Punishment is a learning theory aimed at reducing the probability of an unwanted response in presenting an unpleasant stimulus or removing a pleasant one. In depth studies, of history, conditioned stimuli, reinforcement and punishment schedule, magnitude, immediacy, and stimulus control regarding punishment, have proven them to be important factors in determining the success rate. However, further research has revealed possible side effects of such treatment and a minimal efficacy in regards to criminal punishment used by the justice system.
Nevertheless it is believed that punishment is still a viable option in suppressing unwanted behaviour under certain circumstances and after careful consideration of the factors in play. Punishment is a reduction of the likelihood of a specific response in presenting an immediate delivery of an unpleasant stimulus or the removal of a pleasant one (Bernstein, Penner, Clarke-Stewart, & Roy, 2006; Lieberman, 2000). This approach is that of operant conditioning where an organism responds to its environment in order to minimize the stimulation by ceasing the unwanted behaviour (Azrin & Holz, 1966).
Due to moral and ethical issues in regards of using punishment to treat behavioural problems, experiments conducted have been largely on animals because of the reluctance to use severe punishments in human subjects and with animals, a more controlled setting can also be achieved (Lieberman, 2000). However, some studies successful in animals have been further developed into human subjects to test a more precise efficacy factor, such that conducted by Aronfreed (1968) in children and by Sherman (1993) in criminals. Several parameters need to be considered for punishment to be successfully applied to produce maximal efficacy.
This essay will explore the factors of history, conditioned stimulus, schedule, magnitude, immediacy, and generalization, as well as the side effects of punishment in animal and human studies. Furthermore, studies in criminals will be compared as a separate entity to further conclude in whether punishment is a valid option. Factors associated to the administration of punishment Numerous studies have concluded that the manner in which the stimulus is administered is a crucial basis in the overall efficacy of punishment (Azrin & Holz, 1966).
Each factor will be discussed in detail as to its effects in relation to punishment. History In a clinical population, prior exposure to some learning histories is common and therefore must be put into consideration when the exposure may alter the response during punishment (Lerman & Vorndran, 2002). Studies conducted on rats by Halevy, Feldon, and Weiner (1987) have shown that those previously partially-reinforced will have an increase resistance to punishment compared with the continuously reinforced group.
Similarly rats which have undergone partial-punishment exhibited a decrease in extinction compared to a continuously reinforced group (Wagner, 1964). Deur and Parke (1970) adapted this study testing 120 children who were measured on their responses in punching a clown figure. Results revealed that those with intermittent reward and punishment training showed an increase resistance in extinction, and also an increase in persistence during continuous punishment in comparison to the continuous reward group.
Since exposure to previous punishment may complicate the success of the treatment, other methods may be needed to put in place to suppress the unwanted behaviour completely such as more intense punishers and alternating between various punishers (Halevy et al. , 1987). Conditioned Stimuli Conditioned stimuli, if associated immediately with the onset of unconditioned punisher, can function to reduce the response and act as the primary conditioned punisher (Hake & Azrin, 1965).
Studies with the presence of a response-contingent stimulus in a shock method using pigeons have shown that the immediate onset of a stimulus after a response can greatly reduce the future response rate (Azrin & Holz, in press, as cited in Hake & Azrin, 1965). Further studies have also depicted that response rate in the absence of the stimulus was reduced, but a greater decrease in response rate is reached with the presence of the stimulus, where for all subjects almost complete suppression of response during a 50-100 voltage stimulus was obtained. (Annau & Kamin, 1961; Mowrer & Solomon, 1954).
Hence, punishment can be more successful with the use of conditioned stimulus as well as an unconditioned punisher to strengthen its stimuli that is continually paired to provide a permanent response (Hake & Azrin, 1965). Reinforcement and punishment schedule Studies on relationship between reinforcement and punishment have concluded that reinforcement schedule is necessary in maintaining sought behaviour (Lerman & Vorndran, 2002). When a variable interval (VI) schedule of reinforcement is used, the responses occur at a stable rate (Fester & Skinner, 2002).
Bradshaw, Szabadi and Bevan (1979) also concluded that variable ratio (VR) produces responses that are much more pronounced than VI reinforcement schedule. Furthermore, when a fixed interval (FI) is used, the number of responses is reduced considerably. Yet, response during a fixed ratio (FR) schedule produces an immediate zero response (Azrin & Holz, 1966). A study in pigeons with their pecking order and shock, reinforces that response was scarcely diminished with FR of every 300th response, while punishment for every response resulted in an immediate and complete suppression of pecking (Azrin, Holz, & Hake, 1963).
Within the same study, Azrin et al. , (1963) concluded that if a punisher follows each “unwanted behaviour”, it will be more effective in reducing the response. Magnitude The magnitude of punishment delivered for responding is a major determinant to the level of response reduction obtained. Azrin (1960) had shown that an initial introduction of low intensity shock of 60 volts or less on pigeons produced only a small response reduction, where the response was also gradually recovered.
Azrin, Holz and Hake (1963) in turn concluded that a high intensity of shock of 80 volts or more has an immediate effect, and irreversibly suppressed the response. Additionally a gradual increase in shock in rats showed that it is ineffective in decreasing a response (Cohen, 1968). Hence, the magnitude of punishment is best at the highest intensity of the minimum level, where the response is able to be suppressed and increase of intensity should be avoided (Lieberman, 2000). Immediacy The delay between a response and its punisher, especially in the natural environment, can easily diminish the efficacy of the punishment.
Earlier research made by Estes (1944) showed a sign where a delayed punishing stimulus compared to an immediate punishing stimulus was not less effective in reducing the response. However, as this study was only conducted for only one hour, a lengthier study made by Azrin (1956) showed that the response quickly recovers during a longer delay of punishment. Hence, an immediate punisher is more effective, if not for the rapid decline in response, but in the complete suppression of response.
Further studies conducted in dogs with food stimulus showed that with a 15 second delay, response suppression can last only three minutes, while in an immediate (0 second) punishment, a much lengthier suppression was produced where they would resist for two weeks (Solomon, Turner, & Lessac, 1968). As studies progressed to researching children, similar conclusions were reached; children who were punished with a two second delay would play with the forbidden toy within less than one minute, while those punished immediately, only half made any attempt to play with the toy after waiting five minutes (Aronfreed, 1968).
Stimulus control Similar conditions during the training and testing of a test subject could produce a stimulus generalisation (Lieberman, 2000), in which the warning stimulus could be associated alongside a punishing stimulus and therefore the warning stimulus itself also play a role in controlling the response (Azrin, 1956). An experiment conducted by Honig and Slivka (1964) with pigeons and key-pecking produced a result where when the wavelength of 550nm is illuminated on the key and the pigeon pecks it, a shock is released.
Results showed that when 530-570nm wavelengths were also illuminated, the pigeon showed response suppression due to generalisation. However, as time progressed the pigeon soon discriminates between the wavelengths and only ceases pecking during the 550nm wavelength. Hence, studies show that stimulus control is important in maintaining specificity of what the unwanted behaviour is, as well as learning similar behaviours that may also not be warranted. Side effects of punishment
So far the focus has been on the considerable factors required to produce maximal punishment efficacy. In addition to deliberation on the overall effectiveness of punishment, the undesirable effects of punishment must also be discussed and weighed against the potential benefits of behavioural control. Aggression Multiple studies aimed at determining aggression as the effects of punishment have not been one hundred percent successful in finding aggression as a valid response to high-intensity punishment.
There are two main forms of aggression, modelled aggression and pain-elicited aggression. Modelled aggression is derived from the punisher itself and therefore the aggression is influenced and directed solely on the punishing stimulus (Delgado, 1963). In human studies, in particular with children, they are highly imitative and a study conducted by Bandura, Ross, and Ross (1963) confirmed this; the children who have witnessed the aggressive actions of a model adult showed more initiative to also attack the doll compared to those who did not witness earlier aggression.
On the other hand pain-elicited aggression is from the notion where animal would attack when in fear or when hurt. A study made by Ulrich and Azrin (1962) showed that under intense voltages of shock, and therefore pain, two rats will push and bite each other as a form of aggression. However, both cases of aggression are also argued to be reducible if an escape route is available. Azrin, Hutchinson and Hake (1966) showed that since a pigeon can use key-pecking as another means of frustration, after a period of time, the level of aggression is reduced. Fear
Fear and anxiety can also result from punishment (Liederman, 2000). A study involving six year old boys concluded that appraisal is more effective than reprimands (Martin, 1977, as cited in Liederman, 2000). The boys were more inclined to select the tasks in which the boys were praised as the experimenter left the room, rather than the tasks where they were reprimanded in. Although the reprimanded tasks were better worked on during the experiment, the fear developed during it caused a drawback affect where the boys did not want to experience once again.
Hence, an incorrect use of punishment can create fear that leads to the deterioration in performance rather than the improvement sought. However, it is believed that both side effects can be reduced by using procedures that minimises the exposure to the punishing stimulus, by instead using more near-complete suppression responses (Lerman & Vorndran, 2002). Punishment in the Justice System To this point punishment has been proven to serve a purpose if various aspects are firstly considered and correctly applied.
However, studies in the current punishment approaches used in the justice system and criminals have developed intense debate and questioning about the success of rehabilitating and deterring offenders from re-offences (Sanson, Montgomery, Gault, Gridley, & Thomson, 1996). From further in depth studies, more factors are required consideration in sanctioning methods. Firstly, consistency and timing is highly important but is often overlooked as many offences within a jail can be undetected (Clarke, Montgomery, & Viney, 1971).
These will be unpunished and those that are may not have the immediacy and therefore the delay lessens the suppressive effects (Aronfreed & Rober, 1965). In both cases, the offender will not be successfully deterred, knowing that they may once again commit the crimes undetected. Secondly, legitimacy is vital as punishment that is seen as fair will result in more respect and compliance with the law (Tyler, 1990, as cited in Sherman, 1993). Thirdly, a close social bond between the offender and the punisher will more likely deter the offence than a distant and impersonal relationship (Porke & Walters, 1967).
Thus, an offender sanctioned by the justice system on behalf of the community will depend on the degree of bonding the offender feels to their community (Scheff & Retzinger, 1991, as cited in Sherman, 1993)). Fourth is the shame and defiance produced by the punishment. If the offender believes that the punishment is legitimate and have a good social bond to the punisher, they are more likely to feel the shame of their misconduct (Sanson et al. , 1996).
Although, under this moral shame the act can be deterred, if they believe it to be illegitimate and they have a bad social bond, they are more likely to act with proud defiance from undeserved shame (Braithwaite, 1989). Two forms of defiance can be developed, with direct defiance is aimed at the punisher, while indirect defiance is displaced and aimed at other people or objects (Sherman, 1993). Conclusion As can be seen throughout the above argument, punishment has been proven to be a viable option in response suppression.
However its efficacy is determined by the previously stated factors that are needed to be appropriately established in order to permanently suppress an unwanted behaviour. When disregarded, the potential outcome may only be temporary or a complete loss of suppression results. Studies have also shown that although the potential benefits outweigh the possible undesirable side effects during punishment treatment, the potential side-effects are still in need of consideration. In addition, although various studies have proven the success of punishment, those conducted in reference to the justice system has shown many drawbacks.
Authors such as Sanson, Montgomery, Gault, Gridley, & Thomson (1996) believe that these punitive approaches are more likely to produce undesirable effects as opposed to positive ones, as they do not teach alternative behaviour nor deter the rest of the community of committing similar offences. Thus, where punishment shows positive aspects in effectively diminishing and complete suppression in most animal and children studies, the more complex justice system is in need of further deliberation and possible alternatives to its current standard.