Behavioral Research Biting Nails Case Study
Purpose: Improving your understanding of how behavioral principles work can help you change your behaviors and the behaviors of employees, friends, or family. Think about unwanted habits you have or irritating habits that those around you might have. This assignment will also teach you how to make more objective and clear observations, which improves your ability to think critically, as well as guide you in writing up a beginning Case Study, a task you’ll undertake in multiple fields. These skills will help you in college and in your career: being able to determine discriminative stimuli will help you to identify patterns in people’s behaviors, and that will help you to be able to understand them better
- Day 1: Choose a behavior of yours that you would like to try to modify using the principles of behaviorism. Keep it simple and clearly measurable (for example, not “I should exercise more,” but “I want to jog one mile a day” – not, “I want to be more outgoing,” but “I want to talk to at least two people each day” – not, “I want better grades,” but “I want to study X amount each day”). Use the assignment below to send me your idea, and I’ll let you know if it’ll work for this assignment.
- Days 1-5: For five days, merely record the frequency that your target behavior is occurring naturally (this is called establishing a baseline).
- How often, at what times, and under what circumstances, do you engage in the behavior?
- What are the good consequences of the behavior (such as short-term anxiety relief for smoking) and what are the bad consequences (such as long-term health problems)?
- If the behavior is a currently non-existent one that you want to establish, keep track of when you have opportunities to engage in the target behavior, but do not do so. Also note the times, contexts, cues, and consequences that are reinforcing this LACK of your target behavior.
- Day 6-10: Beginning on the sixth day, start noting the discriminative stimuli (i.e., recurring patterns of circumstances surrounding or triggering the behavior) you have recorded. Continue to observe behavioral frequency and note the stimuli and consequences through day 10 of your journal. For example, some people only smoke when visiting with certain acquaintances, or only snack while watching television. Limiting or eliminating those cues may help in changing the target behavior. Look for at least three discriminative stimuli.
- Day 11: Identify at least three positive reinforcers for you (anything that makes you feel good, such as a special treat or self-reward – reading a good book, talking with a friend, taking a relaxing bath, playing a favorite game). Choose one that seems likely to have an impact upon the behavior you wish to change, then establish a schedule of reinforcement. For example, “I get to do X only after I have read one chapter in my textbook.”
- Day 11-24: Keep track of your progress toward your goal. If none is noted, try finding a more powerful reinforcer, and make note of the changes in your record-keeping. If you are making progress, gradually change from continuous to partial reinforcement as the target behavior pattern becomes established, with the eventual goal of eliminating the external reinforcer.
- Day 24: Review your log, analyze your data, and reflect on what you learned. As this site states, see if you can sum up the patterns you’ve observed into a thesis-like statement. Your statement should capture your behavioral goal, your reinforcers, and their overall effectiveness.
- Day 25: Write up your Case Study about your experience and what you noticed about changes in your behavior, drawing on information from the Learning Chapter. What was helpful in making the change? If your behavior did NOT change, why didn’t it? Include at least one paragraph under each of the following headings:
- Introduction: Set the stage for your case study by identifying your behavioral goal (and related frequency it naturally was occurring), your discriminative stimuli and positive reinforcers, and finish with your thesis-like finding (see #6 above).
- Background Information: Clearly state your behavior modification goal, your history around that behavior, and why it’s important. Include an illustrative, relevant photo if you’d like to add a personalized element (photo is optional).
- Presentation of Findings: Describe what you’ve learned in your 24 days of Behavioral Research, what methods you tried, the outcome(s), and what factors helped you change or made it difficult. Use behavioral terminology and Key Terms. You may also include how you felt at different time during the month, or other effects your research may have had.
- Conclusion: Sum up your Case Study and research findings, and include other possible solutions or further avenues for research.
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