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.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Is Alcoholism a Brewer’s Bliss?

As I am still unsure as to what my future life shall look like, I visited an internet site which generates random jobs for you. The job generated for me seems to be an ideal fit. I am now set on becoming a brewer. However, why would it be beneficial for a future brewer to know about behaviour analysis?

In order to address this question, two major techniques in applied behaviour analysis will be discussed, these being: positive and negative reinforcement. Within positive reinforcement a favourable event will occur after an action thus leading to increased behaviour (Cooper, Heron & Heward, 2007). While negative reinforcement refers to the case when a negative/aversive event is removed after a specific action, thereby, increasing the frequency of the action in the future (Iwata, 1987). 

According to Farber, Khavari and Douglass (1980) the processes of positive and negative reinforcement play central roles in the motivation of individuals to drink alcohol. Examples of positive reinforcement they give often relate to “social drinking” such as befriending new people, strengthening social relationships etc. Negative reinforcement is mentioned in relation to “escape drinking” which refers to the alleviation of anxiety, the reduction of worrying etc. Thus a brewer would simply have to create an environment in their bar that increases these effects or allows individuals to make the connection more readily. The usage of advertising slogans like “had a tough day? Come in for a beer to ease your relaxation” or employ bonus cards which reward your customers with a free pint after previously having drunk ten. 

There are various other techniques that can make use of positive and negative reinforcement processes, the limit being the brewer’s creativity. The potential moral issue that comes with the attempt to increase alcohol consumption of customers using their worries and subliminal techniques you employ, should not be forgotten.


Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Farber, P. D., Khavari, K. A., & Douglass, F. M. (1980). A factor analytic study of reasons for drinking: Empirical validation of positive and negative reinforcement dimensions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 48(6), 780-781.

Iwata, B. A. (1987). Negative reinforcement in applied behavior analysis: An emerging technology. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 20(4), 361-378.

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