chapter  10
17 Pages

The effects of punishment on behaviour

ByDerek Blackman

This chapter focuses on the effects of unpleasant stimuli on behaviour. Since punishment is supposed to reduce the probability or frequency of a pattern of behaviour, operant conditioning experiments provide a useful test situation, for schedules of intermittent reinforcement can establish predictable patterns of behaviour characterised by a high frequency of arbitrary responses. The attitudes of society in general to punishment techniques have been closely mirrored in the development of psychological theory. For example, E. L. Thorndike, who was one of the researchers to investigate learning behaviour systematically, adopted a view of punishment much in accord with a 'common-sense' outlook. Thorndike suggested that both rewards and punishments have simple effects: behaviour was said to be strengthened if followed by a 'satisfying' state of affairs, but weakened if followed by an 'annoying' state of affairs. It would seem, considerable behavioural differences result from giving shocks only immediately after an operant response and delivering them independently of behaviour.