Negative Consequences

Positive or rewarding outcomes are not the only consequences that govern behavior. In many cases, people respond in order to avoid negative outcomes or stop responding when doing so produces unpleasant events. These situations correspond to the operant procedures of avoidance and punishment. Many psychologists have advocated using reinforcement rather than punishment to alter behavior, not because punishment is necessarily less effective in theory but because it is usually less effective in practice. In order for punishers to be effective, they should be (among other things) strong, immediate, and consistent. This can be difficult to accomplish in practice. In crime, for example, many offenses may have occurred without detection prior to the punished offense, so punishment is not certain. It is also likely that an individual's court hearing, not to mention his or her actual sentence, will be delayed by weeks or even months, so punishment is not immediate. First offenses are likely to be punished less harshly than repeated offenses, so punishment gradually increases in intensity. In the laboratory, such a situation would produce an animal that would be quite persistent in responding, despite punishment.

In addition, punishment can produce unwanted side effects, such as the suppression of other behaviors, aggression, and the learning of responses to avoid or minimize punishing consequences. Beyond this, punishment requires constant monitoring by an external authority, whereas reinforcement typically does not. For example, parents who want to punish a child for having a messy room must constantly inspect the room to determine its state. The child certainly is not going to point out a messy room that will lead to punishment. On the other hand, if rewarded, the child will bring the neat room to the parents' attention. This is not to suggest that punishment should necessarily be abandoned as one tool for controlling behavior. Rather, the effectiveness of punishment, like reinforcement, can be predicted on the basis of laboratory results.

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Do Not Panic

Do Not Panic

This guide Don't Panic has tips and additional information on what you should do when you are experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. With so much going on in the world today with taking care of your family, working full time, dealing with office politics and other things, you could experience a serious meltdown. All of these things could at one point cause you to stress out and snap.

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