Major Movements in Psychology


How effective is punishment?

Punishment involves the introduction of a negative consequence to a behavior with the intent of diminishing the frequency of the behavior. When a child is grounded for getting into a fight, this is punishment. The parents are trying to diminish the targeted behavior. Likewise, the criminal justice system relies on punishment to maintain an orderly and lawful society. Punishment can be extremely effective but it also has drawbacks. Although the early behaviorists avoided mental considerations, it is now clear that punishment, if done too frequently, creates anger, fear, and resentment and can breed an oppositional mindset, in which people try to cheat the system instead of willingly following the rules. B.F. Skinner distrusted punishment as well, stating that it had only short term effects and it did not teach alternative behavior.


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