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Centerpointe Research

behavior modification

Why People Do What They Do

reward-punishment Do you know why people do what they do?  Do you think psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors know this automatically when they get information about a new client’s problem?  Sometimes it takes at least just a little more knowledge about a situation than what has been given to start with to understand why something is happening.  I was taught to do behavior modification therapy and although the process I used was by the book; it had to be tweaked to work right.  The necessary rewards and punishments had to motivate the client to do or not do a certain specified behavior or behaviors.  For example, I have a family member for whom chocolate ice cream wouldn’t work, but for time for this family member to take a nice long bath would.

Marestail shows moisture at high altitude, sig...

Marestail shows moisture at high altitude, signalling the later arrival of wet weather. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This has been a problem not only when doing behavior therapy but also when doing other kinds of therapy.  Sometimes it’s not what you think that is why people do what they do.  I knew of a farmer who drank when the weather forecast was bad.  I figured he was upset that he couldn’t get into the field the next day and was worried that he wouldn’t get his crops in or out.  No, I found out later that he knew he could drink that evening because he wouldn’t be operating farm equipment the next day.

Smoking cessation

Smoking cessation (Photo credits: www.mysafetysign.com)

I was using a very successful method of hypnosis for helping a person to quit smoking and I was getting nowhere.  The person had very serious health problems caused by smoking.  When I did a through follow-up interview, I found out that the only thing that person did for his or her own enjoyment was smoking.  He or she constantly did for others 24/7.  The amount of such work that he or she did was mind boggling.  He or she was at the beck and call of family and friends.

 

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How to Change Behavior

Me And My Parents

Me And My Parents (Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik)

Part of a parent’s job is to modify the behavior of their child or children to protect them from danger and to learn more appropriate ways for their child or children to get what they want or need.  For this we get very little training and what we do know we have learned from the way our parents‘ raised us.  It is surprising to me that for one of the most difficult jobs in life we get very little education.  How we acquire knowledge is very important and yet it is often not studied by the very people who need it.

Behavior modification has been around for a long time.  It has been taught to mental health professions, parents, teachers, and others.  It seems very simple to do, but it is not that easy to apply.  It takes some finesse and that is what makes it work for some users and not for other users.   In this method, behavior change is facilitated by the use of rewards and punishments.  Rewards can be given consistently or they can be given intermittently.  The latter rather than the former is more effective.  The behavior targeted to change is also important.  Punishment focuses on the wrong, unwanted behavior and rewards focus on the desired behavior.  It is usually best to develop an appropriate behavior by rewarding it with which to replace the “bad” behavior.  An appropriate replacement behavior for one child might not work for another child.  Also the effectiveness of the reward used depends on what the child likes to do or have. Social rewards like praise are better in the long run than concrete ones.

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Generating Fear and Anger

Can't Get You Out of My Thoughts

Can't Get You Out of My Thoughts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you resent people for what you think they have done to you in the past?  Are you concerned about things over which you have no control in the future or in the present moment?  Do you continually have such thoughts and they make you anxious and get you upset?  Did you ever think about how easily you can be controlled  because of these thoughts?   You may be calmly sitting in your recliner watching TV when something is mentioned that you are concerned about but is not happening to you at the present moment.  Are your feelings aroused?  These are usually not positive thoughts.  They can prevent you from enjoying life’s present moments and keep you from being in the here and now.  What might have been a pleasant break from everyday responsibilities turns into an unpleasant reaction to hidden fears and concerns that are associated with the content of the TV program you are watching.  The news often does not calm you and fill you with gratitude for the things life has given you.  The current presidential campaigns have taken on a negative slant and they must think that it works or why do they this?   Why do people think that the best way to motivate people is by hate and fear?  Psychological studies involving behavior modification find that rewards do a better job of changing behavior especially when they are associated with a desired positive behavior.  Unwanted behavior when eliminated must have the behaviors that are wanted already in place to take their place.

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