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Behavior modification is the use of established techniques to determine behavior frequency in people and animals. Often, these techniques are empirically tested and used to increase or decrease pre-determined individual or group behaviors. Behaviors, mostly altered, include individual and group reactions to stimuli through introduction of punishments and reinforcements. Following some behavior patterns can be encouraged or discouraged through reinforcement and punishment respectively.
Reinforcement is used to motivate to behave in the following way, while punishment is meant to discourage the person from going on like that. Both reinforcement and punishment are complex concepts that influence behavior especially through applied behavior analysis.
This discussion will focus on reinforcement and punishment as important tools in the behavior modification. It is important to note that both concepts involve positive and negative elements in their application. Positive implies presenting while negative means subtracting or taking something away.
Reinforcement is always meant to ensure the likelihood of some action happening again. Positive reinforcement involves offering desirable elements to encourage right behavior in individuals or groups. For instance, it may involve praising or giving extra time to play to children if they succeeded in study.
Additionally, it is possible to encourage something through negative reinforcement – removal or subtraction of undesirable stimuli. For instance, teachers may stop issuing punishment warnings if a child does his/her homework. The child will, therefore, learn that if he/she does his/her homework, the teacher will not issue punishment warnings. The child will learn over the time to do his/her homework to avoid punishment warnings.
Though there are different assertions from different scholars regarding punishment, there is consensus that punishment as a behavior modification technique is very dependent on operant conditioning principles. Punishment involves administration of adverse stimulus in response to or in an effort to deter occurrence of unwanted behavior. In other words, punishment is supposed to lower the chances of a certain behavior happening.
It is important to note that there can be both positive and negative punishment. Positive punishment involves addition of undesirable elements, while negative punishment means taking away something pleasant. Both of the above actions discourage a certain behavior from happening again. For instance, a toy or video game can be taken away from a child if he/she has not completed her homework; this is an illustration of negative punishment.
On the other hand, positive punishment involves addition of undesirable elements to ensure a certain behavior will not repeat. For instance, a parent may oblige a child who does not complete his/her to perform some extra duties or house work. Imposing some function is equivalent to adding an unpleasant act to discourage the behavior from happening again.
Behavior modification is a complex phenomenon that involves more than two concepts discussed. There are varying views on the use of these concepts for behavior modification. Some experts contend that use of punishment is not desirable while others advocate for it so long as there is an effort to show what is required of the subject after the punishment has been meted.
Without explanation, however, the punishment is likely to lead to undesirable outcomes, such as rebellion and resentment. Also, some scholars argue that reward may lead to undesirable behavior outcomes, especially if it is carelessly used. According to them, some people or animals may take advantage of a situation and fail to conform to required behavior by ‘blackmailing’ whoever is in charge.