What Terms We Need To Understand When Changing Teen’s Behaviors–Part III

Another term is Classical Conditioning. Remember when Pavlov
(the Russian physiologist) rang a bell, and then gave a dog some food
(meat powder), which made the dog salivate? Pavlov did this over and
over with the same dog and pretty soon the dog would salivate just to the
sound of the bell, anticipating the food. Well, I’m not going to do much
of this, because it’s hard to get teenagers to sit still long enough to
listen to bells and search for food. But the principle is good and
illustrates that when good or bad reinforcers follow stimuli, the behaviors
increase or decrease, respectively, no matter what the time, place or event.
Telling or showing people what’s coming before it occurs is training them to react positively to the anticipated event. As it turns out, it also increases the effectiveness of the reinforcers and their contingencies.
Operant Conditioning is similar to classical conditioning, only it
happens in real life, everywhere, not just in a lab. The difference is that operant conditioning doesn’t have some of the obvious signs to alert us that a reward is coming, like in classical conditioning (modeling, or the bell ringing). In real life, while we are “out and about,” most of the rewards follow our behaviors, sans forewarning. These behaviors are called operants or responses. In real life, the good things that follow our behaviors increase our behaviors, whereas the bad things that follow our behaviors decrease our behaviors. The difference between Classical and Operant Conditioning is mostly that in the latter, conditioning takes place in an open, usually less structured environment without formal cues preceding the rewards.
From the above, there are, so far, two ways to increase good
behaviors–positive and negative reinforcement. To refresh your memory,
you either “present” a positive reinforcer (reward) after a behavior or you take away a threat of an impending punishment after a behavior. Both increase a behavior. Conventional thinking is that there is only one way to decrease a behavior, and that is to follow it with punishments. Well, that’s the traditional thinking.
It turns out there is another way to think about changing behavior, and that is to make a negative behavior become extinct by increasingly positively reinforcing an appropriate positive behavior that is incompatible with the negative behavior. Huh? This means positive reinforcers amp up good behaviors that are then used to make “extinct” negative behaviors, without punishment. You positively focus on behaviors that are the opposite of bad behaviors and reinforce them four times as much. The idea is to use this positive approach a lot more than any negative strategy. Use it enough and the need for punishments sharply decreases and in some cases, disappears. (See other articles by this author for a further discussion of punishments, their place and
consequences.)
–Dr. Griggs
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