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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I want to be a Lumberjack

During the gale force winds and severe floods that swept across Britain this winter, a whole tree fell down in my garden. I watched as it was chain sawed up… this got me thinking, what would it be like to be a lumberjack? Dancing on floating logs like the lumberjacks from the Berocca ad.

So I will use Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) when managing my very own lumber yard. Being a fairly dangerous job, the lumberjacks are required to abide by certain health and safety regulations. But being men, they don’t always agree that these requirements are necessary, for example wearing safety goggles isn’t “manly”. In terms of ABA, goggle wearing is the behaviour which doesn’t occur frequently enough.

To change the behaviour of the lumberjacks, I will use differential reinforcement. This is when reinforcement is provided for behaviours, when these behaviours occur at certain times and places, whereas reinforcement is not provided when the behaviours do not occur (Wolery & Fleming, in Bailey & Wolery, 1992).

Therefore I will use positive reinforcement and make an event contingent on the goggle wearing behaviour, to increase it. When safety goggles are worn, lumberjacks will be given a longer lunch break. No reinforcement should be given when goggles are not worn.

Thorndike’s (1927) Law of Effect suggests that consequences can change behaviour in one of two ways, strengthening behaviour or weakening behaviour. In this case, I am interested in strengthening the goggle wearing behaviour. To do to this I must decrease the frequency of the undesirable behaviour (chain sawing with no eye protection). When this behaviour occurs, it should be followed by a punisher, the most appropriate punisher in this case is response cost.

Response cost refers to reducing behaviour by removing a reinforcer contingent on the behaviour. By losing a day of annual holiday, this should discourage lumberjacks from behaving in an unsafe way.

Whilst it may be dangerous and irresponsible to expose lumberjacks to the consequences of not wearing goggles, by informing them of the natural consequences (becoming blind) may be enough to encourage the desirable behaviour.

Bailey Jr, D. B., & Wolery, M. (1992). Teaching infants and preschoolers with disabilities. Prentice Hall.

Thorndike, E. L. (1927). The law of effect. The American Journal of Psychology.

Natalie Nash - Blog 4


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