The concept of operant conditioning, also referred to as instrumental conditioning is a learning method that happens through punishments and rewards for behaviors. Operant conditioning works on the premise that an association is created between a consequence of action and the behavior itself (Blackman, 2017). The concept of operant conditioning plays an essential role in the everyday learning of individuals in society.
Aspects of punishment and reinforcement happen daily in the social setting such as human interactions, gatherings classrooms, and therapy sessions. It is therefore important to note that self-modification programs are part of operant conditions form of learning that determines an individual’s daily routine.
Before initiating any modifications in behavior, one has to understand that measurable and observable changes are good indicators for change. All behavior changes require a well-planned set of rules that guide the behavior modification process. An individual requires some form of methods that can aid in observing, defining and measuring any changes in behavior, as well as establishing efficient and relevant interventions for behavior change. Most techniques for changing behaviors are never planned to fail. Rather, an individual applies the techniques either inconsistently or inefficiently which contributes to failure in behavior modification. A consequence of behavior leads to maintaining, shaping or changing of previous behavior.
Although certain boundaries exist in behavior modification, including emotional and temperamental influences, all individuals often function effectively given the right context and schedule. In behavior modification, two main concepts contribute to behavior change; punishment and reinforcers. Reinforcers tend to strengthen a given behavior while punishment serves to weaken undesirable behavior. As such, in order to manage a particular behavior, a multi-faceted approach should be employed; First, an individual should define the behavior that needs to be changed, second, a design to modify and change behavior should be established, third, an effective reinforcers attached to modifying the behavior should be identified, and lastly, the chosen reinforcers should be applied consistently in order to change or shape behavior. Thus, in my effort to modify my physical activity level, I will design a program based on the assumption that active components of BCTs require effective and accurate utilization. Designing an effective BCT program requires a good evaluation of contextual analysis of the behavior to be modified, alongside the limitations and strengths of the program.
The target behavior that I want to change is to increase my levels of physical activities in the long run. Daily exercise is important for good health. To many people, getting good results of physical exercise is a fulfilling opportunity and an accomplishment of a more purposeful goal of improving health. Having daily activity goes beyond feeling and looking better, but also enjoying a longer life. My family history of being diabetic gives me the motive to amend my unhealthy habits. I chose to increase my physical activities to better my health and create a favorable atmosphere around myself for proper living. My college life took a huge toll on my exercise life since I concentrated more on my studies. I failed most of the time to follow my exercise schedule, and it is time I want to improve and increase my physical activity to bring back my self-being.
My goal in this program is to slowly but steadily increase my physical activities. I am planning to start each day with a 20-25 minutes cardio activity and 50 minutes of intense running for four days a week. Since I am still a committed student with a limited time frame, it is going to be extra tight to schedule my exercise habits. I plan to remind myself of the necessity of having a good healthy habit and reward myself when I follow the schedule and punish myself when I fail to follow my schedule. Apart from the 4-day program, I plan to achieve my final goal of working out seven days a week, which I will dedicate to improve on my four-day exercise of 20 minutes cardio training and 50 minutes of intense activity. In the short run, I intend to increase my better-eating styles and also take more water. However, on the long run basis, I expect to gain better sleeping habits and improve my commitment to running exercise.
My procedural schedule is aimed at doing cardio work using my apartment for a considerable length of at least 20 minutes for a total of two hours daily. Additionally, I intend to plan for a 40 minutes schedule of intense running in my gym area or across my house lane for two days weekly. My cardio training will be scheduled between 8.00 and 9.00 each evening by walking to class instead of driving, and my intense running will be scheduled at 4 in the evening. My precedents will be using YouTube videos on how I can manage my cardio exercise, with each video showcasing in ten minutes to give me a motivation to exercise. Moreover, on the days of running, I will consider depending on the day if I will run outside or at the gym. At the end of each day of exercise, I will record the time spent exercising and record total time exercised daily. I intend to use two variables, that is, graphing total minutes exercised daily against different types of exercises conducted such as running, cycling, step out and walking to class.
In my case, various independent variables were used to explain and evaluate my behavioral intervention. The variables that helped me throughout this exercise were; positive reinforcement, stimulus control, negative reinforcement, overcorrection, conditioned reinforcement and punishment. These principles are crucial in helping people to increase or reduce certain behaviors. In my four-day observation timeline, I used an ABA reversal design to measure my behavioral modification which included two baselines composed of two treatments. I included the reinforcements and punishers to encourage and motivate me to increase my physical activity gradually. The first measure was crucial in measuring my activity rate while the second baseline determined if I adhered to my daily routine without any reinforcements or prompts.
During my entire exercise period, the outcome of my schedule did not surprise me; I was able to encounter 38 to 40 minutes of my physical activity. During the four days, and a week by extension that I used to walk from and to class, I managed to follow my schedule for only three days. I did not also participate in my running schedule that was designated for two days per week. In average, the rate at which I managed to do some cardio was about 13 minutes daily. In the process of my third-day transition into exercising, I developed a craving for sweets. This situation gave me a motivation to frequently walk to class instead of driving, which was all that seemed to motivate me to stick to my schedule. As much as I managed my 13 minutes daily cardio exercise, I was motivated that my treats (sweets) were waiting up for me, but as the threats continued to wear off, the motivation to run for daily 40 minutes faded.
The moments that followed my four days programs saw a decline in the rate of time I spent doing my exercise. I only used to walk a couple of minutes to school, and I even considered doing away with YouTube videos that motivated me to exercise. The only thing that struck my mind was the need to change my punishers as well as reinforcers. I decided to add in some new strategies to improve my physical exercise. Since I preferred visiting my family during weekends, I gave myself a punishment of not going out on weekends. I also decided to buy a huge money jar that I used to drop money for using at school whenever I failed to follow my schedule. As such, I decided that since I needed $500 weekly, I deducted $100 each day I was unable to follow my plan. There was a huge improvement in my activity schedule. Not only did I increase my frequency of walking to class, but also followed my schedule in entirety.
At the end of my last stage of training to increase my physical activity, I knew that my goal was achieved and I was at liberty to visit my family and friends. I was no longer liable to depend on my sticky notes about my schedule; it grew into my head that every day was as important as the previous day. I was well above my 40 target minutes, and I even forgot moving out on weekends since I saw the need to practice daily to increase my physical activities was more important than hanging out and idling.
In summary, this intervention to increase my physical activity started as a rocky adventure, but in the end, I was proud of all the progress I had made regarding my health. Mainly, I am pleased that I practiced tolerance and dedication during my final moments of running and walking to school plus doing cardio exercise. I am willing to set aside more time and commitment into my schedule after realizing my improvement in muscle mass composition and a decrease in my weight. I also feel better about significant changes in my eating habits, and I am slowly contemplating to start cooking healthier meals and stay away from microwave foods that I had developed a craving.
During this entire exercise, my biggest challenge was lack of motivation and absence of consistency in following my schedule. I realized that after two days, the rate of exercising had started to decrease significantly in equal rates as my baseline. I was no longer relying on things such as sweets as my reinforcers, and as such, I had to initiate significant changes in my negative and positive reinforcement. I merely denied myself weekend outs and punished myself by withdrawing some amount for my school upkeep whenever I failed to follow my schedule. In general, the results of increasing physical activity so far outweigh the cost of satisfying the whole program. The main lesson from this program is that consistency in reinforcements is crucial in solidifying a particular behavior, whether positive or negative.
I have always dreamt of changing my exercise behavior due to my health situation and applying these techniques as learned in class has taught me how to modify my behavior to keep me healthy and motivated. At first, I thought that the program and exercise were childish and irrelevant. I almost felt that I was like a toddler being taught how to walk. Nevertheless, I came to realize that adjusting to this behavior was going to face challenges and obstacles. I was disappointed at first on how I struggled to improve my physical activities, but I later came to feel motivated about the changes I had achieved through positive reinforcement and punishment. I have a strong belief that these techniques can be used any other person to motivate and change their unhealthy behaviors to the better. After this project, I feel like I have gained more control over my behavior. As such, I am convinced that I will not require any more reinforcements in following up my schedule since the project has made me realize the importance of taking responsibility for oneself.
In conclusion, operant conditioning remains an important tool in behavior and learning modification process. Sometimes, the most natural outcomes change our behaviors. Punishment and rewards contribute a lot in creating the desired change in a person (Chavira, 2017). Operant conditioning is something people encounter daily, from teaching school children to making a toddler to use a spoon. As such, the most important thing to consider is that any learning, time and persistence is needed.
Blackman, D. E. (2017). Operant conditioning: an experimental analysis of behavior. Routledge.
Chavira, V. T. (2017). Insider Threats and the Effects of Operant Conditioning (Doctoral dissertation, Utica College).
Trask, S. (2017). Free Operant Response.