Fallout from the Use of Aversives

A reference list for the side effects of the use of aversives in punishment, negative reinforcement, and without behavioral change.

Classic References

  1. Danger sign homemadeEscape/Avoidance: A punished organism becomes avoidant of the person who delivered the punishment,  the location in which it was delivered, and/or other elements of the environment associated with the punishment. The avoidance is negatively reinforced, which can cause a cascade of other undesirable behaviors. –Azrin, N.H, Holz, W.C., “Punishment” from Honig, W. (1966) Operant Behavior: Areas of Research and Application, 380-447.
  2. Operant Aggression: An organism attempts to eliminate the punishment contingency by seeking to destroy or immobilize the individual who is delivering the punishing stimulus.–Ibid.
  3. Elicited Aggression: (Also called redirected aggression.) An organism can be expected to aggress against nearby individuals who were not responsible for the punishment.–Ibid
  4. Generalized Apathy: “If aversives are a common consequence of many kinds of behavior, the result may be a suppression not only of the punished behavior, but of behavior in general.”–Chance, P., 2008, Learning and Behavior, 5th Edition, 208.       The reduction in activity also reduces the organism’s chances for positive reinforcement. Chance cites the following original source– Warden, Carl J., and Mercy Aylesworth. “The relative value of reward and punishment in the formation of a visual discrimination habit in the white rat.”Journal of Comparative Psychology 7.2 (1927): 117.
  5. Conditioned Suppression/Learned Helplessness: An organism repeatedly exposed to a non-contingent aversive stimulus (that is, not under the organism’s control) will exhibit a fear response to the conditioned predictor of the aversive stimulus and a general reduction in the rate of ongoing behavior. –Estes, William K., and Burrhus F. Skinner. “Some quantitative properties of anxiety.” Journal of Experimental Psychology 29.5 (1941): 390.    When an organism is exposed to an uncontrollable (non-contingent) and inescapable aversive there is a general shutdown referred to as learned helplessness.  Maier, Steven F., and Martin E. Seligman. “Learned helplessness: Theory and evidence.” Journal of experimental psychology: general 105.1 (1976): 3.
  6. Injury: An organism can be injured from the application of an aversive in punishment or negative reinforcement. –Gursky, Daniel. “Spare the Child?.” Teacher Magazine 3.5 (1992): 16-19.
  7. Reinforcement of the Punisher: The person who applies the aversive is strongly reinforced when it succeeds. Punishment easily becomes habitual, and easily escalates. Powell, R., Symbaluk, D., and Honey, P., 2009, Introduction to Learning and Behavior, 358.

For a “plain English” version of the above, go to: 7 Effects of Punishment.

Dog Studies

  • Confrontational Training Methods can Elicit Aggressive Responses: Herron et al. Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2009; 117 (1-2), 47-54. See commentary. 
  • Punitive Training Techniques Increase the Risk of Aggression in Dogs: Casey et al. Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): Occurrence in different contexts and risk factors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2014, 152, 52– 63. See commentary. 
  • Shock Collars are Unnecessary and Detrimental to Animal Welfare:  Defra AW1402a, 2013. Studies to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs; field study of dogs in training. Final report prepared by Prof. Jonathan Cooper, Dr. Nina Cracknell, Jessica Hardiman and Prof. Daniel Mills (University of Lincoln).  See commentary. 
  • The Welfare Consequences and Efficacy of Training Pet Dogs with Remote Electronic Training Collars in Comparison to Reward Based Training: J. J. Cooper, N. Cracknell, J. Hardiman, H. Wright, D. Mills. Open Source version of the DEFRA studies above. Full text available here.

AVSAB Position Statement on Punishment

Coercion and its fallout, by Murray Sidman. Boston, MA: Authors Cooperative, 1989. This book does not have bibliographical references but Dr. Sidman is a behavioral scientist with impeccable experimental credentials and an expert on the effects of aversive control.

© Eileen Anderson 2015                                                                                                                               eileenanddogs.com

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