A decrease in the future frequency of the occurrence of a behavior must be observed before a consequence-based intervention qualifies as punishment. Is this be true or not? Explain.

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Consequence-based intervention is very different from punishment. The goal of any intervention is to decrease the instances of negative behavior. Therefore, you can consider it a success if the behavior decreases in frequency in the future. It is only considered punishment, however, if the individual perceives it as such. Most consequence-based interventions are specifically designed to work with the individual, not punish them.

For example, a student who argues and refuses to work on his assignment is often sent to the principal’s office. This may be a “punishment,” but it could have the opposite effect of reinforcing the negative behavior, because the student is sent away from the source of stress (in this case, the assignment). A consequence-based intervention for the same behavior might be ignoring it, also called extinction. At first, the student might increase the negative behavior. However, when it becomes clear that they will not escape the assignment, the avoidance behaviors will taper off.

In addition, consequences can be positive. Adding positive reinforcement is, in fact, an essential part of consequence-based intervention. Using the example above, if the student stops arguing and instead takes his pencil and writes his name on the assignment, he may be given a reward. Ideally, this reward is something meaningful for the individual, and it could look very different depending on the student. Some common examples are a sticker or points earned toward some choice activity (like coloring or a computer game). Each behavior the student chooses that is expected will be reinforced by a positive consequence.

Note that none of these are explicitly negative. They are not punishments at all. Instead, behavior interventions are designed to gradually guide students to choose expected behaviors over negative ones.

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