Punishment Theories Of In the

context of operant conditioning (i.e., learning from consequences), the term reinforcement refers to an increase in the frequency of a behavior, whereas the term punishment denotes a decrease in the frequency of a behavior. One way that punishment may be administered, called positive punishment, is via the application of some aversive stimulus (e.g., give a spanking, an electric shock, etc.) contingent on the occurrence of a particular behavior. Another method, called negative punishment, for decreasing a particular behavior is the elimination or removal of a desired stimulus (e.g., take away TV/movie privileges, etc.) contingent on the occurrence of the behavior. It is useful to distinguish between the terms punishment (i.e., the procedure or process) andpunisher (i.e., the thing or stimulus used in decreasing a given behavior). The punishing stimulus itself may be short in duration, simple to administer, and well defined (as in most laboratory studies where electric shock is used), but it may also be an extended, complex event (as in cases where society incarcerates a legal offender). Punishers may be given, also, for the performance of some response (e.g., for a rat that presses the "wrong" bar) or for the nonperformance of a response (e.g., a rat's failure to press the bar). The term punishment is confused, often, by the layperson with the term negative reinforcement: correct usage has the former term referring to a decrease in behavior, whereas the latter term refers to an increase in behavior due to the removal of an aversive stimulus. A number and variety of theories have been proposed to account for the fact that punishment and aver-sive stimuli change an organism's behavior. An early theory by E. L. Thorndike holds that a punishing stimulus that is contingent on a response simply decreases the strength of that stimulus-response connection. However, contemporary theories stress both the contribution of an emotional state (e.g., fear) elicited by the noxious stimulus and the learning of avoidance responses that interfere with a previously learned response. Another theoretical position, the two-stage process theory of O. H. Mowrer assumes that the response followed by punishment produces certain internal and external stimuli that, by virtue of their contiguity with the aversive stimulus, acquire the capacity to arouse fear (cf., the single-factor theory of W. Estes). According to Mowrer's theory, two learning processes are involved: fear conditioning via classical conditioning, and the subsequent learning of an instrumental response that eliminates or controls the fear. Another theory of punishment is J. Dins-moor's avoidance hypothesis, which explains the reduction in the frequency of the punished behavior in terms of simple stimulus-response principles of avoidance learning (cf., incubation of avoidance theory - states that avoidance learning requires a consolidation period, or incubation, before it becomes grounded in memory; this theory was formulated based on evidence of a delayed feature in conditioning of experimental animals exposed to electro-convulsive shock/stimulation). The avoidance learning theory holds that there is an interference between the behaviors where punished behaviors decrease and are suppressed because of an increase in other behaviors that compete with the punished response (cf., insufficient deterrence hypothesis - posits that the severity of a minimally sufficient deterrent is inversely related to the degree of internali-zation of the prohibition: the milder the threatened punishment, the more likely that the prohibitions will be internalized, assuming the person stops performing the forbidden behavior). Current thinking on how effective a given punishment situation is depends on various factors, such as the characteristics of the punishing stimulus, the desire to merely suppress an undesirable behavior temporarily or to eliminate it permanently, the specific behavior being punished, and the particular individual being punished. See also ESTES' STIMULUS SAMPLING THEORY; LEARNING THEORIES/LAWS; MOW-RER'S THEORY; REINFORCEMENT THEORY; SKINNER'S DESCRIPTIVE BEHAV-IOR/OPERANT CONDITIONING THEORY.

Conquering Fear In The 21th Century

Conquering Fear In The 21th Century

The Ultimate Guide To Overcoming Fear And Getting Breakthroughs. Fear is without doubt among the strongest and most influential emotional responses we have, and it may act as both a protective and destructive force depending upon the situation.

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