Psychological Science Colloquium

Positive Punishment of Severe Treatment-Refractory Problem Behaviors


The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) is a combined residential and school behavioral program located in the Greater Boston Area, MA. Students and clients are enrolled following multiple expulsions, rejections, and unsuccessful treatment by other facilities and are often admitted under the influence of a multiple psychotropic medications. JRC’s treatment approach is unique in that we (a) taper and discontinue the vast majority of psychotropic medications (b) utilize 24-hour video-surveillance of our entire facility and all residences, (c) provide an environment that is rich with rewards for appropriate behavior and employ a variety of automated behavioral technologies (e.g., reward dispensers, pressure-activated rewards), and (d) can seek a court-approved positive punishment procedure (i.e., contingent skin-shock) for treatment refractory problem behaviors.

In this talk, we will explore the findings of an empirical analysis of positive punishment (i.e., contingent skin-shock) in the treatment of severe problem behaviors in 191 clinical cases between 2002 and 2018. Overall, a 95% reduction was observed in the frequency of severe aggression and health dangerous (e.g., self-injurious) behaviors across a wide variety of psychological diagnoses. Findings provide support for the supplemental use of positive punishment in conjunction with differential reinforcement of alternative, incompatible, and other appropriate behaviors. We present novel findings from (a) the largest clinical sample in the relevant literature, (b) planned versus unplanned fading of treatment, (c) reversal of treatment effects, and (d) follow-up data spanning 16 years. The evidence provides support for the assertion that contingent skin-shock is the least intrusive, most effective, efficient, and ethical treatment available for the severe problem behavior of some individuals.

Friday, February 14 at 3:00pm to 4:30pm

West Science, 2906
West Science Hall, Elizabeth C Harden Cir Dr, Marquette, MI 49855

Event Type

Academic, Community



Psychological Science
Primary Contact

Psychological Science Department

Contact Phone or Email


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