We have heard the cliché spare the rod, spoil the child perhaps one too many times. This line often associated with the principle of punishment. Many believe that the punishment is an effective way to rectify bad behavior because it imprints the intensity of the punishment within the mindset of the individual. However, critics of the use of punishment argues that it does not address the core of the problem but rather leave a very superficial implication which can eventually fade over time because of the person has grown immune of the punishment. This paper argues that the punishment is not effective in the sense that conditioning impairs the purpose of using this method to rectify a bad behavior. In addition, punishment is an inhumane way of trying to correct misconduct.
Advocates of the use of punishment use the theory on Operant Conditioning to justify the effectiveness of this method to rectify a wrong behavior. The theory on operant conditioning requires frequent exposure using intense stimulus to create an impression that an antecedent would result to a particular consequence (Baum, 2012). Specific example of which could be a child caught shoplifting. The use of punishment might involve posting the child’s picture within the premises of the establishment with a caption that states what he has done. In this case, the child has been badly humiliated and can experience being ostracized because of shoplifting. Advocates of punishment would defend this by suggesting that because of the humiliation that the child went through, he will no longer commit the same behavior.
However, oppositions are raised regarding violating this child’s right by imposing such harsh punishment. Opponents of this method argue that the punishment has to be intense for imprinting to materialize. Therefore, the intensity might involve a degree of humiliation or intense pain that is not necessary. There is no exact guarantee that this action would prevent the child from doing the same crime again. Punishment is not a deterrent for crime or misdemeanor because it does not address the core of the problem (Carver & White, 1994). The child might have shoplifted because of poverty or for some other reason apart from defiance of the law. In this case, punishment is not effective because after the incident, the child is still poor, and he might again be a force into committing the same act simply for survival.
In the end, we can arrive at a conclusion that punishment does not exactly work in all circumstances. Operant conditioning might not be an effective solution to combat misdemeanor because the root of the problem still exist even after the consequence of the action has taken effect or materialized.
Baum, W. (2012). Rethinking reinforcement: Allocation, induction and contingence. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior , 101-124 .
Carver, C., & White, T. (1994). Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: The BIS/BAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 319-333.
The response of the author with regards to the question coming from a secondary source. While everything specified in the response based on substantial facts and evidences, it failed to capitalize whether the use of punishment addresses the core of the problem. The response focuses on the fact that punishment “decreases” the possibility of recurrence, but not totally eliminates or deters the occurrence of the misbehavior as mentioned by Lerman and Vorndran (2002). The goal of punishment is not to decrease or lessen the occurrence of misbehavior. Rather it aims completely to deter the incidence of the act being committed again. In this case, punishment is ineffective if it only lessens the incidence, but the possibility of it being committed again still exist. On a lighter note, the presentation gave a very descriptive and visual understanding of how punishment generally operates. The specific and the concise use of words make it easier to understand the concept of punishment.
The response also failed to address the moral and ethical basis of punishment. It fails to present the moral ramifications that punishment can bring to the individual and to the society. The author did not fully explain the concept of reinforcement and the degree of how to use the reinforcement in trying to rectify the bad behavior. In the same way, the response mentioned about positive reinforcement which does not exactly relate with punishment (Shaw and Simms). The student’s response included a citation from Chance suggesting that punishment is “a decrease in the strength of behavior due to its consequences” (p.232). However, the line has not been properly supported by an explanation of how punishment is able to accomplish such a result.
There was nothing wrong with the answer since it uses the proper citations and references. However, the point of the matter is that the approach has been one sided. The response failed to explain the important terminologies and principles.
Chance, P. (2014) Learning & Behavior (7th Edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Lerman, D. C., & Vorndran, C. M. (2002). On the status of knowledge for using punishment:Implications for treating behavior disorders. The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 35, 431–464
Shaw, R., & Simms, T. (2009). Reducing attention-maintained behavior through the use of positive punishment differential reinforcement of low rates, and response marking. Behavioral Interventions, 24 (4), 249-263