Stimulus control of punishment effects: Determining the controlling variables

Adam H. Doughty, Shannon S. Doughty, Jennifer ODonnell, Kathryn J. Saunders, Dean C. Williams


The study of discriminative stimulus control of responding maintained by positive reinforcement has a long-standing and dominant role in the behavioral literature. In contrast, the literature on discriminative stimulus control of response suppression by punishment is small and moribund. Investigating the form of stimulus control that develops under conditions of punishment is a topic in need of further attention for both theoretical and practical reasons. In preparations wherein stimulus control can develop (e.g., multiple schedules), at least two stimuli can come to exert discriminative control over response suppression: an antecedent discriminative stimulus (e.g., multiple-schedule stimulus) and the punisher delivery itself. We reviewed the experimental and applied literatures involving punishment and found only a few unambiguous demonstrations of operant stimulus control by an antecedent stimulus. We discuss limitations in methods, and conventions of data analysis and presentation, that preclude unambiguous conclusions regarding the establishment of antecedent stimulus control with punishment. A consideration of these limitations is important because they bear on both basic and applied issues in behavior analysis.


stimulus control; punishment; response suppression; method; data analysis; basic research; applied research

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Editor in Chief:

Dr. Carlos J. Flores-Aguirre

ISSN: 0185-4534

ISSN Electrónico: 2007-0802