Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Come to school and you will get a sticker.

With the hopes of getting involved in the education sector, but mainly getting involved in education in rural India, I will be faced with many problems. The most difficult of these to overcome will be to actually get the students to show up to schools they are enrolled in. This is a common problem in the rural districts especially among the girl child. This issue can be resolved by numerous applied behavioral techniques.

These techniques are formed from the belief that behavior is often affected by what comes after it. Two possibilities of behavior problems is that behavior either occurs too much or happens too little. Applied behavior analysis is interested in changing the frequency of a person’s behavior. In this case, we are looking to increase the behavior, getting more children to come to school.

Positive reinforcement can be used to increase the attendance of students. The child eventually builds up a link between the behavior and the reinforcer and changes behavior accordingly.  A study by De Luca and Holborn (1992) showed the success of using reinforcements by increasing the time spent exercising, by obese boys, upon implementing a reinforcement schedule.

Studies by Banerjee and Duflo(2011) have shown that providing incentives to students greatly increases attendance. For example, for every day the child attends school, she can be given a sticker or a sweet or some small gift that she likes. The student then knows that every time she comes to school she will receive the gift. Thus she creates a link between her behavior and the reinforcer. Eventually, the gift could be provided after a certain amount of time. For instance, goals could be set for the student where she will receive a gift if she attends 3 of 5 days in a week. The gift could them be given if her attendance for the month is 80% or more and so on.

Other reinforcers in rural areas could be providing students with a nutritious meal in schools. One method that has been proven to be extremely effective is using money as a reinforcer. In many villages, the mothers are given a fixed amount of money if they bring their children to school. By this same logic, giving the student something they would enjoy would be likely to increase attendance.

Negative reinforcement could also be used but in this case, it would be easier to implement positive reinforcement. It is commonly the case that students miss so much school that they find it difficult to catch-up. This often makes them feel intellectually inferior, resulting in them staying away from school. However, using positive reinforcement to get them to school and also using it to increase their productivity in school will surely increase overall attendance.

Maia Jasubhoy.


Banerjee, A and Duflo, E (2011) Poor Economics.

De Luca, R. V and Holburn, S. W (1992) Effects of a variable-ratio reinforcement schedule with changing criteria on exercise in obese and nonobese boys, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. 1992, 25(3): 671–679.

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