Effective punishment experiences : the need for a more comprehensive approach to conceptualising behavioural punishers and reinforcers in a road safety context

Fleiter, Judy J., Watson, Barry C., & Lennon, Alexia J. (2013) Effective punishment experiences : the need for a more comprehensive approach to conceptualising behavioural punishers and reinforcers in a road safety context. In Castro, Nicolas (Ed.) Psychology of Punishment : New Research. Nova Science Publishers, New York, pp. 1-30.

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Determining what consequences are likely to serve as effective punishment for any given behaviour is a complex task. This chapter focuses specifically on illegal road user behaviours and the mechanisms used to punish and deter them. Traffic law enforcement has traditionally used the threat and/or receipt of legal sanctions and penalties to deter illegal and risky behaviours. This process represents the use of positive punishment, one of the key behaviour modification mechanisms. Behaviour modification principles describe four types of reinforcers: positive and negative punishments and positive and negative reinforcements. The terms ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ are not used in an evaluative sense here. Rather, they represent the presence (positive) or absence (negative) of stimuli to promote behaviour change. Punishments aim to inhibit behaviour and reinforcements aim to encourage it. This chapter describes a variety of punishments and reinforcements that have been and could be used to modify illegal road user behaviours. In doing so, it draws on several theoretical perspectives that have defined behavioural reinforcement and punishment in different ways. Historically, the main theoretical approach used to deter risky road use has been classical deterrence theory which has focussed on the perceived certainty, severity and swiftness of penalties. Stafford and Warr (1993) extended the traditional deterrence principles to include the positive reinforcement concept of punishment avoidance. Evidence of the association between punishment avoidance experiences and behaviour has been established for a number of risky road user behaviours including drink driving, unlicensed driving, and speeding. We chose a novel way of assessing punishment avoidance by specifying two sub-constructs (detection evasion and punishment evasion). Another theorist, Akers, described the idea of competing reinforcers, termed differential reinforcement, within social learning theory (1977). Differential reinforcement describes a balance of reinforcements and punishments as influential on behaviour. This chapter describes comprehensive way of conceptualising a broad range of reinforcement and punishment concepts, consistent with Akers’ differential reinforcement concept, within a behaviour modification framework that incorporates deterrence principles. The efficacy of three theoretical perspectives to explain self-reported speeding among a sample of 833 Australian car drivers was examined. Results demonstrated that a broad range of variables predicted speeding including personal experiences of evading detection and punishment for speeding, intrinsic sensations, practical benefits expected from speeding, and an absence of punishing effects from being caught. Not surprisingly, being younger was also significantly related to more frequent speeding, although in a regression analysis, gender did not retain a significant influence once all punishment and reinforcement variables were entered. The implications for speed management, as well as road user behaviour modification more generally, are discussed in light of these findings. Overall, the findings reported in this chapter suggest that a more comprehensive approach is required to manage the behaviour of road users which does not rely solely on traditional legal penalties and sanctions.

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ID Code: 65102
Item Type: Book Chapter
ISBN: 9781629481210
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > CRIMINOLOGY (160200) > Causes and Prevention of Crime (160201)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Nova Science Publishers
Deposited On: 14 Jan 2014 23:18
Last Modified: 15 May 2016 05:01

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