Modifying an Existing Behavior

Journal #3 (Module 2, Lesson 1, Chapter 7)
Title: Modifying an Existing Behavior
Instructions: We all have behaviors we are working on improving or doing differently. Name one that you are working on and develop a plan using principles of operant conditioning to modify the behavior. For full points, be sure to name the reinforcement type and schedule you plan to use. Details below will help you with your plan. If you have children, you are welcome to apply these principles to their behavior instead of your own.
To use operant conditioning principles to establish and strengthen the desired behavior, you might consider following the steps suggested below by Anthony Grasha (1995).
1.Identify a target behavior that is important to you. Don’t attempt to do too much at once but be specific. Instead of “I want to get more exercise,” state “I need to start jogging one mile every day.”
2.If a desirable behavior such as exercise is presently nonexistent, go to step 4. However, if it is present in limited form, or is a behavior you want to eliminate, monitor it for about a week to establish a baseline of occurrence. Behaviors can be recorded by frequency or by duration. For example, if smoking is to be decreased, count the number of cigarettes presently smoked per day. If studying is to be increased, record the number of hours presently invested daily. Also keep track of the situations in which it occurs as well as the favorable or unfavorable consequences. (Sometimes, monitoring an action will cause a change. This project can be simplified by having students merely observe their behavior and record any change.)
3.Gain control over the behavior by controlling discriminative stimuli. Some people may smoke while drinking coffee, or snack only while watching television. Giving up coffee or limiting time in front of the TV may help in changing the target behavior.
4.Identify positive reinforcers (reading a favorite magazine, telephoning a friend, taking a hot shower). Select one that is likely to influence the behavior you want to change, then use it 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 after you have gone three hours without a cigarette.
5.If possible, enlist social support. Modifying behavior can be difficult, and so it often helps to have someone to talk with to keep you honest and committed to your plan. Grasha writes that one graduate student put $200 into a jar and instructed her husband that for every week she failed to reach her goal in working on her dissertation, he was to send $25 to her least favorite charity.
6.Monitor and record your progress toward changing the behavior. Remember that behavioral change takes time. Shift from continuous to partial reinforcement once a target behavior is acquired. Your goal should be to wean yourself from the control of external reinforcers.
Grasha, A. F. (1995). Practical applications of psychology (4th ed.). New York: HarperCollins.
For full points, your journal must be at least 100 words and submitted as Word document or pdf. Please see the Due Dates document for deadlines.