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Alternatives To Aversive Stimuli Astechnics Of Controlling Behavior

Interrelations Among The Processes

Manipulating The Reinforcer

Identifying the environmental consequence of the behavior which maintains it and discontinuing the effect produces extinction of the behavior rather than its suppression, as in punishment. Whining in a child, for example, could be eliminated simply by not paying attention to the child unless the child speaks in a normal voice. Here the whining would gradually disappear by virtue of its discontinued reinforcement.

Ultimate Aversive Consequences

In those cases where the behavior needs to be punished "for the person's own good," an alternative technic of control is possible by an educational program making the ultimate aversive consequences of behavior immediate, clear, and a direct result of the specific behavior. Speeding on the highway could be controlled by an educational program giving the driver a realistic appraisal of risks involved. If necessary, pictures of accidents showing body injury could be placed on the highways, as well as any other technic which would make the driver aware, at the instant he is speeding, of the consequences of this behavior. In all of these cases the aversive consequences are closely tied to the properties of the physical environment.

Reinforcing Alternative Behavior

Various behavioral repertoires are maintained because they escape aversive consequences. In many of these cases, positive consequences (reinforcements) could be substituted in place of avoidance or escape. Alternatives to the "rod" in educational control might include: (1) emphasis on technics which will make the child more successful in the educational process so that the study itself would be more rewarding; (2) arrangement of other positive consequences which would result from successful completion of the course of study, for example, design situations in which the student can apply the result of his educational program; (3) extrinsic reinforcement, as for example, early dismissal contingent upon educational achievement.

The interrelations between aversive control and positive reinforcement will account for much of the extreme variations in susceptibility to disturbance by aversive control. Two individuals may be exposed to extremely traumatic childhood experiences, yet one goes through life without any major disturbance while the other becomes so debilitated that hospitalization or psychotherapy is necessary. One possible source of variation is, of course, the genetic endowment, but another is the nature of the positively reinforced repertoire, its over-all strength, variety, and susceptibility to change. Given a rich, strong, and varied behavioral potential, deleterious aversive control becomes difficult because the controllee will escape and avoid the aversive control, modify it, utilize counter control, or differentially reinforce the controller.


Additional topics

Human Behavior