Psychology First of All, a Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

The fact that getting back into these activities will remove the negative reinforcement of somebody else doing her job around the house might change her behavior and get her to move around much faster.

As previously mentioned, all of these things that were mentioned are decided by an evaluation and a decision of the things that still motivate Dorothy's mother, assuming that she has not reached an age where she is indifferent about things. Dorothy can promise, as positive reinforcements, small gifts as well, such as books or music, which can grow in importance and value once the willingness to become independent again starts manifesting with Dorothy's mother. Some of the negative reinforcements will simply include things like removing some of the bitter medicine from the list of medicines that needs to be taken under all conditions.


There are several situations or conditions when punishment will fail to enforce the desired finality. One of these situation occurs when punishment is administered either inappropriately or mindlessly, in other words, when punishment is administered instead of another instrument that would have a positive result or is administered without thought, without having in mind the final objective of imposing or encouraging a change in behavior.

The rationality of punishment needs to follow a certain logical path. One cannot apply a punishment without having some prior premise on which to act in this manner. For example, the punishment will be applied to a child or student after a certain fact occurs rather than before that, because otherwise the consequences might be exactly the opposite of those actually expected to happen. At the same time, it is important to also keep track of the result of the punishment, so that this is used only in those situations when it is likely to pay off.

Second, punishment will not positively work when the recipient is not likely to take the punishment for an educational act or an act by which a finality is observed, but will take it as a personal attack on his individual. This is often the case with physical punishments. The incapacity to adapt the punishment to the behavior and characteristics of the individual, as well as his background (someone who has been physically abused in the past is always likely to look upon this form of coercion as something abusive and negative) and past experiences, will lead to the individual not being able to respond positively to the punishment.

Third, the punishment should not be tied to certain particular circumstances, because it will lose its effectiveness of correcting the behavior itself and will only become a way of inducing the individual to change the circumstances and avoid being caught doing the respective thing. The example with the children getting caught and being punished while eating sweets in the kitchen before dinner is a good example of a punishment that will not work: the children will probably still eat sweets before dinner, but will do it in a different place, so as not to get caught.

At the same time, we can notice that this third particularity in which a punishment may not function properly is also tied to the gravity of the deed itself. If the children had been caught stealing before dinner and would have gotten caught and punished, it is probable that they would not have done that again, rather than just change the time of stealing, as in the first example. They would have the capacity to discern between the gravity of two acts and, thus, understand the reaction they would need to have upon a certain punishment on whether to change or not the behavior. The punishment would have also been proportional to the behavior and the consequences of the behavior itself.

Fourth, some punishments need to take some time before they actually produce a change in the behavior. The example with the sweets is again quite eloquent: the children will feel no deterrence to no longer eat the sweets, given the fact that the sweets are great and the punishment is really worth enduring given the reward. However, repeatedly using the same punishment might change their behavior, because the sum of all punishments would no longer make the reward worthwhile.

Fifth, if the punishment does not let the individual being punished of the reasons for which he is punished and what he needs to do in order to avoid this in the future, that the punishment is useless, because the behavior is less likely to change if the subject does know what he needs to achieve. All this information needs to be in the act of punishment or in the subsequent discussions that follow the punishment.

Sixth, the punishment should not be considered a reinforcement by the punished individual. Being punished for something someone does by an act by which he actually feels encouraged to continue, perhaps because of the way the punishment was attributed or because of the fact that it is much closer to a reward for the individual, should be avoided.

As such, the general guidelines for punishment should include the fact that punishment should convey information on why the punishment occurs in the first place, as well as on the steps to be taken so as to be avoided in the future. The punishment should additionally be sufficiently unpleasant not to turn into an incentive or encouragement for continued action.

It should also be proportional to the gravity of the event that has been produced and should be clearly emphasized as an educational, corrective act rather than a brutal form of coercion.

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