Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #189
Recent Studies on Punishment
Sunday, May 30, 2021
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Area: EAB/CBM; Domain: Translational
Chair: Rafaela Fontes (Utah State University)

Punishment is an important behavioral-regulation mechanism relevant for learning to stop engaging in maladaptive behavior and plays an important role in both natural and programmed contingencies. Punishment procedures are effective in reducing the behavior of several species, in both basic and applied settings. However, there is a relative paucity of research on punishment. The present symposium will present recent studies on punishment. The presentations will discuss the effects of punishment on both human and non-human subjects. The first presentation will consist of a review of studies using hot air blast as a punisher with rats and will discuss its effectiveness as an aversive stimulus to be used with non-human animals. The second presentation will focus on the effects of punishment on choice when only one of two available responses is punished with escalating shock intensities and will discuss the implication of the results for quantitative models of punishment. Lastly, the third presentation will review the literature regarding the quantitative assessment of differences in loss aversion between healthy controls and individuals with psychiatric disorder and will discuss how a more accurate evaluation of loss aversion in these clinical populations can improve diagnostic clarity and assessment of treatment efficacy.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Aversive Control, Choice, Loss Aversion, Punishment

Extending the Punishment Principles: The Hot Air Blast as a Novel Aversive Stimulus

(Basic Research)
PAULO MORALES MAYER (CEUMA), Marcus Bentes De Carvalho Neto (Universidade Federal do Pará (UFPA))

Understanding the basic principles of punishment is essential for a complete analysis of behavior. Most of the behavioral principles of punishment are based on studies with electric shock. To what extent are these principles valid to other aversive stimuli? Since 2005 the Hot Air Blast (HAB) has been used as a novel aversive stimulus in punishment experiments. The purpose of this presentation is to describe the HAB equipment and review the relevant results obtained so far. The experiments took place in an adapted conditioning chamber, with white rats as subjects, using 5s of HAB produced by a blow dryer as punishment. HAB has been effective in suppressing behavior even after 10 sessions of punishment demonstrating low habituation; its effectiveness depends on the stimulus compound (heat + air blast + sound); suppression is greater when the HAB is contingent on a response than when applied independently; it accelerates the discrimination learning when applied to the delta stimulus condition in comparison to the traditional reinforcement + extinction contingencies for the discriminative and delta stimulus respectively. Based on these experiments, we argue the HAB is an effective aversive stimulus to test the generality of the punishment principles, previously established with electric shock.


Punishment Intensity and Behavior Allocation

(Basic Research)
RAFAELA FONTES (Utah State University), Timothy A. Shahan (Utah State University)

The present study investigated the effects of escalating punishment intensity and repeated exposure to punishment on choice between punished and unpunished responses in five Long Evans rats. Equal reinforcement rates were programmed for both punished and unpunished responses on a concurrent schedule during both baseline and punishment phases. During punishment, escalating shock intensities were superimposed on the schedule of reinforcement for the punished response, and the punished response produced 50-ms foot shock with p = .50. Baseline and punishment phases were replicated three more times. Greater behavior suppression and a larger shift in allocation toward the unpunished response resulted from increases in shock intensity. Additionally, repeated exposure to punishment generated greater suppression of the punished response without additional increases in the unpunished response. These results suggest that changes in behavior allocation during punishment are a function of punishment severity and that repeated exposure to punishment can enhance such effects. A better understanding of the effects of punishment severity on the relative values of the options in a concurrent schedule could have important implications for quantitative models of punishment.

Quantifying Loss Aversion in Clinical Populations: A Review and Discussion
BRYAN KLAPES (Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine - Georgia)
Abstract: Researchers have hypothesized that aberrant decision making is present in a wide array of psychopathology. Prospect Theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979) allows for a formal and quantitative analysis of these decision-making processes. A core tenet of Prospect Theory is loss aversion (Kahneman & Tversky, 1991), which states that individuals will place more weight on losses than gains when making their choices. Loss aversion can be quantified via a discrete-trial task called a “mixed gambles” procedure, wherein participants are asked to make choices between two alternatives with different associated probabilities of gains and losses. In this talk, I will review the literature regarding the quantitative assessment of differences in loss aversion between healthy controls and individuals with psychiatric disorders [e.g., Major Depressive Disorder (MDD); Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)]. Additionally, I will present promising continuous-choice analogs to measuring loss aversion (e.g., matching-law-based hedonic scaling; matching-law-based punishment models) that may rectify some of the limitations associated with the mixed gambles procedure. This methodological change may result in more accurate evaluations of loss aversion in these clinical populations, leading to increased diagnostic clarity and improved assessment of treatment efficacy.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh