After reading Chapter 5, “Learning,” conduct this activity.
Behavioral psychologists have demonstrated repeatedly that most people can modify their own behavior through the application of operant principles. In the Application section of your textbook entitled “Using Learning Principles to Improve Self-Control” in the Learning Chapter, the textbook authors delineate some of the mechanisms involved in self-control, such as self-reinforcement and stimulus control. In this exercise you will try to modify one of your own behaviors, then you will write a summary about your efforts. Here are the steps you should follow:
Identify a behavior that you wish to change. Always be specific, rather than general. For example, instead of saying, “I want to establish a habit of studying more,” say “I want to establish a habit of studying two hours a day, five days a week.” Or, say, “I want to learn to get up when my alarm goes off, at least 6 days a week.”
A good first step is to monitor the current rate of the behavior you wish to change. Monitor your studying or getting up behavior for a week to establish a baseline occurrence of the behavior. Behaviors can be recorded by frequency or by duration. Getting up when the alarm goes off can be recorded by frequency; studying time can be monitored by the number of hours you presently study. You should also record the situations in which you study best or get up when the alarm goes off. (Sometimes merely monitoring the occurrence of a behavior increases awareness, and behavior change begins.)
To gain control over a behavior, identify and control the discriminative stimuli that elicit that behavior. For example, sitting at one’s desk without the radio or TV on may be a discriminative stimulus for concentrated study. Turning the volume way up on the radio alarm clock may be a discriminative stimulus for getting up.
Identify positive reinforcers (reading a novel before going to bed, phoning a friend, or going out on Friday night). Select one that is likely to influence the behavior you want to change, then use the reinforcer to change your behavior. Establish a schedule of reinforcement. For example, you get to make a phone call only after you have read one chapter in the textbook, or you get to go out Friday night only if you’ve studied two hours the preceding four days.
If possible, get social support by telling your friends or family members about your plan. Ask your friends not to pressure you to go out with them until Friday night, or ask your roommate or family members to compliment you when you get up on time. Also, you will be more likely to stick to your plan if you have told others of your intentions.
Record your progress toward changing the behavior. Remember that behavioral change takes time.
Questions to answer in Written Format (at least 3 pages)
- What behavior did you try to change (state it specifically)?
- What was the baseline measurement of your behavior?
- Was there a discriminative stimulus for you behavior?
- What positive reinforcers did you select? Did you have a schedule of reinforcement? If so, what was it?
- What is your progress toward changing your behavior?
- How effective is simple self-monitoring in changing your behavior?
- How effective was your “intervention”?
- If you used more than one technique, which was preferred (or more effective) over the other?
- What problems did you encounter in self-regulating your own behavior?
To receive full points on this paper, identify each question you are answering. This assignment should be typed, double spaced, and at least three pages long, in 10 or 12 pt. font