What is Behavior Modification?
Behavior modification is the process of changing patterns of human behavior over the long-term using various motivational techniques. It can be a useful tool to encourage desirable behaviors in yourself, your children, or your employees. There are techniques that can help improve the effectiveness of behavior modification, and a therapist can help you determine the best strategies to use to achieve your desired change.
Behavior Modification is, a more modernized term for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). It simply uses the principles of ABA to either increase a desired behavior or decrease an unwanted one. It has proven to be a successful approach used not only in children but in adults as well.
Who Can Benefit from Behavior Modification Therapy?
Behavior modification techniques have been found to be especially effective to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), phobias, and autism.
Other common uses for behavior modification include quitting smoking, beginning a new wellness routine such as diet or exercise, or achieving other goals such as finishing a creative project.
Behavior Modification Techniques
Positive Reinforcement and Positive Punishment:
Positive reinforcement adds some sort of stimulus that reinforces good behavior. For example, you could positively reinforce the behavior of a student by awarding them a prize for doing well on their exam. Positive punishment describes an added stimulus that decreases the likelihood of an undesired behavior occurring. A real-life example of such a technique involves getting a speed ticket aiming at decreasing speeding in the future.
Negative Reinforcement and Negative Punishment:
Negative reinforcement occurs when you remove a stimulus to increase a desired behavior. For example, an infant crying (a stimulus) is removed when a parent picks the infant up (the desired behavior). As a result, the parent is encouraged to pick up their infant more often when they cry. Negative punishment occurs when a stimulus is taken away to reduce the frequency of an undesired behavior occurring. For example, a teenager’s cell phone (the stimulus) is taken away when they stay out past their curfew (the undesired behavior).
A behavior can become extinct when a stimulus or reinforcer is removed. For example, if your child becomes accustomed to getting a new toy (stimulus) every time they throw a tantrum (undesired behavior), you will need to refrain from buying your child a gift when they throw a tantrum. When done consistently, your child will eventually learn that the behavior never produces the desired outcome, and the behavior will likely become extinct and stop.
The process of shaping reinforces behaviors that are closer to a desired behavior. For example, a child learning to walk involves several stages (sitting up, crawling, standing, walking). Parents reinforce a child learning to walk through shaping by giving a child encouragement when they engage in new steps.
Fading is the process of gradually shifting from one stimulus to another. For an example, if a parent encourages their child to get good grades with a positive stimulus, such as rewarding money for good grades, they may eventually seek to find a more sustainable stimulus to maintain good academic performance. Fading removes the old stimulus, getting money in exchange for good grades, and replaces it with a new stimulus, such as satisfaction in learning new material.
Behavior chains link individual behaviors to form a larger behavior. By breaking down a task into its simplest steps, a complex behavior becomes more consistently achievable.
Need more information about Behavioral Modification?
If you’re finding certain problematic behaviors recurring in your life and are having difficulty changing them. (Cell phone making you late for work, anyone?) Speaking with a licensed therapist can help you come up with a plan for tackling the issue with actionable steps leading to better outcomes.