Punishment Does Not Work!

Consider the implications of punishment not working. We are wasting gigantic amounts of time and money punishing people. Punishment increases the problems and their size. It is apparent that, intentionally or not, the political-crime-industrial-medical businesses are misleading people. Additionally, it is an irrational, religious belief (not all religious beliefs are irrational).

Revenge is sadism: joy or pleasure from another's pain.

Apply the following to the police-lawyer-prison-medical industry as well as education:

(Ferster, Culbert­son, and Boren, 1975). Punishment, it is usually hoped, should result in some sort of lasting influence whereby the punished [person] will not engage in the behavior later, even when unsupervised. When rats are shocked for pressing a lever to get a food reward, these rats, of course, press the bar less during the sessions in which they are punished for pressing. However, during sessions when the punishment is not employed, the rats often press the bar at a higher rate than they had before punishment training had been first introduced. In this case, it can be asserted that the use of punishment alone can lead to eventual increases in responding by these animals.

Parents who claimed to employ a power-assertive disciplinary style to punish rule-breaking behavior in their children at home often had children who demonstrated higher levels of rule-breaking when away from home (Hoffman, 1970). The person who is punished may learn to discriminate punishing versus non-punishing situations. He/she might then refrain from demonstrating the behavior only when punishment is likely to follow and yet remain likely to demonstrate the behavior when punish­ment is not likely to follow.

(Bandura, 1977; Hetherington and Parke, 1979) Punishment, for example, may lead to increases in aggressive behavior in the punished child since punishment can frustrate children. Further, the act of punishing a child may serve as an aggressive behavior which can be imitated by the child. The constant use of punishment as a behavior control technique might also lead the child to feel a resentment toward the punishing adult. Consequently, the parent or caretaker who typically uses punishment may find that the child avoids him/her and this increased alienation may then render the adult an ineffective socializer in general for the child.

(Skinner, 1953) Punishment does not always provide the direction that reward does. Punishment informs the child that a particular behavior is unacceptable but punishment does not necessarily inform the child of what alternative behaviors are acceptable. When the child is rewarded for a particular desired behavior, on the other hand, the message is much more directive in that the child has a better opportunity to learn what to do, not just what not to do. In addition, punishment, if not carefully used, might cause emotional reactions in the child which may make learning quite difficult. If the child is severely punished, he/she may become so emotionally aroused that learning is impaired and the lesson that the punishment is used to convey may be lost. In fact, some forms of punishment (e.g., ritualized spanking) may be such traumatic events that they can draw the child’s attention away from the act being punished and to the punishment itself, again rendering the lesson difficult to learn. (Parke, 1977).

B. F. Skinner:

Punishment is a form of operant conditioning and it occurs in two different forms:

1.. When a given behavior is followed by the presentation of an aversive stimuli, and

2. When a given behavior is followed by the removal of a pleasant stimuli."

An example of number one would be reacting to misbehavior with a physical or consequential action. A student would be given a time out, or be sent to the principal. An example of number two would be removing the student's recess privilege, or removing the watching of TV, or outside playtime from your child for his or her misbehavior. Both situations are resulting in punishment, but each is distinctly different. You might say that one has an immediate affect and the other may be a bit delayed. As a parent, I typically like to use a punishment that affects the child at the time of the misbehavior. It has to be relevant and meaningful at the time of the misdeed to be significant is how I have always viewed it.. As an example, our school district has occasional Friday afternoon detentions that are held from 3:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. One such Friday my son had a detention, but it was for an offense committed about three week's prior. When the date came for the detention, I asked my son if he could recall what it was for, as even I had forgotten what he had done to deserve this detention. He did not remember either. What good does a punishment such as this do for a child that doesn't even remember why he's there? Skinner believes that punishment in general is inefficient because the results are typically only of short duration, and the undesirable aspects of punishment [the psychological/social aspects] will be quite long lasting "The undesirable effects that may be long lasting from punishment include the development of excessive anxiety and lack of adventure and spontaneity. For example: The use of punishment by a teacher to achieve classroom discipline works only while the teacher is physically present. As soon as the teacher leaves the room, the students will misbehave again." (Cole, 1997) In essence, Skinner has somewhat made "freedom" relevant to the lack of punishment. Skinner felt it would be more appropriate to study behavior so that we could predict and control it. However, he did not see controlling behavior as a loss of freedom. He questioned whether individual freedoms must be "sacrificed" for the sake of the culture. The answer will depend on how motivated people are to work for the good of their culture. If they do so because they fear punishment, then freedom (from punishment) is sacrificed, but if they are motivated to work for the good of their culture through positive reinforcement, their sense of freedom will be enhanced.

In this situation Skinner contends that there is not a loss of freedom if a person was never aware of their lack of freedom! Here is another point that is often disputed. We know that ego plays a large part in our happiness. It is hard to believe that ego will be kept at bay forever. This also raises some questions such as, "who will be the controllers of behavior, what behaviors will be controlled, which ones will not, and finally, will this control be to our advantage or do we lose our freedom? This mode of thinking is where B.F. Skinner tries to make his far-reaching contribution to society as a whole. Skinner believes that with the discovery of operant conditioning and use of behaviorist theory that a new utopian society can be created." (Cole, 1997)