Monday, January 15, 2007

Here's the problem with punishment.

[Edit note April 28, 2017: I retain this post. I was calling ABA science then. It wasn't until much later that a reader critique of the original ABA-is-a cult-of-science led me to see how ABA is a pseudoscience masquerading as science. At this date, and up until 2014, after having believed Skinner and his followers, naïvely for seven blind years that they could be ethical if only they followed Skinner's warnings against punishment. Eventually, I came to see the hypocrite in each of them, especially Skinner, when in 2017 we see for certain that Skinner only opposed punitive coercion upon whom he called "normal" people. The others, disabled people especially, were "beyond" the reach of reinforcers only, as Skinner actually said and as Skinner actually led. I retain this post for historical and developmental purposes over the development of my findings, from blinded by the misrepresentations, subtle and obvious, out from the cave of darkness where the light to #NoABA, other ways instead, shines big and bright. A cursory read today makes it appear that this post, technically, helped me develop my Behavioral Prowess under which I learned to speak their language and stand up to them and see right through them as they spoke their jargon to parents and the media, all full of nonsense and doublespeak which the laymen don't get until they know what they're talking about, technically.]


Punishment elicits a fear of the punishing person. It can induce stress, arousing the nervous system into an overwhelming emotional reaction. Its by-products include anxiety, panic, anger, and resentment. Punishment provokes retaliation, fight or flight, avoidance or escape. It creates hostile or docile individuals.

It may not produce the desired effect: elimination or reduction in the rate of a target behavior. For example, B.F. Skinner's first punishing apparatus was a mechanical arm that hit the paws of rats who were pressing levers for food reinforcement. This mild punishment temporarily suppressed the rate of lever-pressing, but it did not reduce the overall number of lever-presses over the long run while lever presses continued after Skinner withdrew the punishment procedure. (Skinner, 1991/1938, p. 154).

For more about punishment see Skinner (1974, p. 68-71; 2003, p. 96-102; and 2014, chap. 10-12.)


Skinner, B. F. (1974). About behaviorism (1st ed.). New York: Knopf; distributed by Random House.
Skinner, B. F. (1991). The behavior of organisms: An experimental analysis (Original work published 1938). Cambridge, MA: B.F. Skinner Foundation.
Skinner, B. F. (2003). The technology of teaching (Original work published 1968). Cambridge, MA: B.F. Skinner Foundation.
Skinner, B. F. (2014). Science and human behavior (Original work published 1953). Cambridge, MA: B. F. Skinner Foundation. Retrieved from

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1 comment :

  1. Hello Dave,
    I just wanted to Thank you for all the many hours and hard work as well as study you had to of put into this very Important Subject matter about Reward and Punishment.

    I must 100% agree with everything you had to say about how Parents should raise their children, useing Prase as a reward if a child does good positive things, BUT!!, NEVER Reward a child if he/she does Bad negitive things, for to do so would only temporary satisfy a misbehaved childs attidude , but in the end, by a parent always rewarding a child for doing bad behavior, will no doubt in my mind, grow up to be a very Spoiled as well as totally disrespectfull aldult one day, this child will also be undisciplined and not only show this negitive attitude towards their own parents, but to others as well, such Spoild children will also show total disrespect to any governement laws, rules and /or Regulations that they might feel they do not need to follow and or obey, A perfit example of such a aldult is; look at all the many MILLIONS of Men as well as Women that are behide bars in prison's , I bet many of these Prisoner's parents tried to use concessions to appease him or her while they were growing up, and by doing so, they used the totally wrong Child type Physiology to teach their child, Love, Phase, Respect as well as Obedience to Rules, Laws and Regulations not to mention , Yes even their own Parents discipline., while they were growing up .

    The only problem I personally see Dave with your outstanding Reward as well as Punishment Blog is, sorry to say the world we just happen to live in is not perfit, and many Millions of Parients like myself end up getting Divioced, and no matter who's fault it was for this Divoice, sorry to say the children in the end suffer the consequence's.
    I had to get Divoiced from my Wife and my only child & son at that time was only 3-years of age, he had to then grow up in TWO, Yes TWO much Differnt lifestyles & households, My 3 yr old son had to live with his Mother since the courts here in N.J. care less what the Father might say or want for their child to live with, so my only son had to live with a alcoholic Mother who sorry to say did not use your above child reward and punishment advise, even though when I did have the chance to visit my son, BUT!!, only on week ends for a few hours a week etc, all I could and did always teach him was Love, respect and took him to all the zoos's and Amusement Parks etc I could.

    I many years ago (36) to be excact, got married and told myself if I and my Wife ever have any children, I would do my very best to raise them in a much better type atmosphere, then I was raised in, in fact , i never hit my son while he was growing up, I tried to instill Respect, Love, Obedience as well as try and teach him your reward and punishment advice, but as soon as he went back to live with his mother everyting I tried to teach him changed.

    As of today my son is now 36 years of age and sorry to say has very servere Drug as well as alcohol Problems, no less a total outright disrespect for the Law.

    I'am sure many Divoiced couples did not meet the fate I up to now at least must endure with my only son, but I'am sure IF?? I had a Loveing Wife and my son lived with BOTH of us in such a Loving and careing relationship, while he was growing up, things might of been much different, but who's to say?
    well I think I said enough already, I again want to Thank you for your excellant Reward & Punishment Blog, and I hope one day in the near future, you might be able to even Write a Book and get it published on this very important subject.

    Peace be with you always- Ron c


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I am an advocate for people with disabilities certified to teach special education with a Master of Arts in Teaching. I am not a Licensed Psychologist or a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. When in doubt, seek the advice of an MD, a PhD, or a BCBA. My ability to analyze the ethics of ABA stems from the fact that I am disabled and ABA interventions are often done to people like me, which I voluntarily accept, but only when I alone am the person granting consent, and not a parent, sibling, guardian, or institution.