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Insufficient Punishment

 

Explanations > Theories > Insufficient Punishment

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

This is the dissonance felt when a person lack sufficient external justification for having resisted a desired activity or object. This often results in the person devaluing the forbidden thing.

Research

Aronson and Carlsmith (1963) threatened children with either mild or severe punishment if they played with favored toys. None of them played with toys, even when left alone with them. Afterwards the children who had only been mildly threatened favored the toys less. Lacking a strong external justification, they had made internal attributions that they actually did not like the toys so much.

Example

Company disciplinary systems often start with a weak dissuasion. This is all that most people need. Before long they not only follow but believe the company line.

So what?

Using it

To stop someone doing something, don’t threaten massive punishment. Threaten only just enough (or use some other minimal technique) to stop them for a while. Eventually, they will give up voluntarily.

See also

Cognitive Dissonance, Inoculation

References

Aronson and Carlsmith (1963)

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