Behavior modification is a therapeutic technique based on the work of B.F. Skinner, a famous psychologist who is known as the "Father of Behaviorism." Skinner developed a theory of operant conditioning, which states that all behavior is governed by reinforcing and punishing stimuli. Behavior modification uses a scheduled approach that rewards desired behavior and "punishes" undesirable behavior. This technique continues to be used in therapy and is used in many psychological settings.
Reinforcement and punishment are the main principles of behavior modification. Reinforcement strengthens a behavior, while punishment weakens a behavior. Both can be either positive or negative. Positive reinforcement describes desirable behavior rewarded with a pleasant stimulus, while negative reinforcement describes desirable behavior rewarded with the removal of a negative stimulus. Positive punishment occurs when an undesirable behavior results in the addition of a negative stimulus, while negative punishment occurs when an undesirable behavior results in the removal of a pleasant stimulus. For example, a rat accustomed to receiving food when pressing the lever, no longer receives food when pressing the lever. The rat has experienced negative punishment.
Applications of Behavior Modification
Behavior modification is an effective technique used to treat many disorders such as attention deficit disorder, autism or oppositional defiant disorder. Furthermore, the fundamentals of behavior modification can be used to increase desired behaviors in any individual, regardless of functional level. For example, an individual who wants to quit smoking cigarettes, or a parent who wants her child to consistently make the bed, may use behavioral techniques to help achieve those goals. Behavior modification can also be implemented on a systematic scale to increase productivity within organizations and businesses. Articles such as "A Behavior Modification Perspective on Marketing" outline how behavior modification theories can be used as a viable method of analyzing the economic market.
Defining Behavior in Behavior Modification Techniques (by: Hindu) In behavior modification theory, all behavior is defined as being externally controlled by aspects of the environment. In this sense, both inside and outside of our body constitutes an environment. For example, behaviorists believe that if a person sees a lion and runs away, he is not running because he is "scared." Instead, he is running because those that did not run in the past died, and therefore the urge to run is a result of the survival of those that ran and lived to pass on their genes. In addition, the subjective feeling of being "scared" is considered a flight or fight reflex, not an emotion. The heart races and adrenaline increases as the central nervous system reacts to the "environment" of the body. Therefore, anything a person does, from snoring to talking, can be target for behavior modification.
Three techniques of behavior modification include systematic desensitization, aversion and token economy. Systematic desensitization helps alleviate fear associated with certain stimuli. Exposure to the fear-producing stimuli while focusing on relaxation techniques eventually leads to the fear-inducing stimuli resulting in the relaxation response, rather than fear. Aversion helps break bad habits through associating aversive stimuli to the undesirable habit. Eventually, the undesirable habit becomes associated with the negative consequence and the behavior is reduced. A token economy is a highly effective behavior modification technique, especially with children. In this technique, desired behaviors result in the reward of a token--such as a poker chip or a sticker--and undesirable behaviors result in the removal of a token. When children obtain a certain number of tokens, the children get a meaningful object or privilege in...