Behavior Modification – Reading Notes
January 6, 2010 – CH 1 – Introduction to Behavior Modification
•How is human behavior defined?
•What are the defining features of behavior modification?
•What are the historical roots of behavior modification?
•In what ways has behavior modification improved people’s lives?
There are certain characteristics that define behavior:
-What people do and say, it is described with action verbs. Behavior is not static, anger is static, aggression
(which generally comes from anger) is dynamic behavior that one can see and alter.
-Different dimensions that can be measured, for example the frequency of a behavior, the duration of the
behavior and the intensity of the behavior - these are all physical dimensions of behavior.
-Behavior can be observed, described and recorded by others. It also has an impact on the physical and social
environment, whether it is the environment, other people or oneself.
-It is also lawful it is systematically influenced by environmental events. Once one understands the
environmental building blocks, only then can one change specific behaviors
-They can also be overt and covert: overt is an action that can be observed and recorded and covert behaviors
are not observable by others, they tend to be inner events, such as thinking and emotions.
The defining features of behavior modification are: analyzing and modifying.
-Analyzing - identifying the relationship between the environmental events and a behavior to understand the
reason better why someone behaves the way they do.
-Modifying - developing and implementing procedures to help people change their behavior
Characteristics of Behavioural Modification
-Focus on Behaviour - The behavior to be modified is called the target behavior, a behavioral excess is a
behavior that a person wants to decrease such as smoking, and a behavioral deficit is a desirable behavior that
a person wants to increase.
-Behavioural Principles - The scientific study of behavior is called the experimental analysis of
behavior/applied behavior analysis.
-Emphasis on current environmental events
-Precise description of behaviour modification procedures
-Treatment implemented by people in everyday life.
-Measurement of behaviour change.
-De-emphasis on past events as causes of behaviour
-Rejection of hypothetical underlying causes of behaviour.
-Must remember that a label is not a behavior.
The historical roots of behavior modification are:
-Ivan P. Pavlov -Pavlov’s dogs, he called it conditioned reflex
-Edward L. Thorndike - major contribution was the law of effect a behavior that produces a favorable effect
is more likely to be repeated.
-John B. Watson - He started behaviorism and stimulus-response psychology
-B. F. Skinner - distinction between respondent and operant conditioning, Skinner’s work is the foundation for
People have been researching behavior modification with people and have been demonstrating the principles and
evaluating the procedures with people.
How behavior modification helps people:
Developmental disabilities, mental illness, education (special ed), rehabilitation, community psychology, clinical
psychology (CBT), Business industry & human services (organizational business), self-management, child
management, prevention, sports psychology, health related behaviors and gerontology
-Includes what people do and say
-Involves the activity of an organism at any level: muscle, glandular
-It is not static, it involves “actions” and not “states”
oAnger is a state, but the aggressiveness is the action
-It refers to the “process” and not the “product”
oProduct and how we accomplish that
1.It involves actions not labels
2.It can be observed, described, and recorded
3.Has an impact on the environment: physical and social
4.It involves physical dimensions
a.Duration & frequency & intensity
5.It is lawful - Functional relationship between behavior and the environment
6.May be overt or covert
a.Overt: directly observable to others
b.Covert: not observable to others (thinking/private events)
-Human behaviour is defined as an individual’s actions that have one or more physical dimensions and can be
observed and recorded. Behaviours have an impact on the physical or social environment. Behaviour is
lawful; its occurrence is influenced by environmental events. A behaviour may be overt or covert.
-Behaviour modification procedures involve analyzing and manipulating current environmental events to
change behaviour. A behavioural excess or behavioural deficit may be targeted for change with behaviour
modification procedures behaviour modification procedures are based on behavioural principles derived from
scientific research done by Skinner. He laid the foundation, but also published a number of books
demonstrating the application of behavioural principles to everyday life. Behaviour modification procedures
often are implemented by people in everyday life. Behaviour is measured before and after the behaviour
modification procedures are applied to document the effectiveness of the procedures. Behaviour modification
de-emphasizes past events and rejects hypothetical underlying causes of behaviour.
-The historical roots of behaviour modification con be found in the work of Pavlov, thorndike, Watson, and
especially Skinner, who identified a number of basic principles of behaviour and wrote about applying
theprinciples of behaviour analysis to human behaviour.
-Behaviour modification procedures have been applied successfully to all aspects of human behaviour,
including developmental disabilities; mental illness; education and special education; rehabilitation;
community psychology; clinical psychology; business, industry and human services; self-management; child
management; prevention; sports psychology; health-related behaviours; and gerontology.
-Physical dimensions – frequency, duration, and intensity
January 7, 2010 – CH 2 – Observing and Recording Behavior
•How do you define a target behavior in a behavior modification program?
•What different methods can you use to record a target behavior?
•How does continuous recording differ from interval and time sample recording?
•What is reactivity of behavior recording, and how can you minimize it?
•What is interobserver reliability, and why is it important?
Behavioral assessment is measuring the target behavior in behavior modification. This is important for a few reasons:
•Measure before so you can see if its necessary and working
•Helps you choose the best treatment type
•Whether the behavior changed at all during the treatment
There are 2 types of behavioral assessment: direct and indirect
Indirect – uses interviews, questionnaires and rating scales
Direct – involves observing and recording behavior this is generally more accurate than indirect assessment
The Target Behavior
-To identify the target behavior, one must identify exactly what the person does or says that constitutes the
behavioral excess or deficit targeted for change. A definition includes active verbs describing specific behaviors
and is objective and unambiguous and does not make inferences about ones intention. The behavior must always
be defined before it can be observed and recorded.
1.Defining the Target Behaviour
2.Determining the Logistics of Recording – The Observer and When and Where to Record
3.Choosing a Recording Method
4.Choosing a Recording Instrument – Frequency data sheet, Duration data sheet, Interval data sheet, Golf stroke
counter for frequency, Stopwatch for cumulative, handheld computer for duration and frequency of many
behaviours at once, Coin Transfer for frequency, tears in paper for frequency, Ranger Beads, Pedometer,
Interobserved reliability (IOR) is when 2 people independently observe the same behavior and record it.
Self-monitoring is when one observes and records their own behavior. The Observation Period is when the observer
records the subject’s specific behavior. There are also natural and contrived settings. Structured and unstructured,
where unstructured observations there are no instructions given at all.
-Observer observes the client through the entire period and records the behavior and must be able to identify the
onset and offset of the behavior; they can record the frequency, duration, intensity (also called Magnitude) and
latency of the behavior.
-Latency and duration are different in that, latency is the time from some stimulus event to the onset of the
behavior, whereas the duration is how long the behavior occurs.
-Real-time recording is when someone is recorded by video and then the behaviours are determined later by re-
-Record every instance of the behaviour occurring during the observation period. May record frequency, duration,
intensity, and latency.
Product Recording (also Permanent Product Recording)
-Recording the product of the subjects, for instance, checking the marks of students can potentially help determine
the product. The client does not have to be there, it can be done after a session, it can be used when a heavier
results in a certain outcome that you are interested in.
-Record the tangible outcome or permanent product of the occurrence of the behaviour.
-Whether the behavior occurs during consecutive time periods. Divides time into sections and then observes
whether that behavior occurs in that time period. 2 types: partial and whole:
oPartial - just record whether the behavior occurred during the time interval it takes less time and effort
oWhole - occurrence of behavior is marked in an interval only when the behavior occurs throughout the
-Record the occurrence or nonoccurrence of the behaviour in consecutive intervals of time during an observation
Frequency-within-interval Recording - records the frequency of the target behavior within the intervals of time in the
Time Sample Recording
-You divide the observation period into intervals of time, but you observe and record the behavior during only part
of each interval. The times are separated by periods without observation.
-Record the occurrence and nonoccurrence of the behaviour in discontinuous intervals of time (time samples)
during an observational period.