Changing Habits Using Operant Conditioning

Published: 2021-10-09 05:05:11
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The participant I chose is my youngest sister: Liliane. Liliane just turned 15 this month. She is in the 9th grade, a very special school year, since, at the end, she has to present the official Lebanese exam. We, her family, believe that we must not get worried about the exam, since she’s intelligent, one of the best students in her class, with a really high average. She is usually an active girl, very sociable, with a wide network of friends. Step 2: Identifying the bad behavior:
The reason why the participant chosen is my sister Liliane, is because of her bad habit, that I would like her to cut down. She actually spends most of her time, while at home, chatting with her friends on MSN. This is one really important habit, that could lead to serious problems. Step 3: Recording the baseline for the behavior (Day 1): To be able to make the intervention, I have to know when does my sister practice her bad habit and how many hours per day. Of course, in the morning, it is not possible for her to chat with her friends. Then she goes to school.
There, they are not allowed to use any kind of social pages while using the internet, like Facebook, MSN… Besides, at school, she is already with her friends, they can talk with each other face to face. Being in a French system, my sister stays at school till 4 PM. Which means that she spends most of her day there. But then, the recording begins. She reaches home at 4:30 PM. , showers, eats lunch, and then, she studies a little bit, from 5:00 PM till 7:00 PM (it depends on how much homework she has). Then, from 7:00 PM till midnight: chatting time.
This means that she spends 5 hours in a row on MSN, chatting with her friends, which is a really large time. And this also means that Liliane stays the majority of her home time on the computer, instead of staying with us, her family. And I have noticed that, sometimes, she does her homework carelessly, just to finish early. So, there are two things that are concerning me: if she continues in that way, she won’t be close to her family anymore, and she will stop getting good grades, knowing that she will present the official Lebanese exam at the end of the school year.
I decided to study two related parameters: Parameter 1: the number of hours spent chatting per day Parameter 2: the number of times she uses the MSN per day ?DAY 1 – Liliane chats 5 hours in a row with her friends on MSN Step 4: Planning the intervention: To change her behavior, I decided to use the principle of operant conditioning. In this type of learning, behaviors are emitted, in the presence of specific stimuli, to earn rewards are avoid punishments. In order for this method to be effective, the reinforcement must be something that is very desirable.
But I decided not to go directly with reinforcement, which I thought, should be the last choice, or the last hope, if the other temptations did not work. Temptations: -1- Positive punishment: in the beginning, I decided I should talk with her about one negative consequence that will occur when this behavior continues: the possibility that her grades might get affected, and also her ranking in her class. -2- Negative punishment: after discussing the issue with my parents and after them realizing the problem Liliane was going through, we came up with a supposed viable punishment.
If she continues to chat for hours in the internet, everyone home will stop talking to her, that means she will be ignored by her family. -3- Positive reinforcement: if she decreases the number of hours wasted on chatting within two weeks, we will get her a box full of: pencils of every color (like every color of the “uni-ball” pencils), copybooks with really cool cover pages, all the equipments needed for drawing (which are a lot and expensive if they were a good brand). This box might not be important for most people, but when it comes to Liliane, the things in it are very desirable things, that she will absolutely enjoy.
Step 5: Executing the intervention (Day 2-6): ?DAY 2 -When she came back from school, I tried the first temptation. I talked with her about the probable negative consequence that might occur if she continues to spend that much time on chatting: I told her she might have difficulties in school, like her grades will drop down. Actually she did not care a bit. She told me that this is not affecting her, and that she is still getting good grades. So, she was not convinced at all, and my talking has no effect on her. -After a little studying, she goes to the computer, and chats like usual, 5 hours in the evening, with no break, so also, in a row. DAY 3 -I didn’t do anything, I wanted to see whether she thought about what I said or not. So, I only did an observation. -She sat also from 7:30 PM till 12:00 PM, which is half an hour less. So, she chatted 4 hours and 30 minutes, in a row. ?DAY 4 -I decided to take my intervention further. I thought we should start with the second temptation. My parents, my other sister and I came to her, and we told her that if she does not decrease the number of hours spent chatting, we will stop talking to her, and we will ignore her. -At 7:00 PM, she went to the computer and started chatting.
Maybe, she thought that we couldn’t actually stop addressing to her. She stayed from 7:00 PM till 10:00 PM. At 10:00 PM she turned the MSN off and came to us. All of us were sitting in the living room watching a movie. When she came, we ignored her. She got angry, she sat on her bed and listened to music. Then, half an hour later, she went online again. She stayed from 10:30 PM till 11:30 PM. Then she went to bed. -She spent 4 hours chatting, but not in a row, instead, 3 hours, and half an hour later, another 1 hour. ?DAY 5 -At 7:00 PM, Liliane noticed that we were still ignoring her.
So, she went chatting. She stayed from 7:00 PM till 10:00 PM. Then, she signed out. She came to my parents and sat with them. She stayed an hour, and then, my parents noticed that the negative punishment kind of worked a little. So, they stopped ignoring her, and began talking to her again. She did not go online the rest of the evening. -She sat 3 hours and in a row. ?DAY 6 -I thought, since the negative punishment decreased the number of hours spent chatting, it was time for the positive reinforcement, to make things even better, So, when she returned home, mom came to her.
She talked with her calmly, and she told her that if, for the next two weeks, she spent only one hour per day chatting, she will give her a box full of the things she loves (mentioned above). -So instead of chatting, at 7:00 PM she continued studying about an hour more. At 8:00 PM, she went online, she spent an hour, from 8:00 PM till 9:00 PM. Then, she turned the computer off, and came to sit with her family. We had fund fun, and we talked a lot. -She spent only 1 hour chatting, in a row. ?DAY 7 -She spent 30 minutes from 8:00 PM till 8:30 PM, and then another 30 minutes, from 9:30 PM till 10:00 PM. So this time, she spent one hour chatting, but not in a row. Step 6: Collection of data Two parameters were taken into consideration: the number of hours per day spent chatting and the number of times per day she used the MSN. Step 7: Conclusion ?Comparing DAY 1 with DAY 7: In DAY 1, Liliane spent 5 hours in a row on chatting, while in DAY 7, she spent only one hour on chatting, and it wasn’t even in a row, instead, it was a two half an hour. As we can see, this type of learning worked, operant conditioning was actually effective. ?Discussion of the result: The first temptation: positive punishment, did not work.
It only decreased the number of hours from 5 hours to 4 hours and 3o minutes. So, I tried the second temptation: negative punishment. It worked, but did not reach the result expected. So, the last temptation was used: positive reinforcement, which was remarkably effective. So, I noticed that punishment should be used together with reinforcement. Once a more desirable behavior is almost reached, punishment should be removed and a reinforcement should be added. In this way, the participant will become more optimistic toward changing his bad behavior. This is the reason why the reinforcement was successful.

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