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The Effectiveness of Reinforcement

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    As you may already know, reinforcement and punishment are a form of operant conditioning, reinforcement referring to reinforcer uses to increase the rate of a behavior; meanwhile, punishment decrease the rate of a behavior. It could also be used to continue new skills set or maintaining behavior overtime. All in all, both reinforcement and punishment contains positive and negative stimulations that can significantly affect individuals. To demonstrate whether these operant conditioning is effective or ineffective, we will be viewing three different studies which shows the highs and lows of these behaviors and what is more effective than others. Briefly, the first study is evaluating the effects of negative reinforcement plus a signaled positive reinforcer for compliance without the use of extinction to abolish escape as a reinforcer for problem behavior.

    Second study is showing vicarious punishment that involves observing a model exhibit a behavior that leads to punishment for the model. For example, a model could either be live or symbolic, meaning from a form of text, or as portray in video games. Finally, the third study engages in a physical education (PE) as the physical educators provide games, activities, and interactions that will prolonged the students’ positive attitude towards being physically active throughout their lives. As well as incorporating with exercise as punishment (EAP) which could have a negative impact on student’s behaviors. While reinforcement and punishment has positive effect on some, negatively affected others, and could be determined by the environment and people that they are surrounded by. Additionally, could display an inappropriate attitude or behavior towards certain situations due to EAP.

    In the first study, they found that people with problem behavior are more likely to respond to positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement corresponding together as a whole. Some may ask why that is, is it because to avoid or escape from certain negative consequences such as the feeling of pain. For example, a teenager cleaned his room before his father gets home, so that he does not get yelled at. Relative to problem behavior maintained by negative reinforcement, several studies have demonstrated that access to positive reinforcers can decrease escape maintained problem behavior when delivered contingent on compliance with a task (Schieltz et al).

    Without having to rely on extinction, the positive reinforcer were able to use compliance to abolish problem behaviors or escape as a reinforcer for problem behavior. It is shown that positive reinforcement compliance was more effective than negative reinforcement at increasing compliance and decreasing problem behavior displayed by a child with autism spectrum disorder (Schieltz at el). Because positive reinforcement motivates stimulus to the person after the desired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior more likely to happen in the future. For example, if a trainer told the dog to sit down, and if he does he will receive a rewarding treat. This is demonstrating the reinforcement of stimulus of the dog to sit down in the future or become continuous behavior because he will receive a treat. As a result, the compliance becomes higher and problem behavior lower for people with disabilities.

    In another study, punishment can be misguided for something that terrible or awful, but that is not always the case. As we may know, punishment is a process by which a consequence immediately follows a behavior which decreases the future frequency of that behavior. Just as reinforcement, stimulus can be added by positive punishment or removed by negative punishment. Example of a positive punishment would be, a child touches a hot stove and feels pain, while negative punishment would be, a child received a bad grade in school and got his video games taken away. Observing another’s behavior can teach the observer new behaviors and also influence whether the observer later shows this new behavior or a behavior already in the observer’s behavioral repertoire that is similar to the modeled behavior (Malouff et al).

    Hence, this study illustrated that behavior can be influence and occupy by others from watching and observing one another.

    Finally, physical education is meant to encourage students to enhance in physical activities, social interactions, so that they could have positive attitudes toward being physical active, but has a negative influence due to exercise as punishment. This study was to explore former students in PE regarding their perspectives and experiences of EAP. Findings suggest the use of EAP negatively affected the classroom environment as well as perceptions toward physical educators (Barney et al). Meaning that EAP does not have a positive affect output on students in the classroom environment because they feel that being put under that type of physical punishment was unfair. Assuming that all of us had taken a physical education class previously before and most of us tried to avoid the activities that an instructor provided. Based on positive punishment, performing push-ups, for example, caused us to become physically exhausted and may feel cramps and soreness. Although, EAP were meant to disciplined students to act appropriately by inflicting necessary pain, so that they will be more likely to enhance good behavior in the future.

    In conclusion, in the first study, we learned that using both positive and negative reinforcement together is more effective because they corresponded well together. However, positive reinforcement may have been more effective because the individuals with disabilities preferring to uphold positive attitudes in order to receive a reward. Ultimately, the compliance level was higher and problem behavior was lower. Correspondingly, a person can developed a new set of skills by watching a version of “model” from a described text or as portrayed in video games. The ones who are most affected would be children because it is likely for them to impersonate that of what they saw on video game. Hence, a child tend to behavior aggressively after playing a violent video game for a period of time.

    Therefore, this group of people are more influential than others. Altogether, former students of PE avoided performing the daily activities because they did not like the consequences. An example of a negative punishment would be, eating a bad pizza from Pizza Hut caused an individual food poisoning, so he or she avoided going to eat there again. In this case, if doing something that make a person feels terrible then it is obvious that he or she will most likely not to engage specific activity again. As a result, reinforcement and punishment had taught us that operant conditioning could go either way which could be positive or negative, and reinforcing of stimulus is depending whether it will end with a reward or consequence; thus, would determined the behavior pattern.


    1. Schieltz, K. M., Wacker, D. P., & Romani, P. W. (2017). Effects of Signaled Positive Reinforcement on Problem Behavior Maintained by Negative Reinforcement. Journal of Behavioral Education, 26(2), 137–150. Retrieved from”
    2. Malouff, J., Thorsteinsson, E., Schutte, N., & Rooke, S. E. (2009). Effects of Vicarious Punishment: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of General Psychology, 136(3), 271. Retrieved from
    3. Barney, D., Pleban, F. T., Fullmer, M., Griffiths, R., Higginson, K., & Whaley, D. (2016). Appropriate or Inappropriate Practice: Exercise as Punishment in Physical Education Class. Physical Educator, 73(1), 59–73. Retrieved from

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