- Recall your past experiences where behaviorist approaches have been used to modify your behaviors.
- Which experiences do you consider positive (helpful and pleasant)?
- In the attempt to modify your behavior, can you cite behaviorist approaches that successfully modified your behavior/s but turned out to be unpleasant experiences?
- Were there occasions wherein your behavior/s became more undesirable rather than improved?
A positive experience that helped me to modify my behavior was when my mother would praise me for getting high scores on exams (positive reinforcement). I never cared much for scores and felt like exams didn’t truly measure whether I learned something or not. This is because I am a big-picture thinker and I felt it was unnecessary and tedious to memorize entire sentences and paragraphs so I can get correct marks for fill-in-the-blank questions. However, because of my mother’s praise and encouragement, I wanted her to be happy and studied harder for exams so I can get high scores. It made me happy to make her happy.
My mother told me that when I was a young child, I had a habit of screaming. She hated this habit because it hurt her ears and it was a nuisance to the neighbors. She said she would slap my mouth every time I screamed, and I eventually stopped screaming. Of course, it hurt, but the pain went away within a minute. It hurt my pride much more than my mouth. This was, of course, a positive punishment, where I received something I didn’t like. The unpleasant experience successfully modified my behavior.
I remember a time when I had the chore of cleaning my room once a week. I didn’t like doing it, and it took me a long time to begin. What made me take longer, however, was nagging (using techniques ranging from positive reinforcement to negative punishment). I felt that if I said I will clean my room within the day, people should trust me to do it. I do not need to be nagged. If I am nagged too much, then I will not do it because I will be too irritated. I think this is related to the reinforcement schedule. Continuous reinforcement (either positive or negative), if too much, can discourage a person from modifying his/her behavior.
Reflecting on these past experiences helps me to realize that we are all familiar with the theories on behavior due to our own experiences. We all have behaviors that we wish to modify in ourselves and in the people we are responsible for, and it helps to know the theoretical basis of what we do in order to improve ourselves more effectively.