Behavior theory tries to evaluate human behavior through conditioning. It links the aspect of free will, deed, reward, and punishment to evaluate human behavior as an individual relates with the surroundings. It was initially coiled by John B. Watson and Ivan Pavlov, who observed human behavior through experiments. Behavior theory draws a line between the use of positive and negative reinforcements. The principles underlying this theory involve the interaction with the environment.
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The environment provides the appropriate framework in which behavior manifests. Behavioral conditioning assumes that the facts that are learned will be applied later in life. It aims at sectioning complex activities into particular traits through conditioning for individuals to learn new activities and behaviors. Through learning, an individual undergoes behavioral change and changes the perception of the environment. It also aids how an individual deduces the arriving stimuli, and this, in turn, dictates how they behave (Schmalleger, 2008). Behaviorism deduces that only visible behavior deserves research because other internal traits are abstract. Behavioral Psychological is based on this and tries to explain the effect of stimuli on behavior, which emanate from the environment and also from the inner self.
In crime, socialization with criminals may prompt one to learn about behavior and the act may be amplified when there are no unfavorable repercussions for engaging in social misconduct. If the environment favors certain criminal activities with less opposition towards the behavior, it can thrive more. If such misconducts are disapproved by peers or higher authorities, there is a tendency for individuals to incorporate it as part of normal behavior. Criminal behavior is learned like other human behaviors (Siegel, 2009).
Therefore, various learning processes dictate an individual’s behavior. This is achieved through direct conditioning, where human behavior is encouraged by rewards or punishments as they relate with others. Criminal behavior endures depending on the extent to which it is reinforced by using rewards or punishment as compared to its substitute. Individuals can assess their behavior as they interrelate with intimate people in their lives. These external factors determine the basis and outline of reinforcement and dictate whether it is acceptable or not. It also dictates behavioral models that are evaluated experimentally through studying human behavior.
As individuals embrace their behaviors as acceptable, they get involved in them significantly. As they become indoctrinated into offenses, their behavior could be encouraged through exposure to “deviant behavior models, associating with deviant peers, and lacking negative sanctions from parents or peers. The deviant behavior, originally executed by imitating someone else’s behavior, is sustained by social support” (Siegel, 2009). Reinforcement is essential in creating criminal vocation as well as in clarifying continued criminality.
Rewards and Punishments
Rewards and punishments, or in other words positive and negative reinforcement, target behavior modification. The law of effect points out that positively reinforced action tends to recur. Reinforcement is something that causes a particular behavior to become repetitive or introverted, and which does not seem to be stopped. In positive reinforcement, certain actions are strengthened by triggering certain pleasant aspects.
It motivates and directs the actions of other persons, and most importantly in evaluating human behavior. It explains why individuals engage in certain actions since they are reinforced to do so. Various organizations utilize this concept to encourage productivity and help deter social evils such as crime. This aids in cultivating desired behavioral practices since the actor also becomes aware that such action is desirable and therefore, will tend to redo it for them to be rewarded.
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They may do so while anticipating higher rewards and forget that the actions are desirable. The positive reward can be inhibited when there is no need to reinforce behavior since there are no chances for future occurrence thus, its extinction. To illustrate this, an individual may realize that his behavior no longer brings pleasant results. Therefore, it gradually vanishes when reinforcement is withdrawn.
Negative reinforcement is the withdrawal of undesired results when behavior is enhanced. Individuals learn to act pleasantly by shunning unacceptable scenarios. It is inflicted through punishments, which act as a stimulus to divert from certain behaviors. It aims at weakening certain behaviors as an individual receives a negative feeling. In most instances, it is applied to reform certain aspects in an individual and at the same time, make them understand its essence. In criminology, such a negative reinforcement may take the form of imprisonment and court penalties to caution criminals of the repercussions of being a social misfit.
It is better to apply positive reinforcement to facilitate desirable behaviors other than having to apply negative reinforcement. However, punishment also allows an individual to cultivate good morals when he or she undergoes inflictions. This however has to be regulated, consistent, and unpredictable for it to be useful. This is essential since a person will stop engaging in certain behavior with or without authority. In that case, it is appropriate to administer positive reinforcement in controlling certain behaviors. For instance, prisoners who desirably conduct themselves may be awarded time for recreation (Siegel, 2009).
Schmalleger, F. (2008). Criminology Today: An Integrative Introduction. 5th Ed. New York: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
Siegel, L.J. (2009). Criminology.10th Ed. Belmont, California: Thomson Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, Inc.