Punishment is used to help decrease the probability that a specific undesired behavior will occur with the delivery of a consequence immediately after the undesired response/behavior is exhibited. When people hear that punishment procedures are being used, they typically think that something wrong or harmful is being done but that is not necessarily the case. The use of punishment procedures have been used with both typical and atypical developing children, teenagers, elderly persons, animals, and people exhibiting different psychological disorders. There are two types of punishment: positive and negative, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. Below are some examples to help clear up the confusion.
What is Positive Punishment:
Positive punishment works by presenting a negative consequence after an undesired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior less likely to happen in the future. The following are some examples of positive punishment:
- A child picks his nose during class and the teacher reprimands him in front of his classmates.
- A child wears his favorite hat to church or at dinner, his parents scold him for wearing it and make him remove the hat.
- During a meeting or while in class, your cell phone starts ringing, you are lectured on why it is not okay to have your phone on.
What is Negative Punishment:
Negative punishment happens when a certain desired stimulus/item is removed after a particular undesired behavior is exhibited, resulting in the behavior happening less often in the future. The following are some examples of negative punishment:
- For a child that really enjoys a specific class, such as gym or music classes at school, negative punishment can happen if they are removed from that class and sent to the principal’s office because they were acting out/misbehaving.
- If a child does not follow directions or acts inappropriately, he loses a token for good behavior that can later be cashed in for a prize.
- Siblings get in a fight over who gets to go first in a game or who gets to play with a new toy, the parent takes the game/toy away.
When thinking about punishment, always remember that the end result is to try to decrease the undesired behavior. For positive punishment, try to think of it as adding a negative consequence after an undesired behavior is emitted to decrease future responses. As for negative punishment, try to think of it as taking away a certain desired item after the undesired behavior happens in order to decrease future responses.