It is possible to analyze behavior of a particular teenager. Let it be Jimmy who is 13. In the first place, it is necessary to note that such things as cleaning the room or completing, at least, some tasks can be effectively taught at an earlier age. The target behavior is cleaning his room every weekend (Saturday).
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This will teach Jimmy to be responsible and it may also make him understand that a tidy room is a norm and it is a great convenience. This may develop into a habit. It is necessary to break the behavior down to manageable parts, as this will enhance the chances of effective learning (Pear, 2014). Jimmy is expected to tidy his room, which includes making his bed, putting his things to the corresponding places, dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning the window.
To shape Jimmy’s behavior, it is necessary to use operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is beneficial when it comes to shaping people’s behavior. It involves learning through reinforcement (Coon & Mitterer, 2014). When the target behavior is broken down to manageable parts, the task becomes clear and it is possible to start the learning process. First, it is necessary to provide Jimmy with the list of the tasks he has to complete every Saturday.
It is essential to make sure that Jimmy understands the tasks clearly. It can be a good idea to make him clean the room with the instructor. The instructor will show how to do everything efficiently. It can be a good idea to encourage Jimmy to find more efficient ways to complete the tasks.
Next time, Jimmy will have to do everything on his own and the instructor will simply check the result of his work. Such inspections will be held during two months. Jimmy will get advice and will be praised or even rewarded for properly completed tasks. If Jimmy fails to shape his behavior, punishment can also be imposed.
It is necessary to remember that there are numerous types of reinforcement that can be used. The type of reinforcement to be employed depends on the character of the teenager as well as his/her willingness or readiness to shape his/her behavior. For instance, it is possible to utilize positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement is a stimulus that is provided when the task is completed correctly (Pear, 2014). In Jimmy’s case, positive reinforcement can be going to the cinema with friends, attending a party or going to an amusement park. It is necessary to note that this is also seen as a primary reinforcement. Thus, the teenager obtain particular benefits for proper behavior.
Clearly, it is essential to use secondary reinforcement as well. Secondary reinforcement involves praising. Jimmy should see that his behavior is praised and appreciated and parents see that he is trying hard. This can be a potent stimulus for the teenager as many teenagers seek for parents’ appreciation and approval.
At the same time, the target behavior is a continuous habit of cleaning Jimmy’s room. Hence, it is possible to employ such type of secondary reinforcement as tokens. A token reinforcer is “a tangible secondary reinforce, such as money, gold stars, poker chips” and so on (Coon & Mitterer, 2014, p. 252).
Clearly, in the case with 13-year-old Jimmy gold stars will not be effective as this type of reinforcement will be useless, as these objects have no value for a boy of his age. Money can be an effective token reinforcer. However, it is better to use this strategy very carefully, as the teenager may start demanding money for all chores or all tasks assigned (including homework, visiting grandparents and so on).
A token reinforcer can be a set of stickers that can equal certain kind of benefit. For instance, when Jimmy collects certain number of stickers, he can spend some time with friends, play a video game, and so on. It is also possible to use negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement implies removal of a stimulus that followed the target behavior.
Thus, if Jimmy does not clean his room or does in an improper way, he will lose some of the benefits. For example, he will not be allowed to go to a game or spend some times with his friends. It is also possible not to give pocket money during the next week or during a few days/weeks.
It is very important to balance between reinforcement with extinction. Extinction is the case when the target behavior does not occur as a result of the absence of the conditional stimulus (Chance, 2013). As has been mentioned above, the quality of the tasks carried out by Jimmy will be checked during two months. However, there are chances that when the room is not checked, Jimmy may ‘forget’ to clean it.
When the instructor, will forget about positive as well as negative reinforcement, Jimmy may forget about cleaning his room. Therefore, it is possible to make Jimmy remember that the room can be checked any time (even during the week) and if it is a mess, some negative consequences may occur.
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This will keep Jimmy cautious and he is likely to clean his room especially when he has something in his mind (visiting somebody, going to a particular summer camp and so on). Therefore, too much extinction can have a negative impact on the target behavior.
Likewise, too much reinforcement may ‘corrupt’ the teenager. He may ask for more reinforcers or he might do everything in an inappropriate way. As has been mentioned above, he may ask more money for completing a task and many parents make the same mistake and start giving the teenager more money without checking the quality of the work done, without praising the teenager.
Soon, relationship between parents and the child may become purely economic, which is inappropriate, as the child should understand that there are certain responsibility he/she has to have. It is possible to add that operant conditioning is relevant to my personal career goals.
First of all, I understand that this strategy is often used in working places and supervisors often use operant conditioning to shape novice employees’ behavior. Clearly, I will understand the supervisor’s efforts and will try to develop the behavioral patterns that are expected.
At the same time, I will also be able to use operant conditioning for my self-development. I will be able to understand what the target behavior is and will be able to divide it into manageable parts. I will also manage to employ positive as well as negative reinforcement. I may need to have a particular written plan and diary to follow my progress and list all reinforcers used. However, I believe I will be able to use operant conditioning in my professional self-development.
Chance, P. (2013). Learning and behavior. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Coon, D., & Mitterer, J. (2014). Psychology: Modules for active learning. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Pear, J.J. (2014). The science of learning. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press.