Overcorrection and Positive Practice
Negative Practice

Overcorrection is punishment. It is the application of a negative event or the removal of a negative event. It has been used to reduce disruptive, annoying, and self-injurious behaviors. Its success may be attributed to: restitution, positive practice, avoidance, time-out, or punishment.

Overcorrection consists of restitutional overcorrection and/or positive practice overcorrection. It combines the reductive effects of punishment and the educative effects of positive practice.

Restitution is based on having the person do what a normal individual might do to correct a situation. Knocking over a person’s drink. Buying them a new one. Restitution helps the individual experience the effort needed to restore the damage and may cause them not to repeat the behavior because of the inconvenience of correcting or rectifying the situation. This may cause the person to realize that time and effort are needed to correct irresponsible action. Combine this with a caring atmoshpere and the person may decide to take responsibility for his/her actions. This makes this form of punishment better than other forms because of the intention to teach appropriate behavior and responsibility for ones actions.

Restitutional overcorrection is were the person corrects the consequences of their misbehavior by restoring the situation to an improved state from before the event. Removing gum under a desk where the student placed theirs is restitution. However, removing gum from under all desks is restitutional overcorrection. A person who upsets a chair while sitting down. Restitutional overcorrection would be to have s/he straighten all the chairs in the classroom.

Positive practice overcorrection is where the person practices an activity with the appropriate behavior. Repeatedly removing gum from their mouth, wrapping it in paper, and placing it into the trash container. For upsetting a chair the person would be required to practice the appropriate steps of being seated. It relies on having the person do what a normal individual might do to avoid the situation.

Whether the design is restitutional or positive practice it could also include a positive social aspect. This aspect should be carefully considered. If the person repeatedly engages in the self limiting behavior, then it may continue because the person is being reinforced by the attention from the restitutional or positive practice.


Other Interventions related to overcorrection

Negative practice is the opposite of overcorrection the individual is required to perform the self limiting behavior repeatedly. Student who continually taps her pencil during class. During recess have the student repeatedly tap on her desk with her pencil while saying, "This is what I am not supposed to." for five minutes.

Quiet training and relaxation training are similar. A person is required to sit or lie down and/or engage in a relaxation procedure. A person might use this as they feel a problem is about to occur or they might use it to stop a violent behavior. This procedure is close to time out and could be used prior to overcorrection.


Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & W. L. Heward. (1987) Applied behavior analysis. Columbus: OH. Merrill Publishing Co.

Dr. Robert Sweetland's Notes ©