Let’s say I’m going to struggle finding a job but become a housewife with one successful husband and two kids. So my career will be taking care of their wellbeing.
If I’m lucky enough to not having to experience physical domestic violence (one in four women will suffer from it in their lifetime, according to the British Crime Survey), I’d probably still have to deal with my husband’s emotional abuse, if/when it happens. And that’s when I would apply some applied behaviour analysis tactics.
According to Thorndike’s Law of Effect theory, the behaviour is more likely to happen again if the responses it generates is satisfying, on the other hand, if the responses produce a negative effect, the behaviour is unlikely to occur again in the same situation (Thorndike, 1927).
With a successful career, my husband’s life is very likely to be busy and stressful, and even worse, an everyday scenario would go like this: he returns home, slams the door and ignores me and the kids, goes to the living room and turns on the TV and waits for his dinner. This would not be good for anyone family member’s wellbeing. In order to reduce the frequency it, I’d like to use some positive reinforcement. So for the one day when I know that he’s in a good mood, I’ll prepare a hot bath, a delicious meal and his favourite wine, and ask the kids to give their father a kiss when he returns. With everything prepared, he comes back home, because he’s in a good mood, he would open the door with a smile and not slamming the door, as that behaviour is going to lead to a positive response, it increases the possibility of it happening again. So a smile-- bath and good food await, no smile-- cold sandwich and noisy kids await.
And for the kids, when positive reinforcement doesn't work, I could always apply some negative ones. So in the scenario mentioned above, I ask the kids to get clean and give their father a kiss, if they do it, an extra scoop of ice cream for dessert, everyone’s happy. The disadvantage being that when I realize it’s not a good for kids to have too much dessert, I’d stop using this tactic, which may cause the effect of extinction (Miltenberger, 2008). But someday when they don't want the ice cream anymore and refuse to be polite, negative reinforcement- time out.
By Hui Xie (Blog 4)
Thorndike, E. L. (1927). The law of effect. The American Journal of Psychology.
Miltenberger, R. G. (2008) Behavioral Modification: Principles and Procedures. Thomson/Wadsworth, p102.
By Hui Xie (Blog 4)