stand at attention until the Star Spangle Banner was over. Then, he would take the flag back down, run back into the house, back upstairs, and back into bed. When the rest of my classmates and my teacher saw that they freaked out. They couldn‟t believe I did

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that in one semester. How did I do it? Well, I cheated kind of, sort of. I got a friend of mine, Dr. Arny Ferrando, who was doing animal experiments with electrical stimulation of the brain. I had him implant an electrode in the pleasure center of a mouse‟s brain that I could activate with an electrical stimulator. Every time I pressed the remote control, the mouse would experience extreme euphoria…kind of like an orgasm. At least that is the way Arny described what the mouse was experiencing when I pressed the stimulator. I always wondered how he knew that. Anywho, you know what some guys will do for an orgasm…well, mice will do about the same thing only more so. With the electrode in my mouse‟s brain, I could work with him for hours on end. I couldn‟t tire the darn thing out. Within less than a month, I had accomplished something that would have taken my classmates a year or more to achieve. Shaping can also be used effectively with human beings. For instance, suppose a teacher has a student who has never completed more than 50 percent of her math assignments. The teacher sets the target behavior at 100 percent, but rewards her for successive approximations to the target. The teacher initially might provide a reward (some type of privilege for example) when she completes Shaping can be especially helpful for 70 percent, then 80, then 90, and finally 100 percent. learning sports skills. Shaping can be especially helpful for learning sports skills that require time and persistence to complete.


Coaches tend to use punishment a lot more than they use positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is not the same as punishment. Chapte...