Behavior Modifaction

Topics: Operant conditioning, Aversives, Behavior modification Pages: 10 (1415 words) Published: February 4, 2013

Research Paper on Behavior Modification

Marcie Phalen

American Institute of Alternative Medicine


Research Paper on Behavior Modification

Behavior modification is a popular approach to behavior change. While research has

shown definite benefits of using behavior modification, there are potential disadvantages and

dangers as well to the use of behavioral techniques. More specifically, behavior modification can

create risk factors and have potential harmful effects on individuals when aversive stimuli such

as punishment and brainwashing are used. Also, there is significant concern about untrained staff

improperly using behavioral techniques, as well as, the lack of governmental regulation in this


Behavior modification programs form the core therapeutic intervention strategy of

many treatment facilities. They are based on the principles of operant conditioning that replaces

undesirable behaviors with more desirable ones through positive or negative reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement encourages certain behaviors through a system of rewards such as praise

and compliments, while in negative reinforcement a response or behavior is strengthened by

stopping, removing, or avoiding a negative outcome or aversive stimulus. Aversive stimuli tend

to involve discomfort, either physical or psychological. More specifically, behavior modification

programs are designed to correct the behavior of individuals who have been displaying

significant behavioral problems. However, who is to say that behavior modification can fix the

issues presented by these people?

While behavior modification is widely seen as an accepted and effective approach to

altering behaviors, the potential for its misuse and abuse arise from a lack of governmental

regulations, along with unqualified individuals attempting to apply the behavior modification

techniques. It should be noted, that there are several characteristics to behavior modification

with the most important being: defining problems in terms of behavior, techniques need to be


based on principles of learning, strong demonstration that a particular technique causes certain

behavior change and extreme importance on accountability for everyone who implements the

behavior modification program.

While doing research in this area, I would promptly take note of articles that really helped

me to gain a better understanding of the topic as well as support my argument. After reviewing

ten articles, I was able find three that I wanted to utilize further. I sorted the articles by their

overall content and based on how I would use each article as support for my argument.

Over the years the concept of punishment as a behavior modification technique has

drawn more focus from the critiques of behavior modification. Within behavior modification

circles, punishment is referred to as positive punishment such as using a spray bottle filled with

water as an aversive event. According to research studies, the use of punishment to change

behavior is only of a temporary nature, lasting at most up to several months. Additionally, there

are significant ethical considerations. For example, using fear as a means of modifying behavior

is more similar to coercion than techniques intended for the benefit of the individual in question.

Concomitantly, using punishment to alter behavior ignores an individual’s right to make

decisions regarding their own well-being. It is always better to use positive techniques whenever

possible as they are more ethical since they’re experienced as encouraging by the individual and

tend to result in longer lasting change.

Even though the use of positive punishment should only be done by board- certified

behavior analysts, there is no governmental laws...

References: Sally Deneen. (March 26, 1990). Drug-treatment Center Embroiled In Controversy Critics Call
Tough Techniques Abusive
Chelsea. (November 7, 2011). Behavior Modification and Brainwashing. In WWASP Diaries.
Maia Szalawitz. (September/October 2007). The Cult That Spawned the Tough-Love Teen
Marshall, M (May 1998)). Empower—Rather Than Overpower [Electronic Version]. Teacher
Magazine, 17(37), 32-36.
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