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

Shaken, Not Stirred

When first reading the requirements for this blog, I cringed at the sight of the phrase “career path”. As a twenty year old with only one year of my undergraduate degree left to complete back home (Canada, if you’re wondering), I still have no idea of what sort of career path I’ll ultimately find myself in. Currently working towards an honours degree in Life sciences, my gut feeling tells me I’ll eventually end up in a lab doing research, with no one except test tubes and lab rats to keep me company. This nightmarish future leaves me missing the days of my childhood, where I firmly believed that I could be anything I wanted. As I recall, at that point in my life I wanted to be a secret agent – a female James Bond to be exact. Exuding such sophistication and class was something I wanted to possess. Now, we all know there are certain requirements that are needed to become the next James Bond, some of which include an advanced understanding of weapons, being at the peak of physical fitness, the ability to kill someone with your bare hands, supermodel good looks, and, of course, a fancy (and fast) car. However, being able to demonstrate applied behaviour analysis is also a crucial aspect of the “job”.

Specifically, the applied behaviour analysis principle of punishment is something often used by 007. Thorndike’s Law of Effect (1927) states that in any given situation, the probability of a behaviour occurring is a function of the consequences that behaviour has had, in that situation, in the past. Thus, behaviour can only be changed when consequences either strengthen or weaken the frequency of the behaviour. An event that decreases the frequency of the behaviour is known as a punisher. For James Bond, violence is always the answer, as he often uses physical punishment during his interrogation process. When the detained Bond villains aren’t being cooperative, Bond doesn’t hold back and SMACK! a slap across the face is elicited as a form of punishment. Despite what you may think, there is a science to Mr Bond’s actions, for research has determined that in order for punishment to be effective, it must follow the target behaviour closely (Hagopian et al., 1998). If Bond didn’t deliver the act of punishment right away, the villain may confuse the behaviour for which he or she is being punished with another behaviour. From that point on, to avoid punishment, the villain will be more forthcoming with information when questioned by Bond. Furthermore, positive reinforcement could also be used in this interrogation process. To ensure cooperation from the person being questioned, Bond can reinforce good behaviour with some sort of reward. This is proven to be useful, for when a favourable event or outcome follows a behaviour it is more likely to occur in future (Skinner, 1938). 

Since the applied behaviour analysis principles have now been established, I think all I need now is my Aston Martin and I’ll be set!
Chloe Jadon (blog 4)

Hagopian, L., Fisher, W., Sullivan, M. T., Acquisto, J., & Leblanc, L. (1998). Effectiveness Of Functional Communication Training With And Without Extinction And Punishment: A Summary Of 21 Inpatient Cases. Journal of Applied behaviour Analysis, 31(2), 211–235.
Skinner, B. F. (1938). The Behaviour of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis. New York: Appleton-Century.
Thorndike, E. L. (1927). The Law of Effect. The American Journal of Psychology, 39, 212-222.

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