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And there are other limitations as well.

For decreasing behavior using consequences (also called punishment)

  • you must allow the behavior to occur,

  • then you must use a consequence that is aversive enough to be effective,

  • finally, you must deal with the "fallout" or side effects of using punishment. Nobody likes punishment, even mild punishment like reprimands, loss of priveleges, or other things typically used in class. Often students will react in negative ways to a teacher's attempt to punish; escalation of problem behavior is among the most serious reactions.

Although punishment is always an option and sometimes the only way, it has drawbacks that can make its use questionable in many situations.

In summary, consequences have their strong and weak points. Traditionally, however, consequences have received most of the attention when considering strategies for behavior change.

But, we see from the Behavior Change Timeline that consequences are only half the story. Antecedents can have an incredibly potent effect on behavior as well.


(C) 2001 J. Tyler Fovel, All Rights Reserved