Punishment

Skinner's position on punishment is another point that has been commonly criticized. He has asserted that punishment has detrimental effects and that it does not permanently eliminate unwanted behaviors. Although these views might be interpreted as being sensitive to the organism's aversion to harsh treatment, the conclusions are questionable from a scientific perspective. Studies have shown that under certain conditions, punishment does seem to be effective in controlling behavior and does not seem to have long-lasting negative effects. Punishments sometime curtail undesirable behaviors so that alternative, desirable behaviors can be shaped with positive reinforcers. Of course, unless the alternatives are available, applying punishment is not likely to produce the desired outcomes. The point here is not that punishment is more desirable than positive reinforcement as a general technique of control, but rather that Skinner perhaps has neglected to give punishment a viable place in shaping behavior.

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