Reinforcement versus Punishment: City Parking Regulations

How Reinforcement and Punishment Theory Applies to Parking Meters

The Minneapolis downtown area is always busy, and there are hardly any parking spots available during the day time in the area. In order to enforce the parking rules, the Minneapolis police officers issue parking tickets to drivers who violate parking rules by not paying the designated parking meters or by parking in handicapped spot or too close to fire hydrant.

The textbook (Experience Psychology by Laura King, pages 169 to 175) explains the concept of reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement aims to reinforce a behavior. Positive reinforcement reinforces the behavior by presentation of a pleasant stimulus, whereas the negative reinforcement achieves by removal of an unpleasant stimulus. Punishment, on the other hand, aims to diminish a behavior. Positive punishment diminishes the behavior by presentation of an unpleasant stimulus. Negative punishment diminishes the behavior by removal of a pleasant stimulus.

Therefore, in the case of parking tickets, presentation of (issuing) tickets is an unpleasant stimulus, which will lessen the parking violation. This is an example of a positive punishment. It is not a negative punishment, because there was no removal of pleasant stimulus. It is not reinforcement, because no behavior was reinforced or supported to make it happen again.

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