Positive Punishment

  1. Amy pokes her eyes repeatedly and with force. Her teacher and parents are afraid if this continues she will eventually blind herself. You have been called in to complete an FBA and function-based intervention. The FBA indicates that the behavior is maintained by sensory reinforcement. You have also determined that before she pokes herself, she swings her arms wildly for 30 sec to a minute. Because of the danger posed by this behavior, you decide that your intervention will include response blocking. Which of the following will provide the most effective use of the punishment procedure?
  2. Introduce response blocking at its maximum level/highest magnitude by holding her hands for 15 sec;
  3. Begin at a low magnitude (e.g., 3 sec) and gradually increase until the behavior decreases; this will be the optimum level of magnitude;
  4. Introduce the aversive stimuli at its maximum level as soon as she attempts to poke her eye
  5. Test the optimal level of magnitude by holding her hands until she begins to attempt to escape and/or exhibits emotional behavior such as crying and/or attempts aggressive behavior such as hitting you.

Explain why you chose your response. How does your response account for what we know about factors that make punishment more effective and also address any ethical concerns?

  1. Read the discussion of whether response blocking functions as extinction or punishment on page 339. In your own words, explain how you would tell whether response blocking functioned as punishment or extinction.

III. Give an example of behavioral contrast – from your own experience, if possible. Explain how you did address it. If you haven’t, or didn’t address it, provide a description of what you would have done. Please don’t simply restate what I have in the lesson or what’s in the book. Make the explanation relevant and specific to the example you give.

  1. Jason, a ten-year-old with learning disabilities and social acting out behavior, was included in an elementary school physical education class. Jason would frequently disrupt the whole class with his antics. He would squeal loudly if he missed the ball and he would make every attempt to run in a humorous manner so that other students would laugh. The coach was frustrated and was ready to implement his own behavioral intervention that was to have Jason run around the track each time he misbehaved. The school principal sent Dr. David K, a BCBA, to meet with the coach and discuss alternatives. Dr. K suggested that the first intervention simply be that when Jason acted out, he is sent to the bench to sit and watch. Dr. K explained that this was a procedure that was research-based and known to be effective.

The first thing you’ll notice about this example is that Dr. K should have, and didn’t, do an FBA. However, let’s ignore that for the time being. Respond to the following questions:

  1. Why else was “sit and watch” preferable to running around the track? Explain your response. Think about ethical considerations in addition to any other consideration you may identify.
  2. Was the coach’s suggestion, “running around the track,” a positive or negative punishment procedure? Explain your response.
  3. Though he didn’t know it, the punishment procedure the coach suggested has a name. Identify the punishment procedure and explain your response.
  4. Is “sit and watch” a positive or negative punishment procedure? What procedure is it. Explain your response.
  5. Identify and describe a possible side effect of the punishment procedure that the coach suggested. In your response, explain why you think this might be a side effect.
  6. Identify and describe a possible side effect of the punishment procedure suggested by Dr. K. Choose a different side effect than you described in #5. In your response, explain why you think this might be a side effect.


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