Modern day Behavior Modification is a product of years of research.
Behavior Modification is defined as the use of rewards or punishments to reduce or eliminate problematic behavior, or to teach an individual new responses to environmental stimuli.
The goal of a behavior modification program is to change and adjust behavior that is inappropriate or undesirable.
Two main tools used in behavior modification are positive and negative reinforcement.
Behavior modification can be traced to lab research as far back as the 1800's and 1900's. Most of this research was done through experimenting with animals. Many had impacting research, here are a few.
Ivan P. Pavlov (1849-1936)
-Concerned with stimuli that evoke responses (noise, food, lights, etc.)
-Pavlov's famous dogs: Gastric secretions were stimulated at the sight of food (a reflex response). Indicated that digestive processes could be stimulated without direct contact.
-He then focused his research on how connections were made between environment stimuli and reflex reactions.
This type of learning became know as Classical Conditioning.
-Classical conditioning is concerned with stimuli that evoke involuntary or automatic responses.
Edward L. Thorndike (1874-1949)
-Not concerned with reflex responses like Pavlov.
-Focused on the learning of new behavior.
-Well known for his research involving cats and a puzzle- box.
-Placed hungry cats in a maze and timed how long it took for them to reach the food at the end of the puzzle. He found that the cats got faster and faster. (learned behavior)
-From this research Thorndike formed laws of behavior, one of the most famous being the Law of Effect.
-The Law of Effect states that the consequences that follow behavior help learning, and that rewards, positive and negative, provide consequences that increase the learning of behavior.
B.F. Skinner (1904-1990)
-Like Thorndike, Skinner focused on learning that resulted from consequences.
-From his research, such as, the Skinner Box, the pigeon project, and the baby box, Skinner stated that all behavior is followed by a consequence, and that consequence determines the likeliness of repeating that behavior.
-When an association between a behavior and a consequence is formed it is known as Operant Conditioning.
-Operant conditioning is learning that is based on a trial and error process in which a subject remembers what behaviors have elicited positive, pleasurable, responses and which elicited negative ones.
Simply put, behavior modification is based on the idea that events occur before a specific behavior, and events occur after that behavior as well. The appropriate behavior is learned by observing and changing the pre-event behavior and the post-event behavior so that the appropriate behavior increases and the inappropriate behavior decreases.
The use of rewards to help affect this increase in appropriate behavior is called positive reinforcement- i.e.--strokes, gifts, more privileges, etc.
The use of punishment is called negative reinforcement. i.e.--spankings, withdrawal of privileges, etc.
To stop an inappropriate behavior, first the behavior must be observed. Then, a pattern can be recognized and a system of rewards can then be constructed.
Using positive reinforcement, a choice is presented and if a desired action occurs, a reward is presented.
If undesirable behavior takes place no reward would be given. This is an example of negative reinforcement.
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