Is it possible to have aversive proprieties in positive reinforcement contingencies?
Luiz & Hunziker (2018) bring an intriguing view on it.
The direct translation of their conclusion:
"(...)This data set strongly suggests the non-linearity of the distinction between the relationships involving positive reinforcement and those involving so-called aversive contingencies (positive/negative punishment and negative reinforcement, indicating that both relationships can coexist in the same contingency.
In addition to theoretical questioning /conceptual, these data put the (also dichotomous) prescriptions on the use of both controls at the individual or social level. This non-dualistic perspective strengthens the notion that a contingency is not, in itself, “good” or “ bad,” being its dependent function, among other variables, of the alternative contingencies available at the moment or previously experienced by the subject (Perone, 2003). This perspective requires comprehensive behavioral analyses, which consider the set of contingencies in which the subject is (or was) inserted and not just that the current contingency under study is considered.
The analysis of positive reinforcement contingencies' possible “negative” effects (in the sense of harmful subject) seems to point out that positive reinforcement may have more similarities with some contingencies called aversive than it is generally supposed. Reviewing the literature on respondents and the operating effects of positive reinforcement contingencies, Balsam and Bondy (1983) concluded that the elicitation of response to the target response and selection of undesirable behaviors can occur under positive reinforcement and punishment. Therefore, the adequacy of a contingency in a context applied is not “aversive” or “non-aversive” but depends on the accuracy of the analysis made, which should cover the entire current and historical context of the subject."
"Perone (2003) concludes that aversive components are inevitable in all relationships, even those involving only components of positive reinforcement schemes.
Hunziker (2017) adds that even in continuous reinforcement schemes, there is a need to establish some degree of aversives since the strengthening function of a stimulus depends on its deprivation (which is aversive); It also highlights that a positive reinforcement history, when interrupted (extinction), can establish an extremely aversive condition that would not occur if there was no reinforcement history.
The conclusion seems to be the same: the dichotomy is false; Average is an inherent part of behavior control and occurs interconnected with positive reinforcement.
Variations in contingency arrangements can influence the magnitude of their adversity: characteristics of the antecedent or the consequent, other parallel contingencies, history of the subjects, among others.
This multiplicity of variables obliges us to an in-depth analysis of a broad spectrum that avoids, a priori, condemnation of aversive contingencies or acceptance of those that supposedly use only positive reinforcement (Critchfield, 2014).
Specifically, this set of studies suggests that the binary division between aversive versus positive controls is limiting, favoring a truncated, simplistic, and often "dogmatic" understanding of behavior, deviating attention from the multiplicity of existing controls (Hunziker, 2017).
These studies strengthen the analysis of Hineline (1984) that aversive control is not an area of separate knowledge from the one who studies positive reinforcement control."
Thanks for reading Human-Animal Science! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Luiz, F.B & Hunziker, M. H. L. (2018). Propriedades aversivas em contingências de reforçamento positivo: Evidências empíricas. Brazilian Journal of Behavior analysis, 2018, Vol. 14, N.2, 154-162.