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PUNISHMENT AND REWARD


DEFINITION

Punishment is the practice of imposing something unpleasant on a subject as a response to some unwanted behavior or disobedience that the subject has displayed.

PSYCHOLOGY

The psychological definition for punishment is the reduction of a behavior because a stimulus has been introduced (positive punishment) or removed (negative punishment). Making an offending student lose recess or suspension are examples of negative punishment, while chores or corporal punishments are examples of positive (i.e. active) punishment.

Negative punishment can also be the removal of an aversive stimulus, which causes a reduction in behavior. The behavior does not have to be disobedient. An example would be stepping on hot pavement with bare feet. Wearing shoes the following time reduces the behavior of stepping on the pavement with bare feet. By removing the sensation of hot pavement you are applying a negative punishment. If the behavior of the client (as the subject is referred to in the Psychology field) does not decrease then it is not considered "punishment" in psychology terms.

CONDITIONING

Examples of punishments imposed by educators (parents, guardians or teachers etc.) include:

  1. Corporal punishment as above - mainly spanking in various mode (banned in some countries, in others even prescribed by law) and uncomfortable and/or humiliating positions, e.g. kneeling, holding a heavy object up (also banned by certain legislators)
  2. Time-outs such as corner-time or even locking up in a dark place
  3. Writing lines or an imposed essay (often on a 'fitting' subject)
  4. Mild forms of custodial sentences:
    • detention, often combined with tasks like studying, extra homework etc.
    • grounding in general or specific refusal of permission to participate in some fun activity or to see a friend (usually seen as a bad influence)
  5. Temporary removal of privileges (e.g., telephone, TV or computer use)
  6. Confiscation (usually temporary) of a toy or other personal item, separation from a pet
  7. Punishment haircuts (either very short or shaved)
  8. Denial of treats such as dessert, favorite meal, even no dinner
  9. Extra chores
  10. Fining, usually by deduction from the allowance

Even the above have come under criticism in recent times. Arguments against non-violent modification of behavior include the issue of ethics, and whether your will should be forced on your children. Taking Children Seriously is a way to address the concerns mentioned in this paragraph.


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