Coercion Without Aversive Stimuli

Dr. Joe Layng
Presentation given at the 2020 Conference

Coercion is often discussed in the context of the application of aversive control. That is, the behavior is shaped or maintained through the application or removal of aversive stimuli. Some have argued that coercion could be minimized or ended if only positive reinforcement were used to shape or maintain behavior. Work in nonlinear contingency analysis, however, suggests otherwise. This presentation will describe how the arrangement of positive reinforcement contingencies may be considered coercive and in some instance more insidious that the explicit use of aversive control. The talk will briefly describe Israel Goldiamond’s (1976) concept of degrees of freedom among alternatives, and show how its extension can help us better understand coercion and its implications. The question may not be whether or not coercion is used, but how much and of what type will we accept given different behavioral goals.

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