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Keywords:

  • reprimands;
  • disruptive behavior;
  • disapproval;
  • proximity;
  • vicarious punishment

Although several studies have shown that social reprimands can function as punishers, no study reported to date has isolated any of the factors influencing reprimand efficacy. Three experiments were conducted to investigate several factors. Experiment 1 used an alternating treatments design and was conducted on two elementary school boys, one of whom was in a special education class. Results showed that verbal reprimands delivered with eye contact and firm grasp of the student's shoulders reduced disruptive behavior to a greater extent than did verbal reprimands delivered without eye contact and grasp. Both types of reprimand were more effective than a baseline condition during which disruptive behavior was ignored. Experiment 2 also used an alternating treatments design and was conducted on one elementary school boy. Results demonstrated that reprimands delivered from one meter away were considerably more effective than reprimands delivered from seven meters away. Experiment 3 used a reversal design and was conducted on two pairs of elementary school children, one a pair of boys and the other a pair of girls. Results demonstrated that reprimands delivered to just one member of the pair reduced the disruptive behavior of both members of the pair. Thus, the effects of reprimands “spilled” over to nonreprimanded students.