Behavior modification – what is behavior modification

Behavior or behavior modification is something that many parents talk about but don’t always know how to do. Behavior modification is a treatment approach that focuses on changing behavior. This method is based on the work of the psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner, a well-known psychologist who developed the theory of operant conditioning, suggesting that behavior can be modified by consequences and by reinforcement.

The main goal of behavior modification is to replace undesirable behaviors with acceptable ones. An underlying theme is the belief that the way people react to an object or event can be changed through learning. This technique can be used in all age groups and can be applied to a wide range of contexts.

A commonly used element of behavior modification is positive reinforcement.
A commonly used element of behavior modification is positive reinforcement.

Reinforcement or reward

A commonly used element of behavior modification is positive reinforcement or a reward system. An example of positive reinforcement is giving a child a hug when they do a good job, giving a gift for good grades in school, or money for their weekly effort at housework.

Negative reinforcement, on the other hand, takes away something to reinforce good behavior, it is also an effective tool to modify habits or other behaviors . An example of negative reinforcement is taking away television time from a child who has been misbehaving.

The penalty

Behavior modification can also discourage unwanted behavior through punishment, which can also be positive or negative. In this theory, the term positive refers to something added, as a consequence.

An example is having athletes run extra laps of the playing field if they are late for practice. Negative punishment is when something is withdrawn, such as removing video games if tasks have not been completed. In this example, negative punishment should encourage this child to do his homework in the future, to avoid punishment.

In this sense, to avoid that it is a "punishment" in itself , the minor must know what the consequences of his bad actions would be so that, if he must suffer them, it is because of something he has decided to do instead of being imposed by someone else. .

Make it happen

Behavior modification can be an effective technique used in parenting and also to help manage behavior in children or adults with attention deficit disorder, autism, or oppositional defiant disorder.

Furthermore, this method can be used to increase desired behaviors in any individual, regardless of functional level. For example, behavior modification has been used successfully in smoking cessation and weight management programs. Behavior modification can also be used to increase productivity within organizations and businesses.

The tools of this theory can be applied to many areas of life
The tools of this theory can be applied to many areas of life

Use in everyday life

Although behavior modification is a tool used by many therapists, teachers, and health professionals, it can be quite easy to use in daily life. For example, if you want to encourage behavior in someone, praise and attention can be used as positive reinforcement.

Many adults have learned the hard way that getting to work on time and obeying traffic rules avoids some form of punishment, and they have changed their behavior to avoid these consequences.

Successful behavior change

Because knowledge alone does not equal behavior change, understanding how to improve behavior is essential to successful therapy and other behavioral interventions. Behavior modification based on operant conditioning theory is one of those interventions that can enhance success. The tools of this theory can be applied to many areas of life and can be used effectively by parents, teachers, therapists, health professionals, and anyone who wants to improve self-care habits and behaviors.