Contents: ) Defining Target Behavior and Competing Behaviors 2 2) Goal Setting 3 3) Logistics 4 4) Functional Assessment 5 5) Choosing appropriate self-management strategies 8 6) Evaluating Change 12 7) Implementing Maintenance Strategies 16 8) Discussion and Limitations 18 9) Appendix 10) Bibliography Defining Target Behavior and Competing Behaviors: My aim in this behavior modification program is to increase the number of fruit intake and at the same time decrease the amount of sugars intake. Fruit intake implies both quantity and quality, simple meaning that I have intended to eat more fruit but also of different kinds. The rationale behind it is to be more flexible in future terms after the program has ended, thus decreasing monotony and increasing the probability to eat fruit. I decided to choose such behavior modification mainly for health reasons.
I mainly needed to decrease sugar intake and thus replacing glucose and other sugars that might rot the teeth and cause other major problems later in life such as diseases like Diabetes, with fructose. Formally stating my competing behaviors as being sugars and other unhealthy food that will potentially interfere with the program because I have noted that I tend to pursue a all- or- nothing response. This means that I either start my day feeling the urge to eat healthy or else head into a masochistic approach and torture my body with sugars and fats that have been reinforced with stressing periods throughout the years. So that is why in my diet I have emphasized breakfasts and have included it in my behavior modification program. Goal Setting: The write-up was designed and written to follow a set of steps used in a self- management plan.
The steps are however interlinked in a way because for example when setting a goal one must keep in mind the last step also, that is “Maintenance strategies” increasing the validity of the program. Two other factors had to be considered, first that time acted as a restricting factor and secondly in order for it to be effective, rewards had to exceed costs. “In addition, goal achievement is a conditioned reinforcer for many people or may become a conditioned reinforcer if other reinforcers are delivered when the person achieves the goal” (Miltenberger R. G. p438). An appropriate goal was set at the beginning of the plan that is I had to eat at least 5 fruits a day for a minimum of 4 consecutive days, not necessarily of different types.
My intent was really to increase the baseline from zero to an average of 2 fruits every 2 or 3 days after the behavior modification program and as result I will decrease any competing behaviors mentioned earlier. Logistics of recording: It was decided that I use an A-B design for my program, which includes 10 days of baseline and 20 days of treatment. My intake of fruits was practically zero but however I needed an amount of time to record any antecedents, consequences of both target and competing behaviors. I had time to produce and check out an ‘abc’ checklist that I later tested and adopted for the treatment period. I will speak more in detail about this checklist in the next chapter. As my recording tools I simply used pen and paper to record each time I ate either sugars or fruits, technically denoted as ‘continuous recording’.
The component of time was divided into three parts, ‘M’ for morning, ‘A’ for the afternoon and ‘E’ to represent evenings. Again the reasoning behind it is for one thing it would be much easier to record and interpret results since one of my antecedents I denoted was that I had no fixed schedule of eating patterns. Identifying so, periods of the day where a change in behavior would occur rather than recording specific times of day. Functional assessment: In this section of the write-up it is intended to describe in detail the problem behavior, its related antecedents and consequences. “Specific self-management strategies that alter the antecedent and consequent variables identified in the functional assessment are then chosen” (Miltenberger R. H. pp. 443).
The target behavior as I denoted earlier is to eat less sugars and instead shift to a competing behavior that may eventually occur simultaneously but rarely did so in my diet. A shift in the so called overt behavior is major adopted by behaviorists but at the same time may contradict the medical model which states that “the direct modification of the symptomatic problem behavior without the removal of its underlying causes is likely to be followed either by the return of the same behavior or by the substitution of other problem behavior in its place” (Jehu pp. 79). However behaviorists believe that the effects or symptoms are enough to produce change without the direct involvement of its causes.
So thereafter I recorded the kind of sweets I took throughout the baseline and divided them into five according to there frequency but with the exception of grouping very harmful food into one group labeled as ‘super sugars’. The purpose of this design is to then deduct points and use them later in the treatment phase as a strategy to decrease the competing behavior, known as ‘token economy’. Antecedents may be defined as simply the contingencies, mainly the physical environment and the people’s behavior preceding the target behavior and competing behaviors. A several where denoted which try to answer why, how, where and what is present before hand.
Firstly I kept note that I am usually hungry when I turn to sweets. They constitute an easy reach snack that have been again negatively reinforced through the fairly sudden release of hunger. Secondly most of the common environments I usually frequent are resourceful of sweets but lacking fruits. I mentioned two of the most frequented places, the university canteen and at home. Thirdly in certain cases I get socially reinforced by others, namely my friends. Fourthly I also recorded when is the highest probability that I engage in the unwanted behavior, that is, at times of elevated stress especially in the evening before I go to sleep and after meals. Fifthly, I gave a great deal of mportance to breakfast because if from an early start I lapsed that would have given me a sense of loss of control apart from the anger and frustration leading then to relapse throughout the whole day. This is sense of feeling powerless may be called the ‘abstinence violation effect’. Consequences on the other hand can be defined as the circumstances that naturally follow the behaviors. I have included mind states, such as guilt feelings or a sense of pleasure which then strengthens the preceding behaviors. Secondly it was also incorporated the types of reinforcement I did experience afterwards. Namely social, intrinsic and positive reinforcements.
Intrinsic reinforcements are not connected to any antecedents as in cases of positive and social reinforcements. Both of the latter consequences require a stimulus. “People who continue to engage in responses for a long time without any obvious external reinforcers for their efforts are probably working for intrinsic sources of satisfaction”, (Ormrod J. E. pp. 63). Choosing appropriate self-management strategies: In this step after identifying the abc’s of the modification program it meant now to chose the strategies needed to bring about change. There are several ways in which to realize the target behavior. For one, in summary, antecedents can be manipulated in three main ways. Primarily, by eliminating stimuli that elicit problematic behavior.
Subjectively I tried to decrease stress by engaging myself in physical activities as playing basketball and going to the gym regularly. Furthermore I removed the two main resources of sugars at home, in front of the T. V. set and in the kitchen. As in the case of the university canteen I strived not to keep small change in my pockets. Unfortunately the latter strategy has not proven to be effective because I was not verbally punished but instead reinforced by the canteen attendants. Secondly, by eliminating once again any stimuli that reinforced competing behavior and on the other hand strengthening the desirable behavior. For example as mentioned earlier I tried to prevent and reduce stressful circumstances through regular activity.
Finally, using discriminative stimuli to decrease problematic behavior and increase target behavior. For this latter case I choose two main strategies to then reach my target behavior, ‘token economy’ and ‘punishment contracting’. “The purpose of a token economy is to strengthen clients’ desirable behavior that occur too infrequently and to decrease their undesirable behaviors in a structured treatment environment or educational setting”, (Miltenberger. R. G. pp. 472). This type of strategy works both on the target behaviors and competing behaviors making it ideal in my case. Tokens act as a reinforcers once they become conditioned through backup reinforcers that could be exchanged afterwards.
This increases practicality and effectiveness because tokens are portable and may be given immediately after the desired response is performed. This concept is well known as ‘contiguity’ of reinforcers. Fading then would be necessary to maintain the behavior once the whole treatment would stop, increasing generalizibilty to a natural environment. A fixed-ratio or varied-ratio schedule of exchange of tokens would aid to counteract the artificiality of tokens and simultaneously reinforce natural contingencies such as praise or less visits to the dentist. The problem to exhibit and exercise healthy behavior is that for one thing rewards are delayed substantially and secondly such behaviors act as preventive measure through which responses could not be compared with the latter outcomes.
I could never say that if I had not engaged in that particular healthy behavior, right now I would be experiencing for example tooth ache because that would be the reason why I have engaged in that particular behavior in the first place. The points where assigned purposely to act as an incentive to achieve my target behavior in such a way that points deducted would outweigh by far points rewarded. Also the response cost program in consideration would be implemented on the second week of the treatment, making it more effective at the end. In fact the main aim of this system is to reward the participant using it other than punishing him or her. For this concern I choose another strategy denoted as ‘behavior or contingency contract’. The strategy mentioned here is very flexible because it may be used for different purposes or contingencies.
Mainly four types of behavioral contracts exist, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment and finally negative punishment. In my case I used this strategy to provide an aversive stimulus if an undesired behavior was performed, thus positive punishment. These contracts are a public statement by which they manipulate antecedents through their consequences, clearly defining the penalties or punishment, in my case, if I had to engage in the undesired behavior. However punishment is delayed so they must form part of behavioral process in order for them to be effective. Since behavioral change relies on the immediate deliverance of either reinforcers or punishment attributed. Finally contracts may be written by one party or two parties.
For my program I implemented the second type with two parties, a contratee and a contract manager which tend to be more effective for several reasons. First and foremost contracts are used predominately with people who show great discrepancies between the saying and doing of things, in which case a contract manager may furthermore prompt the contractee to decrease competing behavior or even so prevent any ‘short-circuiting’ of the contract. This means that the contract manager may scold the other party for breaking the contract, or in other words not appointing to oneself the stated consequences. These two components may also be described under the title of what is known as ‘social support’ of which I will speak about in the next chapter. Evaluating change:
In this next chapter I will discuss the change brought about by the strategies chosen and implemented in my behavior modification program. A continuous record of the antecedents and consequences was kept even throughout the treatment. This would facilitate and give a picture of the changing contingencies that I would have had to cater for. I will discuss the above terms within the presentation of the graph below that evaluates the change before and during the treatment phase. Graph: A graph was set up as shown above. The x-axis represents the number of the days of the behavioral program. The y-axis on the other hand does not represent the frequencies of either sugar or fruit intake.
I have instead used the same points used for the token economy strategy for both baseline and treatment phase. On the one hand it represents my actual cognitions during the program, meaning that I was in fact perceiving fruit as unit of points instead of single juicy food. And on the other the graph gives us the opportunity to compare the two phases by keeping a constant measure of points on both scenes. In my opinion the program was a success because as seen from the graph I have managed in a way to keep on the positive side of the y- axis along the treatment stage. This would indicate that during most of the time I ate more fruit than sweets.
However unfortunately I have not reached my target behavior of 5 units of fruit for four consecutive days although the graph may be misleading Table 1 (see appendix) does show this. My target meant eating a number of fruits that added up to 5 points independently of how many sweets I ate, which had to act as an another incentive for my program. In behaviorism when we speak about incentives we mean, “A reward for a specific behavior, designed to encourage that behavior” (on line). In simple terms it was easier to achieve 5 points independently of sugars than as a total and in the end becoming more rewarding. Now we may consider the fact whether or not the chosen strategies where effective for my situation.
This includes several other factors, such as implementation of the strategies and social support. Token economy as mentioned earlier in itself is very artificial and very time consuming. Points for one thing have been recorded on a piece of paper however held by a second person, with whom every day I exchanged tokens. I had a second party included in most of my program, which proved to be very much helpful. Furthermore due to the versatility of the adaptation and implementation of the program some issues may be the blame for not achieving my goals, although there is not one way on how outcomes should have come but relapses where definitely present.
For example one could mention the use of actual physical tokens instead of mere points but I will go into more detail about this in the last chapter. Finally the graph also shows sudden changes in behavior which may indicate three factors, one is the guilt and anxiety effects brought about because of relapse, the second factor related to the efficiency of the ‘punishment contracting’ and thirdly the decreased sense of commitment through time. The aversive stimulus stated in the first behavioral contract was not effective because I hated walking the dog I still considered it needed. In fact after I revisited the contract the aversion was greater to decrease the magnitude of relapse. However x major drawbacks existed with contracting.
Firstly sugar intake was not extinct because I still was in a way able to take up to 2 units of sweets daily without the execution of punishment and secondly concerns the element of delayed punishment. “The more closely punishment follows a misbehavior, the more effective it will be. ” (Ormrod. J. E. , pp 118) Nonetheless this is not entirely true,“ delayed punishment may be effective provided that the punished behavior is clearly described. ”( Aronfreed & Reber, 1965 as cited in Ormrod pp. 118) Whilst the controversy may be true because eating sweets is not considered as a ‘male in se’ but a conditioned stimulus, its effectiveness tends to suffer. Implementing Maintenance Strategies: “The methods for promoting maintenance are similar to those used to promote generalization” ( Zirpoli & Melloy, pp. 176).
Generalization of stimuli increases the likelihood that the target behavior will occur in the presence of similar stimuli. This also means that the effectiveness of the whole program is highly dependent on this concept and should be promoted right at the beginning. Many strategies have been introduced in the behavior change, one of which is the continuous application of behavior change in different settings, token economy is in fact ideal for this purpose. A second strategy was to learn different responses to achieve the same outcomes in case of changing contingencies. In this case I learnt to both try and avoid very tempting places where they sold sweets and also to carry no small change. These responses may be recalled as ‘functionally equivalent responses’.
Thirdly is the ‘inclusion of common stimuli’ added with the ‘self- generated mediators of generalization’ creating a ‘viscous circle’ to maintain behavior. Even though this strategy was implemented on day 12 of the treatment phase it proofed itself to be very successful. I bought my own fruit which in a way I conditioned with the presence of nice and colourful fruit. Yet then again I limited myself to buy only small quantities and in the mean time helping myself there again with freshly bought merchandize. After that I would place the fruit in the kitchen where they acted as mediators, reminding me on the money spent on the fruit. Finally once these fruit had gone by myself of my parents they would serve as a stimulus to once again by more fruit.
As a last strategy I wanted to introduce in the program was the fading out of reinforcers I mentioned earlier, again with the intent to pair up artificial reinforcers such as tokens with natural reinforcers for example self- praise. Finally relapse, “one of the biggest problems faced in health-habit modification is the tendency for people to relapse to their previous behavior following initial successful behavior change (McCaul et al. , 1992, as cited in Taylor pp. 79). Typically there exist three techniques to reduce relapse. The first is known as ‘booster’ sessions provided after the treatment. The second approach entitles relaxation therapies and assertiveness training.
Thirdly includes the permanent sense of abstinence but this may induce a sense of helplessness, reducing that sense of self-efficacy, an critical component I think important for the realization of the behavior change. Discussion and Limitations: In this final chapter I will discuss reflections and the limitations of my behavioral modification program. As I referred to earlier time was one of major constraining factors, to increase the credibility and validity of the behavioral change program I ought to include a fading program to reduce its artificiality. Behaviorists and so behavioral therapy have suffered a number of criticisms concerning validity, where most of their programs seem to work best in institutionalized conditions where a large amount of control is possible over the person in concern (Trull & Phares, 2001, pp. 401).
Although nevertheless I managed my own program and being in control most of the time a second party is needed for constant supervision. Yet then again this does not eliminate superficiality. Some strategies might help though to organize natural reinforcers as cited before, like for example the use of paper and pen to record points instead of the use of physical objects such as marbles. Still on the other side of the argument I reckon that marbles might have increased the effectiveness of the program in the short run because for one thing it acts as a reminder and a motivating component affecting again commitment. Motivation has been sought to be a crucial factor in learning and thus behavioral change. As with many important concepts in psychology, there is no single universally accepted definition of motivation” (Arnold, Cooper & Robertson, pp. 245) but mainly consists of a generic term that incorporates three important components; what, how hard and how long a person persists with his goals. Motivation on its part can be divided into two sources, extrinsic, that is outside the person’s control or intrinsically within the person. Behaviorists deal largely with the extrinsic component of motivation through the use of ‘classical’ or ‘operant’ conditioning. However they might tend to exclude intrinsic factors complemented by other cognitive theorists such as Vroom’s expectancy theories or Heider’s ‘attribution theories’.
These views try to incorporate the human’s inner will. For example as for my behavior modification program goes, outcomes will definitely vary amongst every person who wishes to follow it. Taking Vroom’s theory he considered three factors of motivation. Firstly were my expectations of outcomes. Secondly and thirdly concerned the likelihood of rewards and their value. This concept in fact throws a great importance on the choice I made as my backup reinforcers to be. In my token economy it would have been better if I chose more backup reinforcers as it would have been more limiting for me to select an escape behavior thus motivating me more to eat fruit.
Commitment may be described as the willingness to continue to pursue one’s own objectives. Motivation and commitment are interlinked in such a way that either one may cause the other. Increasing commitment to the program may again increase outcomes. Allen and Meyer (1990) have developed three sides on organizational commitment but I think they are still relevant because they constitute further generalized concepts. The affective side incorporates the emotional attachment to the program. The next speaks about continuance commitment; the person portrays a cost-benefit analysis in leaving the program. The last side describes the moral obligations of aborting the program.
In my case I did not really devote a lot of importance to the emotional side of the program but I did consider the responsibilities and losses I had to face if I decided to discontinue it. Furthermore Becker et al (1996) have also distinguished two different bases of commitment which definitely made part of strong variables. The first variable is the level of identification to the program. This referred to the adopted attitudes and behaviors to the program. The next variable concerns internalization of the program, or the attitudes and behaviors taken up because content was congruent with the person’s value system. This means that target and goal definition are highly related to the level of commitment exhibited.