Changing Habits Using Operant Conditioning

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Changing Habits

Step 1: Presenting the participant:
The participant I chose is my youngest sister: Liliane. Liliane just turned 15 this month. She is in the 9th grade, a very special school year, since, at the end, she has to present the official Lebanese exam. We, her family, believe that we must not get worried about the exam, since she’s intelligent, one of the best students in her class, with a really high average. She is usually an active girl, very sociable, with a wide network of friends. Step 2: Identifying the bad behavior:

The reason why the participant chosen is my sister Liliane, is because of her bad habit, that I would like her to cut down. She actually spends most of her time, while at home, chatting with her friends on MSN. This is one really important habit, that could lead to serious problems. Step 3: Recording the baseline for the behavior (Day 1):

To be able to make the intervention, I have to know when does my sister practice her bad habit and how many hours per day. Of course, in the morning, it is not possible for her to chat with her friends. Then she goes to school. There, they are not allowed to use any kind of social pages while using the internet, like Facebook, MSN… Besides, at school, she is already with her friends, they can talk with each other face to face. Being in a French system, my sister stays at school till 4 PM. Which means that she spends most of her day there. But then, the recording begins. She reaches home at 4:30 PM., showers, eats lunch, and then, she studies a little bit, from 5:00 PM till 7:00 PM (it depends on how much homework she has). Then, from 7:00 PM till midnight: chatting time. This means that she spends 5 hours in a row on MSN, chatting with her friends, which is a really large time. And this also means that Liliane stays the majority of her home time on the computer, instead of staying with us, her family. And I have noticed that, sometimes, she does her homework carelessly, just to finish early. So, there are two things that are concerning me: if she continues in that way, she won’t be close to her family anymore, and she will stop getting good grades, knowing that she will present the official Lebanese exam at the end of the school year. I decided to study two related parameters:

Parameter 1: the number of hours spent chatting per day
Parameter 2: the number of times she uses the MSN per day
- Liliane chats 5 hours in a row with her friends on MSN

Step 4: Planning the intervention:
To change her behavior, I decided to use the principle of operant conditioning. In this type of learning, behaviors are emitted, in the presence of specific stimuli, to earn rewards are avoid punishments. In order for this method to be effective, the reinforcement must be something that is very desirable. But I decided not to go directly with reinforcement, which I thought, should be the last choice, or the last hope, if the other temptations did not work. Temptations:

-1- Positive punishment: in the beginning, I decided I should talk with her about one negative consequence that will occur when this behavior continues: the possibility that her grades might get affected, and also her ranking in her class. -2- Negative punishment: after discussing the issue with my parents and after them realizing the problem Liliane was going through, we came up with a supposed viable punishment. If she continues to chat for hours in the internet, everyone home will stop talking to her, that means she will be ignored by her family. -3- Positive reinforcement: if she decreases the number of hours wasted on chatting within two weeks, we will get her a box full of: pencils of every color (like every color of the “uni-ball” pencils), copybooks with really cool cover pages, all the equipments needed for drawing (which are a lot and expensive if they were a good brand). This box might not be important for most people, but when it comes to Liliane, the things in it are very...
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