It Could Happen to Anyone: Why Battered Women Stay

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Alyce D. LaViolette & Ola W. Barnett

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  • Dedication

    To battered and formerly battered women and their children and to the advocates who work so tirelessly on their behalf

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    Foreword

    A couple of years ago, when my husband was away on a business trip and my sons had a day off from school, I slipped while running from the shower to answer the phone. I had been waiting for that call all morning and, as luck would have it, the phone started ringing just as I got the shampoo into a nice lather. In what seemed like an instant, my right foot went out from under me, my body twisted, and my head hit the woodwork on the wall before slamming down on the polished slate floor. Trying hard not to pass out so that my children wouldn't find me and then bring in the neighbors to rescue their naked mother, I realized that the right side of my face was resting in a pool of blood. When I finally looked in the mirror, I saw a deep gash just above my right eye, like the kind of cut a boxer gets when an opponent connects with a left jab. The hospital is within walking distance of our house, but my sons were still too young at the time to leave home alone, so off they went with me. They were feeling guilty for not having answered the phone themselves and they were worried about what would happen to me at the hospital. As I walked hand-in-hand with them and saw the fear on their faces, it suddenly dawned on me: “Damn, I look like a battered wife. This visit to the emergency room is going to take forever. They're going to ask me dozens of questions, and they won't believe me when I tell them how it really happened. Maybe they'll even question the kids separately while my face is being stitched.”

    Domestic violence—it could happen to anyone? Not in the eyes of the hospital staff who treated me that Friday morning. The intake clerk was more concerned about the kind of insurance I had than about my injury. The nurse asked me rather perfunctorily how I got the injury, but she never made eye contact with me as she busied herself setting out the medical supplies the doctor would be using. As the doctor examined my eye, he chuckled, and with my children sitting right beside me, he asked, “What happened? Did your husband beat you up?” That was the proverbial last straw; the ER doc got an earful. “As a matter of fact,” I began, “I really expected you to seriously question me about how I got hurt. Domestic violence isn't funny. Do you know what I do for a living?” Of course, he didn't, but I filled him in. Maybe my lecture will make him think twice before he talks to an injured woman like that again, although I strongly doubt it. I am fairly certain that that experience had a more profound effect on me than on any of the hospital staff I encountered, including the ER physician.

    Walking home from the hospital, I remembered my earlier thought—“I look like a battered wife”—and asking myself in light of the ER staffs response, “What does a ‘battered wife’ look like? What did I need to look like for the staff at that hospital to be concerned about my safety?” In the pages that follow, Alyce LaViolette and Ola Barnett's answer to the first question is, “Any woman.” In the diversity of battered women's voices that they present and in their own words, they emphasize that domestic violence can occur in wealthy households as well as poor ones, among couples of any race or ethnicity, among Native Americans and descendents of the Mayflower pilgrams as well as recently arrived immigrants and refugees, among the young and the old, the physically abled and disabled, those who are straight as well as those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. Nevertheless, one of the things I like most about this book is the authors' simultaneous awareness of the importance of disadvantage and marginalization in the etiology of domestic violence. Yes, it can happen to anyone, but research is increasingly showing that women who are economically and socially disadvantaged—women who are poor, nonwhite, noncitizens or refugees, very young or very old, disabled, and/or not heterosexual—are often at especially high risk of violent victimization and also are often overlooked or neglected by service providers. The irony of the dual effects of disadvantage and marginalization in terms of victimization and service provision are not lost on me in light of my own experience. When I went to the hospital that Friday morning, my statuses were pretty obvious: I am an upper-middle class, white, U.S.-born, forty-something, physically abled, heterosexual woman—I'm not supposed to be battered because that happens to Other women. Yet, had I been one of those Other women—and this book documents this point well—abuse may have been suspected, but I would not necessarily have been asked about it, and I likely would have been treated with disdain or even hostility.

    But LaViolette and Barnett do not just cite research studies or their own practice experiences to make these points; instead, they let us hear the pain, the personal conflicts, and the tremendous strength and resilience of the real experts on domestic violence—battered women. Interspersed with statistics and research findings are the stories of battered women from diverse backgrounds, stories usually told in their own words. It is these stories, I think, that do most to shatter the stereotypes of what a battered woman “looks like” and how she's supposed to think, feel, and act. Moreover, these stories document not only the diversity of battered women, but also the diversity of their experiences. They force us to rethink traditional definitions and images of battering. I have long argued that standard measures of physical and psychological abuse, with their long list of horrors, miss the point. Some batterers hit and punch to control and punish their partners, some restrict social contacts or disconnect the telephone, and some tailor the battering to the specific vulnerabilities of the victim—after all, being intimate brings with it knowledge of a partner's otherwise secret fears. Our measures of who did what to whom how many times typically do not identify these very individualized forms of abuse. Instead, we hear them in women's personal accounts, and LaViolette and Barnett must be applauded for including these women's words. As those of us in academia continue to argue over whether it is methodologically more sound to use broad or narrow definitions of abuse, this book reminds us to do what we should have been doing all along: listen to battered women.

    Let the reader beware: This is not a “fun” or entertaining book to read. It is a powerful, often gut-wrenching book that you may have to read in small pieces, not only to deal with your emotional reactions, especially to some of the women's experiences, but also to think long and hard about the issues it raises. For me, for example, the book brought to the surface many of the conflicts I feel in working to eliminate violence against women and increase women's safety, while at the same time holding batterers accountable for their behavior. We often encourage battered women to leave abusive relationships, but leaving for some women may mean giving up eligibility for public housing, the only housing they can afford. Many of us in the battered women's movement have advocated for mandatory arrest policies only to find following the enactment of such legislation more women being caught in the police net, usually for defending themselves or retaliating against a batterer—behavior that is nonetheless violent in the eyes of the criminal justice system. Mandatory arrest laws have also had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. And do we really want to solve the problem of domestic violence by locking more men away in prisons and jails that have abandoned the goal of rehabilitation?

    In It Could Happen to Anyone, Alyce LaViolette and Ola Barnett challenge us to think critically about how we image battered women and batterers, and about how we respond to battered women and batterers. As we embark on a new century, I think that unfortunately inclusivity remains an elusive goal of the battered women's movement. LaViolette and Barnett and, most important, the battered women whose voices we hear in these pages remind us that if we exclude any group from our work, we will not succeed in ending violence. This goal of inclusivity remains elusive to some extent because of the current political climate dominated by a “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” mentality. However, not all women and men are equally likely to be locked up; it is the disadvantaged and marginalized who, as always, bear the brunt of this burden. As we begin the 21st century, then, we must reevaluate our current policy goals for meeting the needs of battered women and addressing men's violence. And that reevaluation must include a critical analysis of how each policy may impact—for better or for worse—women and men from all social groups in our society.

    When I sat down to read this book, I certainly didn't think I had all the answers, but I was pretty confident I had a good bit of the puzzle sorted out. This book substantially shook my confidence, and I'm grateful to Alyce LaViolette and Ola Barnett for the wake-up call.

    Claire M.RenzettiSt. Joseph's University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Acknowledgments

    The authors wish to thank Terry Hendrix for his support and commitment to this book. We especially wish to express our appreciation to Claire M. Renzetti for her dramatic and heartfelt foreword. Thanks are also due Liann Lech and Diana Axelsen for their expertise in book production and for meeting all the deadlines. We wish to give specific thanks to Carol V. Harnish, who critiqued and edited the first edition of this book and persisted in her conscientious endeavor through this second edition. Special appreciation to Paul Mones, Barrie Levy, and Joan Zorza for their feedback. Finally, we offer our most profound thanks to Raquel Bergen, for reviweing this revised edition. She made many invaluable suggestions and helped us refine our comments to better describe the plight of battered women.

    Alyce LaViolette wishes to thank her mother, whose life was an inspiration, whose advocacy touched many lives, whose love embraced her children, and whose death has left an incredible void. Alyce wishes to thank her father, who is a role model of courage, dedication to family, friends and community, a man who is a constant source of strength to his children and grandchildren, and a man who is what a Hallmark Father's Day card is all about. Alyce also wishes to acknowledge the best coauthor anyone could wish for. Ola's integrity is exceptional and her friendship invaluable.

    Ola Barnett wishes to thank her many professors and colleagues who have motivated her throughout a lifetime of academic pursuits. Because of their efforts, she has had this unique opportunity to contribute to society's efforts to eliminate family violence. She treasures her supportive husband and children and her four grandchildren, Kelley, Lesley, Devin, and Shane. Ola wishes to thank Alyce for her dedication and advocacy on behalf of battered women. Ola prizes her friendship with Alyce that has extended over 20 years. Last, Ola wants to call attention to Alyce's success in making battered women's case histories come alive in this book.

  • Appendix A: A Compilation of Statistics on Abuse of Intimates

    APPENDIX A A Compilation of Statistics on Abuse of Intimates

    Appendix B: General Learning Information

    Understanding Divergence in Research Findings

    In reading research results, one needs to bear in mind that a number of variables influence the findings. For example, the nature of the sample, the size of the sample, and the specific questions asked all determine the final outcome. Because investigators are prone to using different questionnaires and focusing on particular problems, their results are likely to differ. Sometimes, apparently divergent results may not vary as much as a superficial reading leads one to believe.

    Learning Research

    A few basic assumptions govern learning research: (a) A similarity exists between human behavior and animal behavior; (b) the results of laboratory experiments with animals using reinforcement and punishment can be extrapolated to describe human behavior; and (c) it is necessary to postulate the effects of some nonobservable factors in humans, such as religious attitudes or beliefs in the traditional family, just as one postulates the existence of hunger as a motivation in food-deprived animals. Even when it is impossible to scientifically observe internal factors (e.g., sexist attitudes), it may be possible to verify them through empirically based research, such as questionnaires. Furthermore, Follingstad et al. (1992) asserted that “literature from the laboratory study of human aggression is particularly relevant for considering what happens in battering relationships” (p. 110).

    This book incorporates several important experiments conducted on dogs and rats that have provided outcomes that seem to have significant applications for understanding why battered women may learn to stay with abusive husbands. (Early researchers conducted a number of animal studies before enactment of newer guidelines governing animal research.)

    I. Classical Conditioning: Pavlov and His Dog

    It is possible to condition emotional reactions. Laboratory experiments have demonstrated that human beings can learn to fear what they previously felt neutral about, liked, or even loved. The procedure used is called classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is simply pairing two stimuli to produce a response, such as in the famous case of Pavlov and his dog. Pavlov and his dog are the Jeff and Lassie of psychology. Pavlov sounded a tone, placed meat powder on the tongue of his hungry pet, and the dog salivated. After several pairings of the tone and the meat powder, the animal salivated after hearing the tone, but before the meat powder arrived; that is, the dog salivated to the presentation of the tone by itself.

    With classical conditioning, a reward (e.g., food) or aversive event (e.g., shock) occurs regardless of the subject's response. For example, Pavlov put the food in the dog's mouth whether or not the dog salivated. Pavlov, not the dog, controlled the presentation of the food.

    II. Extinction and Spontaneous Recovery

    Extinction refers to the decrease in responses when no reinforcement follows the designated response. Research has shown that when learning takes place under intermittent reinforcement schedules (occasional rewards), it takes animals longer to stop responding (resistance to extinction).

    Pavlov also noted an interesting side effect of his learning experiments. If he continued to sound the tone, but failed to present the food, the salivation diminished slowly; it was extinguished. If he waited a few days to present the tone (without the food) to the dog again, the dog once again salivated (spontaneous recovery). This pattern went on for days and did not seem to extinguish completely. The dog had to learn that the tone was no longer significant and did not mean that food was on the way.

    III. Operant Conditioning: Skinner and His Rat

    Operant conditioning refers to a basic form of learning primarily covering voluntary behaviors, such as driving a car or swimming. In contrast to classical, or Pavlovian, conditioning, operant conditioning requires the individual to earn a reward, or to work to eliminate a painful circumstance. B. F. Skinner, the famous behaviorist, developed the operant paradigm. In Skinner's (1938) experiments, behavior is shaped by rewarding (reinforcing) responses in a step-by-step manner as the animal approximates (successive approximation) the desired behavior. Skinner's classic work involved putting a rat in a box containing a bar. Skinner has retained his immortality with psychology students, not just for his research, but because the box was given his name, the Skinner box.

    In a Skinner box, the animal receives rewards (food pellets) as he slowly learns the desired behavior, the bar press. As the rat stands on its hind legs near the bar, a food pellet arrives in the food dish. When the rat touches the bar, another food pellet arrives, and so on until the rat presses the bar and receives food regularly. This process is called shaping. The animal learns that the reward is dependent on its own behavior; that is, it has control over the outcome of its behavior. The consequences of behavior (getting food or avoiding pain) control the animal's rate of lever pressing.

    • Reinforcement Definitions
      • Reinforcers: Reinforcers are events that increase responding.1
        • Positive reinforcer: A positive reinforcer is any event that, when added to a situation, increases the probability that an organism will make a behavioral response.
          • Animal Examples
          • Primary (unlearned) reinforcers: food and water
          • Secondary (learned) reinforcers: sound of a bell signifying food is coming (Secondary reinforcers have previously been paired with primary reinforcers.)
          • Human Examples
          • Primary (unlearned) reinforcers: food and water
          • Secondary (learned) reinforcers: smile, money, praise, approval, sexual contact, and affection
        • Negative Reinforcer: A negative reinforcer is any event that, when taken away, increases a behavioral response.
          • Animal Examples
          • Primary (unlearned) negative reinforcer: shock
          • Secondary (learned) negative reinforcer: sound of a bell signifying that a shock is coming
          • Human Examples
          • Primary (unlearned) negative reinforcer: shock
          • Secondary (learned) negative reinforcer: frown, criticism, name-calling
    • Additional Facts About Reinforcement
      • Reinforcers greatly enhance learning, but learning can take place without reinforcement.
      • In general, the larger the reinforcer, the greater (or faster) the learning.
      • When reinforcement is not given after a response, the number of responses declines (extinction occurs).
      • Contingent (earned, dependent, or related) reinforcement produces much better learning than does noncontingent reinforcement. A rat that must press a lever to earn food will learn to do so far better than a rat who is given the food without having to press a lever.
      • Delaying the presentation of the reinforcer retards learning.
      • Presenting the reinforcement on every trial in classical conditioning speeds up learning, whereas intermittent reinforcement (IR schedule) retards learning.
      • Presenting the reinforcement intermittently in operant conditioning will still induce learning, but the schedule of reinforcers (IR) will help maintain the behavior longer than if every trial is rewarded.
      • If motivation (e.g., hunger) is increased, learning occurs more rapidly.
      • Enjoyable activities (e.g., watching TV) can act as reinforcers as much as can stimuli such as food and water.
      • After a behavior is learned, it is harder to extinguish it if intermittent reinforcement had been used.
    • Punishment Definitions
      • Punishers: Punishers are events that decrease responding.
        • Positive punisher: A positive punisher is any event that, when added to a situation, decreases a behavioral response.
          • Animal Examples
          • Primary (unlearned) positive punisher: bar slap—shock for pressing a bar to obtain food
          • Secondary (learned) positive punisher: a tone signifying bar slap will occur
          • Human Examples
          • Primary (unlearned) positive punisher: spanking beating
          • Secondary (learned) positive punisher: pouting, disapproval, swearing
        • Negative punisher: A negative punisher is any event that, when taken away, decreases a behavioral response.
          • Animal Examples
          • Primary (unlearned) negative punisher: Water is removed when the animal eats.
          • Secondary (learned) negative punisher: A bell signaling food. is turned off when the animal presses the bar for food.
          • Human Examples
          • Primary (unlearned) negative punisher: dessert taken away after a meal
          • Secondary (learned) negative punisher: deprivation of TV privilege; time-out (removal from others)
    • Additional Facts About Punishment
      • Punishment is not the opposite of reinforcement. A noxious event like a shock does not always decrease responding (Skinner, 1938). “Punishment typically produces a change in behavior much more rapidly than other forms of instrumental conditioning, such as positive reinforcement or avoidance” (Domjan & Burkhard, 1989, p. 259).
      • The less intense and briefer the duration of the punishment, the less the suppression (Karsh, 1962). Mildly punished behaviors will recover (Appel, 1963).
      • Severity of punishment = duration × intensity.
      • If the first punishment is severe, but successive punishments are milder, the punished behavior will be inhibited (Sandier et al., 1966).
      • If the first punishment is mild, and successive punishments become more severe, behavioral suppression will usually not occur (Sandier et al., 1966). An animal continues to adjust and respond for the reward that is also present in the situation.
      • If punishment is discontinued, recovery may occur (Catania, 1984).
      • If the punishment is contingent upon the animal's behavior, the animal will learn to eliminate the responses (Camp, Raymond, & Church, 1967).
      • If the punishment is not contingent upon the organism's response, the organism will probably not learn to inhibit the undesirable responses (Hunt & Brady, 1955).
      • Punishment is more effective if given immediately after the undesirable behavior. If the punishment is delayed, the animal probably will not learn to suppress the undesirable behavior (Kamin, 1959).
      • The more consistent the punishment, the greater the decrement in the number of responses. Intermittent punishment does not maintain suppression of the punished behavior (Azrin et al., 1963). (Note that, in contrast, intermittent reinforcement schedules are very effective.)
      • If alternative, rewarded responses are available, the animal will inhibit the punished behavior more readily (Herman & Azrin, 1964).
      • A behavior that is both reinforced and punished is likely to recur (Azrin & Holz, 1966). If an animal both receives a mild shock and a pellet of food for a response, it will continue responding.
      • If a cue such as a light is used to signal forthcoming punishment, future presentations of the light will reduce behavior (Dinsmoor, 1952).
      • When punishment of a certain response is used as a discriminative stimulus (a signal) that a reinforcer will follow, the punished behavior will not be inhibited, but probably will be increased (Azrin & Holz, 1961).
      • Higher levels of shock generally lead to more aggression by the punished organism toward objects or other people (Azrin, 1970; Ulrich et al., 1964) or toward oneself (Logan & Wallace, 1981).
      • Inescapable shock leads to a general inhibition of responding, which implies that the organism has developed a conditioned emotional response of fear (Estes & Skinner, 1941).
      • Inescapable punishment works proactively to prevent responding (Klee, 1944) and to reduce future problem solving. Dogs exposed to inescapable shock suffered from “learned helplessness” (Maier, Seligman, & Solomon, 1969).
      • Exposure to prior shock enhances the effects of mild punishment, but decreases the effects of intense punishment (Church, 1969).
    Note

    1. These terms, examples, and definitions appear in Willet and Barnett (1987).

    Appendix C: Specific Learning Experiments

    The Use of Both Punishment and Reinforcement in Humans

    Ayllon and Azrin (1966) conditioned schizophrenics to respond to a punishment (noxious noise) coupled with reinforcement (token), and not to respond to a no-punishment, no-reinforcement condition. When the time between reinforcements lengthened, schizophrenics continued to select a punished response even without the accompanying reinforcement.

    Conflict in Animals

    Brown (1948) and Miller (1959) used rats to demonstrate several different types of conflict (approach-approach, approach-avoidance, avoidance-avoidance, and double approach-avoidance). For example, one goal consists of water and shock, whereas the other consists of food and shock. An animal faced with such a dilemma often runs halfway toward one of the goals and then retreats. Momentarily, it runs halfway toward the other goal, and then returns. Presumably, its approach behavior represents the desire for the positive goal (food or water), whereas its avoidance behavior reflects fear of the shock. The animal's degree of vacillation assesses its level of conflict or ambivalence.

    Punishment as a Discriminative Cue for Reinforcement

    When a cue (e.g., a tone) serves as a signal for forthcoming punishment, that same cue will reduce future behavior (Dinsmoor, 1952). Experiments by Holz and Azrin (1961) using pigeons indicated that if punishment were necessary to obtain a reward, the animal will accept the punishment. Pigeons learned to respond on a (variable interval) to punishment (shock) coupled with reinforcement (food), and not to respond to punishment alone (extinction). Because getting food depended on getting shocked, the pigeons increased their pecking even though they had to endure shocks. Punishment became a discriminative stimulus (cue) for a reward (signaled forthcoming food reinforcement).

    Punishment-Facilitated Attachment

    Rosenblum and Harlow (1963) detected significant variations between baby monkeys in attachment behavior with a monkey surrogate mother who differed in terms of her aversiveness. The babies who were given an opportunity to cling to a terry cloth “mother” in a situation involving the delivery of air blasts (punishment) spent more time with her than did a comparison group of monkey given access to a “mother” without the punishment. These findings suggest that punishment enhances the baby's responsiveness to the mother.

    Extinction Failure: Responses Fixated Through Punishment

    When rats receive punishment that is not sufficient to suppress their behavior, their behavior may become almost impossible to extinguish (Azrin et al., 1963). In a human example, a child who is inconsistently punished for throwing tantrums may continue throwing the tantrums for a very long time, even when the parents walk away (remove the reinforcement of attention). In other words, if a parent reacts to a child's tantrum by giving him or her attention, such as, “Don't cry. We are going to the park later. Come on, now, this is not worth crying about,” the attention serves as a reward for throwing the tantrum.

    The Gradual Build-Up of Punishment

    Using an increasing level of shock to punish a rat for pressing a lever does not lead to suppression of lever-pressing. Instead, the rat learns to adjust to the ever-increasing level of shock; it continues to press the lever (Sandier et al., 1966).

    Matching Behavior

    The Matching Law states that the relative frequency of responding on an alternative (e.g., Choice A—highly rewarded—or Choice B—less rewarded) matches the relative frequency of reinforcement for responses on that alternative. Interpreted, this statement implies that an animal will work harder on one alternative if it receives a higher reward (e.g., A) than it will for another alternative of lesser reward (e.g., B). That is, the organism matches its responses to the frequency (amount, value) of a reward.

    It may be possible to apply the matching behavior seen in animal experiments on making choices to the escalation of abuse in marital violence (Herrnstein, 1970). (In learning theory, noxious events such as electrical shocks for animals or physical violence for humans can be used as either punishers—to decrease behavior—or as negative reinforcers—to increase behavior through avoidance.) It may be possible to apply the idea of matching to the escalation of abuse in battering. First, assume that various forms of abuse, such as threats or swearing, function as negative reinforcers. Because negative reinforcers increase the probability of future responses, one abusive behavior (e.g., swearing) might lead to responsive threats by the partner (a matching response), leading to shoving by the first partner (matching), and so forth. Each abuse (negative reinforcer) serves to increase the other partner's abusive response (which serves as a negative reinforcer), so that, overall, the abuse escalates.

    Stress

    Hans Selye (1946) was the first to offer a relatively complete picture of the devastating effects of response-based stress on rats. Different stressors, such as infection and heat, caused a nonspecific response of the body that went through three stages: (a) alarm (the body mobilizes its defenses), pushing energy use to the limit; (b) resistance (the body returns to normal and copes with the stressor); and (c) exhaustion (the body can no longer adapt to the stressor; symptoms occur; death may follow).

    Human bodies may well go through similar stages when the stressor is emotional. If so, the experiments explain psychosomatic illnesses—real physical illnesses whose origins lie in emotional stress.

    Predictable and Unpredictable Shock

    Abbot et al. (1984) gave rats a choice between a signaled and unsignaled shock. The animals could not avoid the shock; they could only control their own ability to predict it. If the rat pressed the bar at the beginning of a sequence of trials, it earned a warning tone before every shock. If it did not press the bar at the beginning, it received no warning signal. All of the rats showed a marked preference for the signaled shock as reflected in their rapid learning of the bar press. The construct of control might be implied here.

    Signaled Avoidance: Use of a Warning Signal

    Bolles, Stokes, and Younger (1966) performed an experiment designed to examine escape and avoidance. In avoidance, rats learned to perform a task, such as running to the other (“safe”) side of a box, at the sound of a tone (a learned signal) that signified that a shock was imminent. In escape, the animals could get away only after receiving the shock. They could not prevent it by performing a learned task (e.g., moving to the other side of a shuttle box).

    Nonsignaled Avoidance: Use of Temporal Cues to Know When to Make an Avoidance Response

    Work with laboratory animals in nonsignaled avoidance experiments also appears to be pertinent to issues of control raised in battering relationships. In a series of studies, Sidman (1953) placed rats in precarious situations that required them to respond (almost continuously at certain points during the experiment) to avoid the pain of being shocked. In these experiments, there was no handy signal, such as a tone, to warn the animal of the forthcoming shock. To a certain extent, the rat had to estimate when a response was necessary by paying attention to time (temporal cues).

    A clock was set to deliver shocks to an animal provided it made no response. If the animal made an appropriate response (such as pressing a bar), the clock was reset, allowing the animal to rest before the clock was reactivated to deliver another shock. In other words, the rat could adjust his behavior to avoid or minimize the shock.

    Actually, Sidman used two clocks in his experiment. The Shock-Shock (S-S) clock's timer was set to control the interval between shocks (e.g., 2 seconds) if the animal made no response (e.g., pressing a lever). In other words, an animal that did nothing or made the wrong response would receive a shock every 2 seconds ad infinitum until a power failure brought temporary relief.

    The other clock was called the Response-Shock (R-S) clock. This clock controlled the elapsed time between a response and the delivery of a shock. To activate this clock, the animal had to make the appropriate response. If the R-S clock was set for 4-second intervals, the rat could relax for 4 seconds before responding again (pressing the lever). This behavior prevented the shock and reset the clock for another 4-second, safe period. If the animal did not respond appropriately, the 2-second S-S clock took over again, and the animal was shocked every 2 seconds.

    Although there was no tangible cue that a shock was coming—no loud noise, light, or other event (conditioned stimulus) to warn the rats that a shock was Imminent—they apparently learned to avoid shocks by attending to temporal cues, that is, to anticipate and to respond at specific time intervals.

    This procedure, controlled by two clocks, is one of the most demanding schedules ever devised by research psychologists. It required constant vigilance and rapid response. It also took a long time to learn. The animals virtually lived “on the edge.” For animals tested over several days, fatigue made it impossible for them to avoid all shocks and, in fact, to attend to the time interval cues. The rats could learn to avoid shock, even most shocks, but the rats were never able to avoid all shocks.

    A Warning Signal Generates Fear

    Brown and Jacobs (1949) exposed rats to different fear experiences. The first group of rats received a warning signal that ended with a shock. The second group received the same warning signal, but no shock. Later, both groups experienced the opportunity to turn off the warning signal by crossing from one side of a shuttle box to the other. The light remained on until the rats crossed over. The results indicated that the first group, the group that received the warning signal followed by the shock, learned to make the shuttle response significantly faster than the second group. The researchers interpreted these findings as signifying that the first group learned the shuttle response to reduce the fear generated by the warning signal. The termination of fear is reinforcing.

    Motivation Following Frustration by Nonreward

    Amsel and Rousel (1972) allowed rats to run in a straight runway to the first goal box for food, and then onward in the alley to a second goal box for additional food. After learning this procedure, the researchers frustrated the animals by not providing them with any food in the first goal box. When this occurred, the frustrated rats ran even faster than they had originally to the second goal box. They also ran faster than a control group of rats, which continued to receive the food reward in the first goal box. Apparently, frustration produced by the absence of anticipated reward in the first goal box intensified the rats' motivation to reach the second goal box.

    Frustration and its Consequences

    Animals caught in an approach-avoidance situation develop frustration (Maier, 1949). One outcome of their frustration is stereotyped responses. For example, Maier, Glazer, and Klee (1940) trained rats to jump from a jumping stand into a slightly closed door. Food was behind the door as a reinforcer for jumping to the correct color (e.g., white, rather than black). Later, after the jumping was well-established, the problem was made unsolvable. For a number of trials, the animals received reinforcement on half of their jumps to the formerly correct color (i.e., white) and on half of their jumps to the formerly incorrect color (i.e., black). After this frustration training, the animals exhibited a number of unusual behaviors: (a) rigid responses, for example, only jumping to the “right”; (b) apathy, or refusal to jump at all; (c) peculiar postures that seemed catatonic; and (d) attempts to get out of the test situation altogether by jumping over the test apparatus into the laboratory area.

    One of the most fascinating occurrences was that the animals walked to the correct door if the experimenter placed a little bridge between the jumping stand and the door. If the bridge was removed and the door opened so that the animal could actually see the food, he still would not jump to obtain it. His behavior was inflexible and self-defeating. The rat did not perform the correct response even when he knew what it was. This compulsive behavior is labeled “fixated.”

    Learned Helplessness in Dogs

    Researchers who were using dogs for testing subjected one of three groups of dogs to inescapable shock trials (Maier & Seligman, 1976). A second group could escape, and a third comparison group received no shocks at all. Later, the experimenters tried to teach the dogs a new task—how to jump over a barrier to avoid a shock. The dogs given inescapable shocks were almost unable to learn the new task. The other two groups of dogs learned to avoid shocks in the new task quickly. The shocked dogs had apparently learned that nothing they did made a difference (learned helplessness).

    References

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    About the Authors

    Alyce D. LaVioIette has worked with battered women since 1978, first as an advocate at WomenShelter in Long Beach, California, and then in private practice. In 1979, she founded Alternatives to Violence, one of the first programs in the country for spouse abusers. She has developed training programs for the Los Angeles and California State Departments of Probation and for the Orange County Department of Children and Family Services. She is a frequently requested conference and keynote speaker and also serves as an expert witness.

    Ms. LaVioIette has published articles, co-authored a parenting curriculum for domestically violent families, and written a pamphlet on battered women and therapy. She is a founding member and cochair of both the Association of batterers' Intervention Programs and the California Association of batterers' Intervention Programs. She has been a member, advisory board member, and trainer for the Statewide California Coalition on Battered Women since 1978. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the Humanitarian Award from the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women, the I Am Foundation's Community Service Award, and proclamations from Los Angeles County and the State of California.

    Ola W. Barnett is Professor Emerita of Psychology at Pepperdine University, Malibu, California. She received her doctorate at the University of California, Los Angeles, specializing in learning. Her major research and publication areas have been the characteristics of interpersonally violent men, the assessment of marital violence, and battered women. She remains active in the field of family violence, conducting research in the areas of marital and dating violence and the effectiveness of shelter programs. She is the recipient of the Charles B. Luckman Distinguished Teaching Fellows Award. She coauthored (with Cindy L. Miller-Perrin and Robin D. Perrin) the best-selling text Family Violence Across the Lifespan (Sage, 1997).


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