Topic 2: Behavioral Approach {by 9/30}

There are two readings due this week – Text Ch. 11 and Skinner (1953).  Address the following two discussion points: (1) Although pure behavioral approaches are now rarely utilized in therapy, there is still significant effectiveness in treating certain disorders (i.e., anxiety) when the primary focus of intervention is behavioral in nature.  Based on your reading from Ch. 11, explain why this statement is typically true.  (2) Based on Skinner’s (1953) reading, explain functional analysis and the role of “mental events.”  Your original post should be posted by the beginning of class 9/30.  Have your two replies no later than 10/2.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

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53 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Janean Desjardins
    Sep 29, 2015 @ 13:57:31

    (1) Although pure behavioral approaches are now rarely utilized in therapy, there is still significant effectiveness in treating certain disorders (i.e., anxiety) when the primary focus of intervention is behavioral in nature. Based on your reading from Ch. 11, explain why this statement is typically true.
    When changing a person’s behavior it is found that it can also change a person perception of their self and increase ones’ self-esteem. Many people often have a different view of themselves compared to how others see them. Our behavior is generally learned from experiences that we have had from childhood and growing up into adulthood. Whether it is a positive or negative a person has learned to cope with these situations in their own way and views themselves according to those experiences. If you look at someone who is experiencing anxiety of public speaking, such as what we read, he may have been made fun of as a child in a public speaking situation. Thus over time when being put in a situation that he would have to speak in front of a large crowd again it would provoke anxiety over the situation. Maybe he never received positive feedback after these situations or never felt as though he did. It’s possible as well that a teacher could have told him he did a good job, but his own insecurities wouldn’t allow him to accept the compliment. In working with him to reduce his anxiety over a situation like this you would first want to establish where the anxiety was coming from and why it started? After this has been established and worked through, you could then move to what his strengths are to help recondition him and build self-esteem. Once there is better self-awareness you may be able to teaching him methods to calm or desensitize him for the next time he has to speak in public. You can help teach tools such as; meditation for relaxation, practicing his speech in front of a mirror, or even the speech in front of the therapist. The therapist could help in being just a small stepping stone for an audience and show him to slow down and breathe while he is trying to present his speech.

    (2) Based on Skinner’s (1953) reading, explain functional analysis and the role of “mental events.”
    Skinner discusses Psychic inner causes as a common practice to explain behavior as an inner or “mental” event because it lacked physical dimensions. It was the case in which the inner body has an impulse that the outer body obeyed. It has been compared to Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego as in the man wishes for the action, seeks out to find it, and then will execute it. Given that this is a mental process it is difficult to observe this process and is seen to be an unconscious thought process. One may be able to complete a task but unable to explain why or how they are able to complete the task. For example, someone that knows how to pick up a paint brush and creates a masterpiece but cannot explain how they were able to do so. They do not know where they learned the behavior (painting) they just performed but the artistic ability is there. With mental events you cannot use science to back up your analysis and there is no concrete variable to work with. With functional analysis there is a dependent variable “the effect for which we are to find the cause” and independent variable “the causes of behavior”. In functional analysis it is done in a more controlled setting to get a more scientific approach, although not everything is absolute. Multiple observations and studies are done with people to study behavior in different types of situations. Casual Observations or generalizations are used in early stages to provide useful instincts for further studies down the road. Controlled field observation or methods of anthropology where data is sampled more carefully and conclusions become more accurate. Clinical observation is when they begin to interview and observe behavior which can now be compared by multiple people. Extensive observation of behavior is more controlled conditions as they would use specific areas as in military, institutions, industrial to see how people react under stressful and other circumstances. Laboratory studies of human behavior is seen as most useful putting direct contact of studying behavior and producing the situation they are put in directly. Skinner uses a good example in the article of placing a glass of water in front of a person and whether or not they will drink it. Multiple things would have to come into play if you want to see if the person will actually drink it. I found it interesting that they would turn up the heat to make them hot, add salt to the water to make them thirstier, and control whether or not they drank prior to entering the study. You can see that functional analysis is much more controlled that mental events and has a much more scientific approach.

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    • Jillian Harrison
      Sep 29, 2015 @ 14:07:00

      Janean,

      I appreciated your inclusion of the fact that Skinner did believe that in certain scenarios, such as having an artistic ability, mental events could be a cause of behavior. I think that many behaviorists omitted the role of inherent abilities or mental causes of behavior because they were not observable or directly effected by the environment, much like Skinner said about their role in functional analysis. I believe that there are places in psychology for such “non-scientific” explanations of behaviors and that not everything must be explained as a cause and effect relationship proven by the natural laws of science. While in many instances this provides the proof and evidence that many need in order to validate behaviors and modify them, I think that in some instances, the role of mental events should be taken into consideration by behavioral psychologists and utilized more effectively with clients who may not have experienced trauma or have clear-cut causal relationships between the environment and their behaviors.

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    • Bridget Kesling
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 22:38:32

      I think you are right on target with why the behavioral approach is effective in disorders such as anxiety disorders. I would like to add the idea the with learned behavior their has been research to prove that we are creatures of habit and so the longer we do something the stronger the pathways are in our brains are to “reverse” learned behavior or though processes. So behavioral models although effective may take many years to master.

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  2. Jillian Harrison
    Sep 29, 2015 @ 13:59:13

    Pure behavioral approaches have limited therapeutic usefulness in modern psychotherapy. But for the emotions and conditions it does treat, it has been proven to be very effective. In the case of anxiety, for example, a therapist may find that a solid behavioral intervention and treatment plan will wield the most positive results for the client. The behavioral process used to treat a client with anxiety is known as systematic desensitization. Joseph Wolpe created this concept in 1958 when he hypothesized that anxiety and other neurotic behaviors were the result of maladaptive learned habits (Mischel, Shoda, & Ayduk, 280). He believed that anxiety was a conditioned response to stimuli that others may not find anxiety inducing (Mischel, et al., 280). Wolpe theorized that systematic desensitization would reverse the effects of classical conditioning and leave the client anxiety-free. This would occur in three parts, determining an anxiety stimulus hierarchy, learning relaxation techniques or a more suitable response, then pairing the anxiety-provoking stimuli with the relaxation techniques until the client no longer experiences anxiety associated with the stimulus (Mischel, et al., 281-282). This method takes time and patience, as the therapist needs to slowly work their way up to the actual feared object or situation while reducing the client’s anxiety to smaller, related items or situations. For example, if a client has a fear of flying, the therapist may start with just having the client imagine a plane and practicing the relaxation techniques as they do. They may then move on to imagining flying, driving to an airport, maybe stepping on a plane, and eventually taking a flight. By desensitizing the client to the other stimuli related to flying, the client can better assess their true anxiety and implement their relaxation techniques in order to retrain their previous learned response to the stimuli. When looking at the practicality of this technique, it makes sense that this would be an effective treatment option for those who experience specific behavioral issues such as anxiety or specific phobias. These conditions are normally brought on by a traumatic event or exposure to an unpleasant situation. Their response has been learned and reinforced over time, but with modification, their learned behavioral responses can be changed to allow them to function better within their social world.

    Like many other behaviorists, Skinner denied the existence of behaviors motivated by unconscious thoughts or desires. He believed that mental events were not the cause of behaviors, but rather the person’s reactions to the environment. Skinner did not believe that these mental events were quantifiable, therefore providing little to no proof of their effect on behaviors (Skinner, 29). In order to best understand behavior, he believed you must be able to observe, manipulate, and predict those behaviors (Skinner, 35). He referred to the connection between behavior assessment and behavior change as functional analysis, where the behaviors are viewed as functions of science and recreated in a laboratory or experimental setting (Mischel, et al., 276). This is a particularly important aspect of the behavioral approach to psychology because it provides the scientific background necessary for experimental design, research, and understanding human function from a scientific standpoint. No longer are behaviors just the unpredictable result of mental events, but rather, a cause and effect relationship between the person and the environment within the laws of natural science. While this theory did not explain all behavior or mental processes, it did allow for the growth of the field of behavioral psychology and for scientists and psychologists to better understand human personality and develop treatment options through the lens of hard science.

    Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., Ayduk O. (2008). Introduction to personality: Toward an integrative science of the person (8th ed., pp. 270-290). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

    Skinner, B. (1953). Why Organisms Behave. In Science and human behavior (pp. 23-39). New York: Macmillan.

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    • ana.cerdapaulino@assumption.edu
      Sep 29, 2015 @ 23:19:54

      Jillian:
      You bring up a good point about Skinner’s approach to explaining behavior. Your explanation of functional analysis as a relationship between a motivating variable and behavioral change was very clear. In the reading, Skinner referred to other non-scientific methods of explaining behaviors as insufficient. I infer from the readings that Skinner believed that the observable links between external factors and behaviors was were true science and explanation lie. The true determinants of changes in behavior are the external variables that in a lab setting can be manipulated and changed to elicit changes in behavior.

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    • Marisa Molinaro
      Sep 30, 2015 @ 09:59:24

      Jillian, I really enjoyed your explanation of systematic desensitization. I also used this as my example for explaining how behavior can help anxiety but I found that through your explanation I was able to understand it more. I think that it is very important to remember that this type of therapy does take time and you can’t rush it on your clients. Everyone moved at their own pace and you explained that well in your response. I also found that your explanation of functional analysis was very easy to understand and helped me get it more because for some reason I had a hard time with this concept! It’s important to remember it needs to be done in a scientific setting and that Skinner felt that behavior wasn’t something that was just ‘unpredictable”.

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    • Mark Joyce
      Oct 01, 2015 @ 22:53:26

      Jillian, your explanation and example of systematic desensitization speaks to why I believe in its application in modern therapy. With approaching phobias being such a sensitive topic to address in therapy, systematic desensitization allows for a controlled environment that allows for new coping skills to be practiced and steps made towards overcoming fears. Being able to slowly expose someone to stressful stimuli seems intuitive but the power of this approach is clearly shown in your example. Also, flying is a great example of a specific anxiety many people encounter; if Dr. V. was so terrified of flying it would be advantageous to show him pictures of planes, videos of flights successfully landing and departing, having him drive by the airport, and eventually taking flight. By slowly increasing the intensity of the stimuli while prompting implementation of learned coping skills allows many to overcome fears they thought unconquerable. One thing I wonder about is regarding when this approach is not applicable due to the learned connection being too strong. As we’ve been learning about post traumatic stress disorder in Abnormal, I wonder how effective this approach would be in treating those suffering from PTSD and if it would even be employed at all.

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  3. Erin Mamott
    Sep 29, 2015 @ 17:43:14

    1) There is still significant effectiveness in using behavioral approaches in treating a variety of disorders and disruptive behaviors. In the course of development of an anxiety disorder, the avoidant behaviors are reinforced by a seeming reduction in anxiety (Mischel, Shoda, & Ayduk, 2008, p 274). The avoidant behaviors might have started as insignificant in the overall effect on the client’s functionality, however over time a pattern of avoidant behaviors as a means of anxiety control begins to chip away at functionality. Using behavioral interventions to change the conditioned reinforcers in the avoidant behavior, through behavioral shaping and counterconditioning, can be a way of improving the client’s functionality before the client is ready or able to address the underlying causes of the anxiety (Mischel et al., 2008, p 274). These approaches can especially prove effective when working with children who might not necessarily have a disorder, but are exhibiting disruptive behaviors (Mischel et al., 2008, p 274). Obviously one should be sure that the disruptive behaviors of the child are not being caused by serious trouble at home or elsewhere in the child’s life. With adults working to alleviate anxiety in a particular situation, such as public speaking, the behavioral conditioning techniques would be combined with relaxation techniques to relieve the anxiety when it is provoked and to work in steps toward what is deemed the highest provoking situation (Mischel et al., 2008, pp 280-282). On the other hand, those with addictions may find the use aversive conditioning as a possible treatment, such as pairing feeling nauseous after consuming alcohol (Mischel et al., 2008, p 283). Aversion therapy however is not always preferred as a first course of treatment because it can more stress on the client and can be undermined if the association is not strong enough or the adverse response is not associated with the targeted stimulus.

    2) If I had to summarize a definition for “mental events” as Skinner presents them, it would be something to the effect of, “mental events are the redundant nuances of language to explain the process of one physical force causing a physical reaction.” Skinner gives the example of thirst as a mental event being the suggested cause of the behavior drinking a glass of water (Skinner, 1953, p 32). Thirst is described as the tendency to drink, so saying that someone drinks because he is thirsty is like saying he drinks because he has a tendency to drink, which is redundant. Skinner seems to think that mental events are nuances of language as a means of explaining that which we do not fully understand (Skinner, 1953, p 27), such as saying the sun rises and sets. One day, according to Skinner, we may have the technology to more accurately describe these mental events, just as astronomy now knows that the earth’s rotation is the cause day and night, with the right technology to observe mental events as they really are our language will also be able to become more precise. Skinner identifies three basic links in the behavioral chain, a physical external force, an “internal mental event,” and the behavioral response (Skinner, 1953, p 34). Most people are happy to stop with the mental event as the cause of the behavior possibly because it is easy and does not require looking for historical and observable causes. The physical force, however, is more reliable than the mental event because it can be observed directly and should be referred to as the real cause of the behavior. Essentially until we have the technology to directly observe these mental events and can manipulate them, science cannot regard mental events as valid explanations for behavior.
    Functional analysis, simply put, is the analysis of the external variables which cause a behavior (Skinner, 1953, p 35). Functional analysis is also referred to as causal analysis because it is the analysis of the behavioral cause. In the example of thirst, the functional analysis would be taking in all of the variables which will predict if the subject will in fact drink the glass of water. Prior deprivation of water, consumption of salt, increased excretion of water, and social conditioned responses are all factors which are considered in this analysis, because any and all of these factors contribute to the cause of the “mental event” of thirst and predicting the behavioral response of drinking. These contributing factors can be observed and controlled in a variety of ways, but primarily through inference and experimentation.

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    • Brittany King
      Sep 29, 2015 @ 18:01:57

      At my job in a residential setting, we use “character cash” as a token economy. The “charachter cash” is given to a student, depending on their treatment goals, for getting attention positively rather than utilizing maladaptive behaviors to seek attention. They then are able to take the “character cash” and at the end of the night use it to purchase snacks out of the “chracter cash” stash. I have found this to be extremely effective for the younger residents who engage in disruptive, negative behaviors to seek attention from staff. When they are able to get attention for doing something positive, we are reinforcing that positive behavior. In many residents, I have seen these tokens be a positive part of their treatment plan and helps them transform their attention seeking behaviors.

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      • Jillian Harrison
        Oct 01, 2015 @ 10:30:50

        Brittany,

        I really enjoyed your example of the token economy because I experience a similar situation at my work. The staff members that I manage have a point system for which they earn points for various tasks such as wearing the correct uniform to work, taking initiative on duty, and other important skills we hope for them to learn as they work here. If they earn enough points individually, they are eligible for a raise if they return the following year. I’ve noticed though, that there were some issues after management amended the program I had originally designed: first, they did not reward the staff often enough, they were only rewarded at the end of the summer if they had reached the set amount of points. I felt that this made them discouraged and made them feel as though it was a daunting or impossible task. It could be more effective if there were smaller, more manageable rewards along the way. Management also required that I deduct points for certain behaviors that were not permitted while working, such as cell phone use, being too social with staff members from other departments, or showing up late. While i understood why they believed that these were important issues to highlight, taking earned points away seemed to discourage the employees even more. Seeing how well your system works and knowing that it is based on the principles behaviorists created, I believe it’s time to suggest a change for next season!

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    • Mark Joyce
      Oct 01, 2015 @ 23:42:15

      Erin, I can first hand attest to the effectiveness of token economies in treating youths and adolescents with disruptive behaviors, and I’m glad you saw also saw this an important behavioral intervention. At the first program I worked at we used a token economy approach which included rewarding “coupons” for desirable behaviors. There were general positive behaviors that were reinforced but also behaviors that were specific to the individual. For example, if they normally didn’t participate in group activities and decided to be a passive member of the group opposed to sitting out, they would receive a coupon. They could redeem these coupons at the end of the week that could go towards snacks, knick-knacks, and sensory toys. While at large this was an effective approach but there were two issues in the application in my program that may be true of others. The consistency of rewarding behavior may differ between counselor and individuals may not be rewarded for the same behavior that received a reward earlier. As we know this intermittent reward schedule can prove problematic and some children had a serious problem with this even when we attempted to establish consistent protocols. Another issue, was that some children were either too old for this approach to be effective or they did not see the value in the economy. Finding other methods of rewarding desired behaviors proved difficult at times but was still rewarding. In all, this approach can prove effective for some but not all.

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    • Julia Sherman
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 11:29:03

      I also currently work in a residential setting that utilizes tokens for positive reinforcement, and it is certainly an effective way to encourage children to continue exhibiting positive behaviors. However, it requires staff to be diligent in making sure they observe and properly reward the behaviors. I have noticed that for myself, that can be difficult depending on the situation. For instance, there are children at my program who have issues remaining quiet during room time (we have then spend time quietly in their rooms in between transitions to different activities). On some rare days, those children will manage to find something quiet to do, and because it is so quiet, sometimes I do not realize that it is an uncommon behavior that should be rewarded. I am trying to get better at this, but my point is that it can be much easier to recognize when a child is misbehaving than when a child is behaving. Positive reinforcement has been shown to be a much more effective method for adjusting behavior than punishment is, so it is important in behavioral therapy to always be paying attention.

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    • Jason Prior
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 15:39:50

      Erin,

      I really liked your posts for this week. In the first post you mentioned using the behavioral method for changing problem behaviors in children who do not actually have disorders. In my opinion there is a lot of utility in behavioral approaches for teaching children skills and behaviors, and not have to consider it a “treatment”.

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  4. Mark Joyce
    Sep 29, 2015 @ 17:43:22

    While pure behavioral approaches are no longer utilized in therapy, that does not mean they lack merits in treating specific disorders. Anxiety disorders and certain severe mental illnesses benefit from certain aspects of the behavioral approach. With the approach focusing on the effects of learned behaviors, rewards, and consequences, its approach to analyzing learned behavior has its strengths. A common and powerful behavioral approach to treating an anxiety disorder Is systematic desensitization, or counterconditioning. This process involves identifying the distressing environmental stimuli and exposing the individual in therapy to that stimuli in incremental stages. By exposing the individual to incremental levels of exposure to the stimulus, such as a spider if the patient suffered from arachnophobia, while in a controlled environment allowing for relaxation and coping skills to be developed to reduce anxiety when exposed to stressful stimuli. Another powerful and possibly controversial approach incorporated in some behavioral approaches is to re-establish behavior patterns by making the stimuli aversive. An example of this can be the treatment of alcoholism with Antabuse; in certain individuals the learned behavior of alcohol intake leads to intense psychological and eventually physical dependence. Antabuse is an example re-establishing a positive stimuli as aversive as it produces unwanted side-effects that could enact long term change. From my own clinical experiences one of the most interesting behavioral approaches involves token economies. In certain individuals suffering from profound mental illness it was clear to see that having attainable goals that led to tangible, positive rewards could elicit positive behavior. While token economies and other behavioral approaches do have their place, they should be supplemented by other theories that places a larger emphasis on cognitions, emotions and biology. These behavioral approaches may no longer be cutting edge treatment methods but they still have their use in modern therapy.
    Functional analyses is a very methodical and research oriented approach to observing the human condition. In Skinner’s eyes and theory, mental events or experiences are too dynamic and abstract to observe. These mental events are the unique motivators in behavior and due to the vast possibilities of arrangements, functional analyses instead focuses on observable data. By focusing solely on what can be observed researchers are able to extract a more accurate representation of the person. This is attained by performing basic observations, observations in clinical and scientific settings, and an emphasis on empirical data. Establishing rigorous experimental controls that provide measures of behavior is the goal of a functional analysis. By choosing to focus solely on external factors, and in turn removing the focus from inner drives, researchers can create causal links in established behaviors.
    Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., Ayduk O. (2008). Introduction to personality: Toward an integrative science of the person (8th ed., pp. 270-290). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

    Skinner, B. (1953). Why Organisms Behave. In Science and human behavior (pp. 23-39). New York: Macmillan.

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    • Brittany King
      Sep 29, 2015 @ 18:07:50

      Mark, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your response this week in particular the part about tokens. Similar to you, my work utilizes this tool often to target a specific behavior. What I found is that token economies is a great tool for floor staff to utilize because while they do not have extensive clinical training, they are able to know a residents baseline behavior, their treatment goals and what the tokens should be used for. For example, a resident who may try to seek attention from staff by isolating themself in their room would then get a token for when they are socializing with peers and having positive interactions. I found this to be helpful to use for younger residents who get excited and motivated with the tokens! Have you found success with this?

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    • ana.cerdapaulino@assumption.edu
      Sep 29, 2015 @ 23:35:32

      Mark:
      You make the suggestion that along with behavioral interventions that have strong clinical support, we should supplement them with theories that focus on biological, emotional and cognitive changes to approach an issue in an eclectic manner. I wholeheartedly agree with you. There are many underlying factors that lead to the development of certain disorders and having one single approach may be beneficial to one aspect of the disorder but may still not be truly targeting various other contributing features. The behavioral approach is great in determining what maintains behavior and providing information as to how to change behavior through conditioning and reinforcement methods. This approach, however, primarily targets external environmental factors that may be motivating or maintaining behavior; it does not necessarily target internal motivators such as thoughts and mental processes that may be governing behavior and so other approaches need to be taken to address these factors.

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    • Salome Wilfred
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 10:44:20

      Mark,

      I really enjoyed your explanation about systematic desensitization through incremental stages. There seemed to be a quick discussion about exposure therapy and how sessions will progress from easier stimuli to more difficult stimuli. I wonder if there’s an effect on treatment outcome when clients do not progress all the way through exposure therapy? For example, I worked with a client who was being treated for PTSD and in her first few sessions she was being exposed to pictures and progressed to certain locations. She was suppose to continue to other locations but reported feeling a lot better and decided to stop therapy. Do you think this could have aversive effects in the long term? Or do you think she was able to truly generalize to all situations and environments that were triggers after exposing to only a few?

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    • Jason Prior
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 16:41:27

      Mark,

      I really enjoy reading about the experiences you have had in the field. Not for the first time you were able to relate the topics in a way that was easy to understand while still accurate.

      Reply

  5. Brittany King
    Sep 29, 2015 @ 17:54:18

    1. Although pure behavioral approaches are now rarely utilized in therapy, there is still significant effectiveness in treating certain disorders (i.e., anxiety) when the primary focus of intervention is behavioral in nature. Based on your reading from Ch. 11, explain why this statement is typically true.

    Although pure behavioral approaches are now rarely utilized in therapy, there is still significant effectiveness in treating certain disorders when the primary focus of intervention is behavioral in nature. Mischel, Shoda, and Ayduk (2008) state that many psychologist have attempted to modify maladaptive behaviors by altering the consequences to which those behaviors lead. In order to do this, they take away or withdraw reinforcements for the undesired behavior and then give either attention, approval, or another reinforcement that depends on more appropriate behavior. For example, if you have an individual engaging in self-destructive behaviors for attention, they can be getting reinforcement by an adult giving them attention when they act in those self-destructive ways. However, once the attentions, approval, or other positive consequence, such as attention are withdrawn from that negative behavior and instead the attention is focused on a positive behavior, the reward is then contingent on that positive behavior. The idea is that the person’s maladaptive behavior, such as the self-destructive behavior for attention will be modified. For adolescents, tokens are a tool that can help them target a maladaptive behavior. With a token, you are rewarding the client for their positive behavior not their negative behavior. They then take this token and are able to use it at a later time to get some food, a prize, or whatever is set up with the token. This tool is useful because you are trying to help the client utilize their positive behavior not their maladaptive behavior. This approach, does not evaluate the health, adequacy, or abnormality of the individual as a whole, including their personality but instead, focuses on the individual’s specific behaviors, more specifically those that are maladaptive and formulates a plan to target those behaviors (Mischel, et al., 2008).

    2. Based on Skinner’s (1953) reading, explain functional analysis and the role of “mental events.”
    Skinner (1953) states that functional analysis is the external variables to which behavior is a provided for, also known as a casual. Within functional analysis, the goal is to predict and control a target behavior within the individual. It focuses on the identification of variables, such as the independent variable, the cause of behavior, the dependent variable, the effect to find the cause. Skinner (1953) noted that the “cause-and-effect relationship” between the two variables in behavior are the laws of science and these laws of science express a “picture” of the individuals behaving system. Functional analysis must be completed within the bounds of natural science such as through casual observation, in controlled field observation, clinical observation, extensive observations through strictly controlled conditions, and laboratory studies of human behavior and laboratory studies of animal behavior (Skinner, 1953).
    A common practice is to explain the psychic inner causes, or mental events. Skinner (1953) states that it is possible to attribute every feature of the behavior of an individual to a corresponding feature of the mind or some sort of inner personality. These mental events are usually subjective, not useful for casual analysis. Mental events lack the dimension of physical science. Skinner (1953) states that any mental event that is unconscious is necessarily inferential and cannot be explained through independent observations of a valid cause.

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    • Janean Desjardins
      Sep 30, 2015 @ 00:09:52

      Brittany,
      I think you bring up a great point about using tokens as a reward for positive behavior. I think it’s a great tool for both children and adolescents in residential and for parents to use in home settings. They used it at the residential home that I worked at and the kids responded really well with it. They also had it set up were they would loose a token for specific behaviors as well. In some cases I felt as though removing the tokens opposed to them just not receiving any I thought made the situation worse. It was as if you were removing something they had worked for and got positive reinforcement for already (if that makes sense). Otherwise the kids really enjoyed saving the tokens and just for the pure fact that they received it and were getting the positive attention. We also did this at home with my brother who is severely ADHD and the therapist recommended the token method for positive behavior. He had a token chart, jars, and entire system set up which really seemed to work. I think that enforcing positive behavior for children is just the wrap around way of showing them you care and validating them. The more positive reinforcement the more positive behavior it seemed.

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    • Marisa Molinaro
      Sep 30, 2015 @ 10:05:25

      Brittany, I really liked your example of treating self-destructive behaviors with reinforcements and a strong intervention plan. It is important to remember that not just anxiety and depression can be treated with these behavioral techniques but other issues that one may face. I like how you talked about how it may just be for attention and it is important for the therapist to make sure they know the motives for the behavior before moving forward with treatment. I also found that your explanation of tokens for adolescents was a great way to look at it. I used to work at a daycare and I found that even doing this technique was small children worked. However, sometimes they get too used to the idea that they need to be rewarded for things and then it can back fire on you.

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    • Colleen Popores-LaFleur
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 16:42:56

      Brittany,

      I like the way you explained Skinner’s view on mental events and how functional analysis works. When reading Skinner I find it interesting how clearly we can see him pushing away the traditional techniques that psychology had tried to use. He makes comparisons to astrology and alchemy and I thought they were great examples to get his point across. All of these methods made guesses based on limited knowledge about how the world worked. Our medical history began the same way, and has some pretty interesting ideas throughout time. Although Skinner’s approach to psychology may seem rigid or one-sided to some, I see it as a little refreshing that he was able to take a step back and rather than try to explain everything going on inside of us, he used scientific methods and was able to make changes.

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  6. Bridget Kesling
    Sep 29, 2015 @ 19:08:02

    There are two readings due this week – Text Ch. 11 and Skinner (1953). Address the following two discussion points: (1) Although pure behavioral approaches are now rarely utilized in therapy, there is still significant effectiveness in treating certain disorders (i.e., anxiety) when the primary focus of intervention is behavioral in nature. Based on your reading from Ch. 11, explain why this statement is typically true.

    The Behavioral approach is still used and effective in treating certain disorders when the primary focus of intervention is behavioral in nature because when looking at disorders such as anxiety there behaviorism offers this idea of counter conditioning and desensitization. With anxiety there is a point of maximum conflict within a person. Through exposure therapy and the utilization of contingencies of reinforcement a client is able to adjust the point of maximum conflict and eventually reach the place where the fear of perceived conflict dissipates completely. Anxiety is a condition of fears of either the unknown or future possibilities. Using counter conditioning and desensitization that fear of the unknown becomes known or the possibility of negative outcome is put into a healthy perspective. With more information the patient will likely perceive threat as less and the anxiety will dissipate.

    2) Based on Skinner’s (1953) reading, explain functional analysis and the role of “mental events.” Your original post should be posted by the beginning of class 9/30. Have your two replies no later than 10/2. *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply. This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings

    The role of “mental events” in the everyday life of a client is dynamic. According to the reading a mental event is an event that is originated in the mental or psychic inner. The psych inner is essentially the soul of individual. The text cited that some believe that one body may be subject to multiple psychic agents. When looking at Freud he would have called these the id, ego, and superego. So a mental event is when one of the psych inner or in Freud’s the unconscious is at play and the person ends up reacting to something with no thought or understanding as to why they are doing what they are doing. These are very prominent events as one may argue they are the times we are acting in our truest self. They are very telling of our personality development and type.

    Reply

  7. Marisa Molinaro
    Sep 29, 2015 @ 19:35:07

    1. Even though behavioral therapy techniques are not widely used in modern-day therapy, there are still many ways that these therapy techniques can help people with certain disorders. One disorder that it has shown to be extremely helpful in treating is anxiety. Joseph Wolpe came up with a method called systematic desensitization. Mischel, Shoda, and Ayduk (2008) define this in three steps. The first step is to have the patient explain to you their hierarchy of severity of anxiety provoking stimuli. The patient then ranks the items in order from mild to severe. The second step is teaching the patient relaxation responses and techniques that they can use later on when actually dealing with the anxiety-provoking situations. Once they have mastered the relaxation techniques, they can move on to step three. Step three is when you start to expose them to the anxiety situations but now you have them pair these with the relaxation techniques. You start with the mild situations and then once they have “completed” each level of the hierarchy you can move on (p. 281-282). Eventually, if they get through all of the anxiety-provoking situations, they will have overcome this set of anxiety-provoking fears. This sounds like a fool-proof plan, however this isn’t something that can just happen overnight. Often patients will get to a certain level and not be able to practice the relaxation technique because they are simply too anxious to proceed. When this happens, the therapist must then start over from a less severe stimulus and see if the client can begin to feel calm again. This has shown to be successful because your body cannot be in a state of anxiety and a state of relaxation at the same time (Mischel et al., 2008, p. 282). Once the patient realizes this and starts to practice relaxation techniques and see that they can overcome their anxiety just by changing their behavior, it can be very successful.

    2. Skinner (1953) explains functional analysis as being a “cause and effect relationship” of the external variables that cause our behaviors (p. 35). We use functional analysis to help predict the independent variable, or the actual causes of the behavior. Basically we are trying to see what is causing us to do the things that we do. Skinner (1953) also explains how it is very important to remember that the actual “behavior” isn’t as important as the reason that the individual did it or what it actually means to them. We must figure out the functional analysis of our behaviors through the laws of science. We can do this by looking at our casual observations, controlled field observations, clinical observations, laboratory studies of human behavior, and also the laboratory studies of animal behavior (Skinner, 1953, p. 37-38). Skinner (1953) discusses how it is a common misconception to explain our behaviors by using “mental events”. What this means is that we justify our behaviors or the behaviors of others because of a “feeling” they have or because something internally was drawing them to do it (p. 27). Some examples that Skinner uses are neural causes, and psychic inner causes. Neural causes are when we use our nervous system to explain why we are behaving in a certain way (Skinner, 1953, p. 27). You may tell your friend that you are having a nervous breakdown, or that you are just overcome with nerves and that is why you can’t do something. Skinner does not believe that these are valid explanations for our behavior. Psychic inner causes is when we explain our behavior in terms of our inner agent (Skinner, 1953, p. 29). The “man within” made you behave in a certain way and you are unable to explain why you did something. Skinner believes that this type of explanation lacks the scientific evidence to actually show that our behavior is based on these internal things.

    Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Ayduk, O. (2008). Introduction to personality: Toward an integrative science of the person (8th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

    Skinner, B. (1953). Why Organisms Behave. In Science and human behavior (pp. 23-39). New York: Macmillan.

    Reply

    • Janean Desjardins
      Sep 30, 2015 @ 00:34:17

      Marisa,
      I think you did a great job with clearly breaking down the process in which you would desensitize a patient with anxiety. As anyone knows it is not easy to treat someone with anxiety especially depending on the severity of it. Your clear approach with each level of hierarchy and focusing on each level at one time is important. You make a great point that people need to be aware if a patient does not complete a level they must go back to the level they have repressed to and start from there. It will take a great deal of patience on the part of both the patient and therapist. If done properly and in a progress that the patient can handle it could be very therapeutic.

      Reply

  8. Heather Lawrence
    Sep 29, 2015 @ 20:41:34

    (1) As defined in our text, the behavioral approach avoids evaluating the health, adequacy, or abnormality of the person or personality as a whole. Instead, when judgments are made, they focus on the evaluation of the individual’s specific behaviors. In clinical work, it is especially important to discover rewards that are effective for the individual to facilitate therapeutic progress. It is a careful measure of behavior in relation to stimulus conditions. Personal problems involve inappropriate self-evaluations and self-reactions. When treating severe depression, older more pure behavioral approaches focus less on what people are thinking, and more what they are doing. An approach known as behavioral activation is based on the idea that people are less depressed when they are out in the community doing things and not withdrawn in their bedrooms with covers pulled over their heads. This approach emphasizes the utility of helping depressed patients to schedule their lives, work and maintain their involvements in social activities. Cognitive therapy can be a mentally demanding approach more than pure behavioral approaches. People who are verbally skillful and articulate are needed to identify automatic thoughts and corrective cognitive errors. People without good verbal skills may find the therapy difficult and confusing, i.e. severely depressed people are not at their cognitive and intellectual best. It may be harder for severely depressed people to engage and benefit from cognitive therapy. In sum, there is less specifically mental effort that need be expended when you work behaviorally vs. cognitively. Cognitive approaches treating depression focus on helping to teach people how to identify thoughts that cause depression, how to do reality testing on those thoughts, and how to correct errors and exaggerations that are found to think more clearly. When you teach people to think in a clearer manner, mood will tend to clear up. Behavioral therapy is not a cure for any condition. It is a teaching method to help cope with everyday life. The goal is to increase the quality of life including: (1) reduce incidents of self-harm, (2) improve social skills, (3) better functioning in unfamiliar situations, (4) improve emotional expressions, (5) less outbursts, and (6) pain management. Role playing, relaxation methods, positive reinforcement, journaling, social skills training, and modifications in response to anger, fear, and pain are all examples of coping skills that can be utilized.
    (2) In functional analysis the dependent variable is the effect which we are to find the cause. The independent variable is what causes the behavior. Mental events are not the cause of behavior, but the person’s reactions to the environment. The connection between behavior assessment and behavior change is functional analysis. Skinner believed that it is more productive to study observable behavior rather than internal “mental events”. Mentalism depends on unobservable things that cannot be verified. Functional analysis solves this problem by bypassing and disregarding unobservable mental activity, and explains self-knowledge and introspection as observations that are the result of genetic and environmental histories, and looking at these external things will provide answers that really explain behavior. Skinner goes directly to the prior physical cause where mentalistic explanations make feelings and states of mind seem like causes when in fact there is no observable evidence that they are. Skinner believes people do things because they are responding to what’s going on in their environment. The feelings that are the causation are attributed to be misleading misinterpretations of the simple response to the environment. Skinner argues that the feelings are not mental events, but behavior. To ‘feel’ in a certain way towards a certain thing is to act in a certain way as a means to achieve certain consequences vs. the claim that reinforcers reinforce because of the feelings associated with them and these feelings are mental states. Skinner claims, to explain behavior as a response to ‘feelings’ of wanting etc., when in fact it is the aversive environmental stimulation that causes the agent to act in such ways. The purposes are a condition produced by reinforcement.

    Reply

    • Erin Mamott
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 14:06:08

      1) You talk about using behavioral methods as a preferred treatment for problems like depression, however you also say that it is not a cure for any condition. I am curious if you think behavioral methods are better as a starting point when treating depression to be followed up by a more cognitively based approach, or if in some cases only behavioral methods will provide enough of a treatment. I think there is definitely some merit to a “fake it till you make it” approach in some cases of depression (where the client acts or performs actions as if he or she is not depressed) however I think it can also be dangerous. I think it could be dangerous because now the client looks as if they are not depressed, however if their thoughts and emotions are still enough for the depression to continue, they now have lost warning signs to those around them. Although we try not to judge people by the way they look, unless we know what is going on inside, if a person appears to not be depressed we will not be looking for any potential threats to themselves which may be hidden.

      2) I’m not sure that I agree that functional analysis solves the “problem” of mental events; rather I would say that it is a tool by which a measurable cause can be more reliably determined. Skinner does acknowledge that there are mental events but more as a stepping stone to action than a cause per se. One way to conceptualize it would be putting a marble into a sealed puzzle box and a different marble comes out. You cannot observe what is going on inside the puzzle box to verify any cause for a marble to come out, and while it can appear that something is going on inside the puzzle box, it is only by the previous action of putting a marble in that the new one comes out so the cause of the marble coming out is putting a marble in. Functional analysis would analyze the input and output of the puzzle box as a means of predicting the future outcomes. So if every time I put in one marble, two marbles come out and every time I put in two marbles, four come out, functional analysis would say that how many marbles I put in causes double to come out. Like any analogy this one has it’s weak points but I think it illustrates mental events and functional analysis.

      Reply

  9. ana.cerdapaulino@assumption.edu
    Sep 29, 2015 @ 22:42:33

    Techniques in the behavioral approach are still effective and important in treating some disorders when using a behavioral intervention because through the use of assessments and functional analyses, the therapeutic approach can be determined. The behavioral approach is effective in identifying the environmental factors that may be reinforcing and maintaining maladaptive behaviors in certain disorders such as anxiety. In other words, these methods are useful in identifying the conditions that control behaviors. Once identified, this information can guide therapy or behavior management guidelines to help change behavior. Reinforcement can be redesigned to illicit and maintain more appropriate, adaptive behaviors and the removal of reinforcement can then be used to decrease maladaptive or challenging behaviors. In the case of anxiety, procedures are used to condition a more adaptive response (relaxation) with the anxiety-provoking stimuli.
    One set back to this approach to some disorders is that this method maintains that only observable causes control the behaviors and problems. It alludes that the environment is the major governing factor of behavior and disorders and therefore only seeks to identify the observable controlling agents of behavior. However, what if there is no observable environmental reinforcement or aversion in behavior? What if maladaptive thoughts and feelings are the maintaining factors of behavior? The counterargument then is that self-perceptions, being a part of personality, change with behaviors; therefore, if behaviors become more adaptive, then self-perceptions will change and so then will personality.

    According to Skinner, functional analysis is an examination of the variables in the environment that are related to behaviors. A relationship between variables in the environment and behavior exist when the antecedent variable consistently produce a change in a facet of a response behavior. The behavior serves a function for the motivating variable. A functional analysis accounts for behavior; it is an examination of the external variables that control or cause behavior, tracing them to the manipulative variables. It is directly addressing the motivation for behavior by identifying target observable and measurable behavior, determining the variables that maintain the target behavior and then forming an effective intervention program to change behavior. During a functional analysis, there is a structured set up to allow for direct observation of responding given various predetermined reinforcement conditions.

    Reply

    • Heather Lawrence
      Oct 01, 2015 @ 09:59:15

      Ana-I agree with your statement that addresses “one set back” and that this method is limited. It maintains that only observable causes control the behaviors and problems. It over simplifies. Different people respond to things differently depending on their mental states and personalities. It is important not to miss the steps between perceiving stimuli and responding to stimuli i.e. interpreting stimuli. In my opinion, Skinner doesn’t account for intelligence and the role that it plays, if all behavior is merely the result of conditioning.

      Reply

  10. Jacleen Charbonneau
    Sep 29, 2015 @ 23:50:21

    1. Behavioral approaches may not be widely used in therapeutic settings anymore, but they are still effective when treating anxiety. Although trying to fix behavior without getting to the core of the issue (e.g. what is causing it) seemed risky to many behaviorists in that it may result in symptom substitution, psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe took the chance in treating behavioral disorders like anxiety through the method of counterconditioning, also known as systematic desensitization (Mischel, Shoda, & Ayduk, 2008).

    Mischel et al. (2008) noted that if an individual suffers from fear responses, he or she could reduce the intensity of such responses through Wolpe’s technique. Related to the classic theory of conditioning, counterconditioning involves a three-step process that ultimately reduces the anxiety involved in one’s encounter with feared stimuli. The first step of this process involves pinpointing which situations cause fear in the individual and evaluating the level of anxiety that presented related stimuli cause the individual (Mischel et al., 2008). It is the job of this individual (the client) to rate the intensity of each presented stimuli in hierarchical form— from least stimulating to most stimulating.

    Next, the therapist walks the individual through a process, without stimuli present, that involves tightening and relaxing muscles to induce a relaxed state. Once relaxation has been achieved, the therapist can then begin the counterconditioning process (Mischel et al., 2008). Mischel et al. (2008) noted that this process involves again presenting each stimuli in the hierarchy to the individual, beginning with the weakest and working up to the strongest (Mischel et al., 2008). Such presentations of stimuli may include images or verbal representations of the feared stimuli. This process is done meticulously; if a stimulus is too anxiety-provoking, the stimulus will be removed and the patient will be instructed to relax until he or she is ready to proceed. Less intimidating stimuli, according to Mischel et al. (2008), will be presented if this situation arises. Eventually, the process of counterconditioning should result in a reduction in the fear response.

    Additionally, helping one overcome anxiety through behavioral techniques may increase self-confidence, leading to an increase in positive behavior and enhanced performance in a variety of areas in one’s life (Mischel et al., 2008). Although this idea is questioned by some researchers, behavioral techniques still have promise for helping those with anxiety.

    2. Skinner’s idea of functional analysis focused on distinguishing which external factors contributed to the cause one’s behavior (Skinner, 1953). Skinner believed that finding these external conditions would allow for researchers to manipulate them, ultimately resulting in the control of behavior. He included three aspects in his explanation for behavior: an external event or condition, such as the lack of water available; internal mental events, such as feeling thirsty; and the behavior itself, such as drinking water (Skinner, 1953). According to Skinner (1953), behavior cannot be manipulated at the second level (the internal variable), but it must be manipulated at the first level (external variable) in order to control behavior. Without knowing what causes one’s thirst, the reason an individual is thirsty will never be truly understood by the psychologist (Skinner, 1953). If the psychologist wants to control the behavior of an individual by ensuring that he or she will drink the water presented to him or her, the psychologist will have to manipulate the external condition, which may include one’s major salt intake or deprivation of water.

    Skinner’s functional analysis consists of a relationship between dependent variables, which includes the behavior which one must search the cause for, as well as the independent variables, which are the external causes/conditions (Skinner, 1963). Skinner (1953) noted that the independent variables must be bound to terms of physical science; they must be observable and are best observed in the setting of a laboratory. Such causal relationship between these variables, termed a “cause-and-effect relationship,” was considered scientific law by Skinner.

    Understanding Skinner’s view on behavior shows a major difference from psychoanalysis, which explains behaviors are a result of the material that is suppressed in the unconscious mind. Ultimately, his cause-and-effect relationship provides an external aspect to explaining behavior.

    Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Ayduk, O. (2008). Introduction to personality: Toward an integrative science of the person (8th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

    Skinner, B. F. (1953). Why organisms behave. In B. F. Skinner, Science and human behavior (pp. 23-39). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    Reply

    • Colleen Popores-LaFleur
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 16:26:09

      Jacleen,

      I think you made a good description of systematic systemization. This is definitely something that is still relevant today despite its purely behavioral methodology. I got to experience this method in action, although it looked a little different than your explanation. My sister was a preemie and as a result of having to go to the doctors and get shots constantly, she developed a fear response to not only the doctor, but the buildings and even the roads leading up to the hospital. Some of the specialists that she worked with suggested we try to desensitize her. So, we wore stethoscopes and lab coats at home in order for her to see some of the fear provoking stimuli without and negative consequences to follow. I always thought it was pretty interesting! She’s still terrible at getting shots, but I think it helped her at least be able to approach the building or speak with a doctor as she got a little older without going into a panic attack. There must be a lot of ways that systematic desensitization is used in people of all ages.

      Reply

    • Bridget Kesling
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 22:46:51

      I thought your example of the behavioral approach was really relevant. I think you did a really good job of a step by step direction. I myself as a clinician would steer away from the strict behavioral approach and integrate more diversity that would use the ideas from the behavioral approach but all other skills from other models in collaboration with this approach to allow more effective and personalized treatment. The foundation of the behavioral approach does offer a lot to the understanding of anxiety and a starting point for treatment.

      Reply

  11. Colleen Popores-LaFleur
    Sep 30, 2015 @ 00:39:41

    (1) Although many purely behavioral approaches are not used today, there are still many effective approaches from the behavioral mode of thinking. For example, functional analysis can be utilized to find the stimulus that may be causing certain symptoms (Mischel, Shoda, & Ayduk, 2008). This can be useful in determining what the best way to treat specific behaviors for a specific client.

    Substance use problems are one specific area that behavioral treatment has shown success. For example, studies have shown that conditioned aversions to a person’s drug of choice can effectively reduce or eliminate their use of that drug. However, this is usually seen as more of a last resort (Mischel et al., 2008). Other behavioral methods used to treat substance abuse include contingency management. This method can vary, but may be as simple as rewarding a client for producing clean urine tests. Some treatments utilize contracts, in which the patient agrees to certain terms of their reward/punishment system. This may mean giving the therapist a sum of money that will be either given back to them for abstaining from drug/alcohol use, or even given away if the client uses drugs (Mischel et al., 2008). This method enables the client to collaborate with their therapist about what they think will be the most effective contingencies for them and may help them feel like they have more control over their treatment. This type of contracting is not limited to substance abuse. However, it is important to note that some types of rewards are more effective than others. It has been shown that monetary rewards hold much more power than others (Mischel et al., 2008).

    Behavioral methods have also shown success in the modification of behaviors in children. This may be implemented by a therapist, but is often done by the parents. By changing a parent’s reaction to their child’s behavior, for example, they may be able to reduce troubled behaviors and/or increase positive behaviors. This may be as simple as giving clear consequences to a child’s behavior rather than acting purely out of emotion (Mischel et al., 2008).

    (2) According to Skinner, functional analysis is an attempt to predict and control a person/animal’s behavior. This is done through assessing and defining what the dependent and independent variables are (Skinner, 1953). This is essentially identifying what the behaviors are that you would like to change, and then identifying what causes these behaviors to happen. In Skinner’s view, this should all be done by looking at observable, external events. In this way, we are studying what is known or can be known, without interpreting or creating our own meanings. Because we are unable to concretely define and observe internal experiences, they should not be considered when conducting a functional analysis. It would be difficult to elicit any change when the variables are based off of intangible ideas rather than physical events (Skinner, 1953).

    In Skinner’s view, any explanation of a mental event has been humanity’s attempt to explain what cannot be explained. Since there is no way to prove or disprove the existence of internal forces, he sees this as conjecture (Skinner, 1953). This has been shown to be true in other fields, as Skinner describes past theories in astrology and medicine that were based on assumptions and superstition. Although we may attempt to explain what goes on inside our “mind,” Skinner chooses to focus on human behavior, which is more easily studied scientifically (Skinner, 1953).

    Reply

    • Erin Mamott
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 14:41:14

      1) I am not as familiar with treatments for substance use problems, but one thing that would concern me in using aversion conditioning would be the potential that the aversion is associated with something other than the substance. It would seem to me that if the patient knows that they are doing aversion conditioning they might be able to discriminate between the aversion and their substance of choice, requiring many treatments to create a strong conditioning. Perhaps this is why it is used more as a last resort?
      I think another important point when using behavioral methods with children, especially young children, would be consistency in consequences. I do not have direct experience, but from what I’ve seen by babysitting various kids, when the parents are inconsistent with their consequences the kids tend to act up more. Of course that all depends on many other factors including how old the children are, but there seemed to me to be a theme of consistency as a difference between the children I enjoyed watching and the children I enjoyed less.
      2) I like how you summarized Skinner’s definitions for functional analysis and mental events. One problem I have had with a purely behaviorist mentality is how can you know what behaviors you want to change without mental events being the cause, since preferences to me seem related to mental events. I guess that is why we are in a CBT program rather than a behavioral one.

      Reply

  12. Jason Prior
    Sep 30, 2015 @ 12:34:32

    (1) Although pure behavioral approaches are now rarely utilized in therapy, there is still significant effectiveness in treating certain disorders (i.e., anxiety) when the primary focus of intervention is behavioral in nature. Based on your reading from Ch. 11, explain why this statement is typically true.
    Although not all therapists agree with the approach, there are still dedicated behavioral analysts who treat patients effectively. Even more clinicians incorporate aspects of behavioral approaches. This is simply because they have clinical utility, particularly with certain populations. Behavioral techniques are a common practice with clients who are unable to articulate what they are feeling, be those complex emotions, desires, or even basic needs. From my experience working with developmental disabilities, behavioral plans and interventions were far more effective than any psychotherapy could be. One of the reasons for this was that behaviors are expressed with purpose: every behavior is expressed to attain a specific goal. When looked at in the context of anxiety, we can see how certain maladaptive behaviors develop. Ironically it is not the anxiety itself that we see the most problem with, but the response behaviors that people express. These are typically learned escape behaviors looking to reduce or avoid the anxiety. Because they work in that function, the behaviors are reinforced even though they may be harmful overall.
    In order to alter the escape behaviors, the anxiety provoking stimuli must first be identified. The behaviors are learned to escape the anxiety, not necessarily the stimuli itself. A semantic, but there is a functional difference. Once the source of anxiety has been identified, the proper procedures can be used to alter the behavior. One method is exposure therapy, in which the stimuli is presented in increasing degrees. The focus on exposure is to recondition the behavior so that the stimuli no longer provokes anxiety, causing no need for escape. Other treatments may involve behavioral or environmental alterations, selective extinction of maladaptive behaviors that resulted from the anxiety but have become problematic in their own right (such as substance abuse), etc.
    (2) Based on Skinner’s (1953) reading, explain functional analysis and the role of “mental events.”
    Skinner is a true old school behaviorist. To him we are big fleshy machines slaved to our environments. Skinner’s view of behavior is that we react to the stimuli in our environment. Functional analysis is the tool with which he explored the environment for the sources of our behavior. Functional analysis has three parts: antecedent, behavior, consequence. The antecedent is a specific set of circumstances in which a particular behavior becomes both available and gains utility. The behavior is the expressed. Then the behavior is either reinforced or punished. This causes the behavior to be more or less likely, respectively, the next time that antecedent is presented. The behavior presented is not chosen, by the way. To Skinner, whatever behavior that is expressed is the direct result of the antecedents. There are no internal psychic causes of behavior or mental agents at work. These are just excuses others use to explain behavior rather than use scientific practices to observe the cause. Skinner would say that a mental argument over any choice is in fact a learned behavior that was reinforced in the past. There is no true choice to make. Depending on the conditions of the environment and the history of the behaviors in similar antecedents, there will only ever be one behavior that will be expressed.

    Reply

    • Meagan Monteiro
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 23:27:11

      Jason,
      In your post, I like how you showed the utility but also the downfall of the behavioral approach. For example, that Skinner and his narrow focus on behaviors can limit a therapist in their approach to helping a client. But on the other hand, when if a client is dealing with distressing behaviors, this approach will be effective for them. In your post, you mention, desensitization as a way to overcome avoidant behavior, such as anxiety. Since the behavioral approach focuses on specific behaviors and its causes, it can use different strategies to reinforce good behaviors.

      Reply

    • Brian Faust
      Oct 03, 2015 @ 10:13:27

      Jason, I liked the manner in which you broke down Skinner’s explanation of functional analysis. The way in which you described how only “one behavior is ultimately expressed”, made it easier for me to understand and compartmentalize Skinner’s ideas.

      Reply

  13. Taylor Gibson
    Sep 30, 2015 @ 12:44:40

    1) There are many types of disordered thinking or behavior in which emotional or environmental stressors initiate a maladaptive behavior. Behavior can often be the culmination of many different emotional and environmental stressors and the behavior is simply a symptom of a greater problem. In these cases correcting the behavior alone does not address the underlying causes of the unwanted behavior. In fact one of the primary criticisms of behavioral therapy is that treating the behaviors without addressing the underlying cause would result in symptom substitution; in which, despite treating the initial symptomatic behavior, the problem resurfaces again in the form of another problematic behavior. In instances in which this is the case, behavioral interventions focused entirely on the problematic behavior have not shown to be particularly effective. Treating the behavior alone would not resolve the clients’ discomfort as the underlying issues have not been addressed.
    Although behavioral interventions are not widely used anymore, there are certain instances in therapy in which the bulk of a clients’ discomfort is due, not to an underlying cause, but to the maladaptive behavior patterns itself. In the situations in which the behavior IS the source of the clients’ problems then behavioral interventions have shown to be very effective. For instance, should a client seek therapy because their job and relationships are suffering due to alcohol abuse, behavioral interventions can be extremely effective in correcting the problematic, addictive behavior pattern that is causing the clients stress. In addition to effecting the primary cause of stress, changing the maladaptive behavior can simultaneously address the stress caused by the consequences of that behavior. The addiction behavior is the source of the clients stress and therefore interventions focusing on that behavior is the most efficient way to help the client as it has a cascade effect on relieving a number of other stressors (Mischel, Shoda, & Ayduk, 2008).

    2) Skinner believed that in order to observe and understand behavior in a scientific manner that he needed to deal only with the aspects of behavior which were objective and could be measured. Therefore his theory asserted that the causal chain to behavior could be broken down into three parts. The first step was that the organism had to be acted on by the environment or situation which surrounded them. Skinner believed that this environment was the sources of a behavior and that specific variables had to be identified in order to manipulate the environment. The second step was the inner condition which was brought about by the variables in the environment. The last step in the chain was the kind of behavior which an environment elicited from the individual. Skinner believed that you could not manipulate the second step in order to effect change in the last step and therefore it was not relevant to the manipulation of behavior. He did however, believe that the environment can be manipulated and that in order to manipulate the environment you must fully understand the variables and doing so had a direct impact on succeeding steps, most specifically, the behaviors. Although some claim that Skinner did not value the internal state of an individual, it was not so much that he didn’t value it as much as he believed he could not manipulate it in order to produce change; so its therapeutic relevance was diminished (Skinner, 1953).

    Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Ayduk, O. (2008). Introduction to Personality: Toward an Integrative Science of the Person (8th ed.). Hoboken, NJ.

    Skinner, B. F. (1953). Why organisms behave. In B. F. Skinner, Science and human behavior (pp. 23-39). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    Reply

    • Jacleen Charbonneau
      Oct 01, 2015 @ 13:44:02

      Taylor,

      I like how you addressed the misconception that Skinner did not value the internal state of the individual, clarifying that he instead saw it as something that is unable to be manipulated. I think Skinner valued the internal state of an individual above anything else, solely because he had a desire to understand it and change it. He found a link to the internal state through external circumstances and stimuli, which he relentlessly searched for in order to effectively tap into the internal state. Skinner’s appreciation of the internal state and finding ways to control has contributed to behaviorism in impactful ways.

      Reply

    • Gabriel Lamptey
      Oct 01, 2015 @ 21:51:48

      Hi Taylor,

      I like how you linked behavioral intervention toward ethanol abuse and relieving stress associated with dysfunctional family or losing a job. Although behavioral approaches focus primary on observable and measurable aspects of behavior, eventually their effectives improves mood, although, the goal is behavior modification. Behavior interventions have also proven effective in treating Trichotillomania (hair pulling). The ABC model as utilized by the therapist identifies what precedes and immediately follows the behavior, these observation are recorded, and once consequences are examined, it drives effective behavioral treatment technique. For example,Stemberger et al. (2003) advised that if the function is sensory, an enriched environment, reprimands or redirection could all be employed. If the function is attention, reprimands and redirection should be avoided and the client should be taught in alternative ways to get attention and counseled in ways to activate those alternative methods through homework and contracting those alternative methods.

      Stemberger, R. M., Stein, D. J., & Mansueto, C. S. (2003). Behavioral and
      pharmacological treatment of Trichotillomania. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, 3, 339- 352.

      Reply

  14. Salome Wilfred
    Sep 30, 2015 @ 13:28:34

    An individual can never unlearn a behaviour, they must learn a new behaviour. According to behavioural therapist changing the outcome of responses through reinforcing behaviour that has not been reinforced in the past or not reinforcing behaviour that has been reinforced in the past has the potential to change what seemed to be well established behaviours (Mischel, Shoda, & Ayduk, 2008). The main focus in behavioural therapy is assessing and focusing on the aspects of behaviour that can be changed or require change (Mischel et al., 2008). While pure behavioural approaches are not utilized as frequently there are still significant effects when the focus is on behaviour. Many anxiety disorder are maintained through behaviours of avoidance or escape. These behaviours are typically the result of an individual learning to associate an ambiguous object with fear or worry. In alignment with behavioural approaches and focused assessment the behaviour of avoiding or escaping can be changed. Subsequently, an effective way of treating this is having the individual learn a new association with the feared stimuli. Teaching the client to approach the avoided stimuli teaches them that the stimuli will not harm them or create a dangerous situation in which they cannot escape. This is also known of counterconditioning. Once the cause of the anxiety is established the client learns responses that are not compatible with the usual response (ie. approaching opposed to avoiding). Once the new response is identified the client must then work on trying to implement the new learned response opposed to the old learned response (Mischel et al., 2008). While this approach to therapy does not evaluate the motivation of their fear or where it roots from it potentially starts an important trajectory- once an individual’s behaviour towards a stimuli changes, the way they feel about it typically changes (emotions), as well as the way they think about the stimuli (thoughts).

    Functional analysis aims to understand an organism’s behaving system; such that, it attempts to link behaviour with conditions that control or determine the behaviour. These links are also known as variables. Once variables have been identified functional analysis attempts to identify how and if the independent variable predicts or effects the dependent variable (Mischel et al., 2008). In order to perform a functional analysis an individual must identify the problem behaviour and the frequency of the behaviour when in a naturalistic setting. Once the behaviour has been identified, the factors that maintain the behaviour should be observed in order to establish an appropriate behaviour plan or relearning program. Finally, the changes that resulted are observed over time (Mische et al., 2008). An important aspect of functional analysis is identifying variables that are external, observable, as well as described in physical and quantitative terms (Skinner, 1953). Therefore, according to Skinner, because mental events are unconscious and needed to be inferred their explanations were not external, observed or able to be described in physical or quantitative terms (Mischel et al., 2008; Skinner, 1953). As a result, Skinner saw mental events as unreliable and unnecessary when utilizing functional analysis and understanding human behaviour.

    Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Ayduk, O. (2008). Introduction to personality: Toward an integrative science of the person (8th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

    Skinner, B.F. (1953). Why organisms behave. In B.F. Skinner, Science and human behavior (pp. 22-39). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice- Hall.

    Reply

    • Heather Lawrence
      Oct 01, 2015 @ 10:15:17

      Salome- I think you summed up Skinner’s view well. He perceives mental events as unreliable and unnecessary when utilizing functional analysis and understanding human behavior. I think he takes for granted however, the mind-body dualism and also maintains that only one exists. Despite his attempts to justify himself and say that reports of feelings are ‘clues’, he really does disregard all inner mental activity in a way that is overly simplistic. Some may go as far as to say that he reduces people to machines. Behaviorism cannot account for intelligence or creativity and it cannot explain how people deal with new unfamiliar events.

      Reply

    • Jacleen Charbonneau
      Oct 01, 2015 @ 13:33:22

      Salome,

      I like how you mentioned that once a reaction to a stimuli is changed through behavioral techniques like counterconditioning, both thoughts and emotions are changed, as well. Using external techniques to counterrcondition an internal reaction is intriguing. Counterconditioning does not get to the root of the issue, like you said, but it does provide some relief to the patient regardless of the cause, which is still a form of progress that can increase the quality of his or her life. This is especially beneficial to patients who are debilitated with crippling fear responses; I am sure they appreciate the relief whether or not the root of the issue is immediately addressed.

      Reply

  15. Julia Sherman
    Sep 30, 2015 @ 14:04:22

    1. The behavioral approach can be quite effective for treating certain disorders, particularly anxiety disorders. In the recently published DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2014), the current anxiety disorders are panic disorder, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias. The majority of these disorders–particularly agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias–can be found to have specific situational triggers for the anxiety. For example, a phobia of snakes would elicit anxiety if the individual is reading about snakes, watching a video of a snake, our personally encountering one. Because the trigger can be broken down into very specific situations, a behavioral therapist can then use either operant conditioning techniques or exposure therapy to decrease “sensitization” to the stimulus, thereby leading to a more adaptive response (Mischel, Shoda, & Ayduk, 2008).
    Additionally, while anxiety does tend to have symptoms that cannot be operationalized to be used in a behavioral therapy context, anxiety is often accompanied by physiological signs that can be measured empirically. For example, blood pressure, perspiration, and breathing can all be used as measures of anxiety, giving behavioral researchers tangible evidence of the presence of anxiety (Mischel, Shoda, &Ayduk, 2008).
    2) In Skinner’s theory, functional analysis refers to the study of the underlying ’causes’ of behavior, whether those causes are innate or classically conditioned. The key to this form of study is focusing on those events that are in some way observable. While Skinner contends that the underlying thought processes behind a behavior may give more insight into the overall cause and meaning of the behavior for the individual, he does not believe that such “mental events” contribute to behavioral research and therapy unless such events can be translated into an observable context. Therefore, Skinner theorizes that mental events should generally be foregone in favor of those events which can be objectively measured and analyzed, thereby leading to a more scientific psychological approach (Skinner, 1953).

    Reply

  16. Anissa Rader
    Sep 30, 2015 @ 15:38:22

    1) Though rarely, when the focus of intervention is on the behavior of nature the behavioral approach is still used and can be effective. Perception is an integral component of behavior. People see themselves differently then how others view them. This being said how a person behaves is influenced by who they are and what they have experienced. If a client had anxiety, their behavior would have to be understood in order to figure out where the anxiety came from and why was prevalent. Though pure behavioral approaches are only rarely used in modern psychotherapy, when it is used it can be effective. Desensitization will help treat anxiety felt by a client (Mischel, Shoda, & Ayduk, 280). Joseph Wolpe, the man who conceptualized this theory felt that anxiety was a conditioned response to an anxiety inducing stimuli that may not cause anxiety for others. (Mischel, Shoda, & Ayduk, 280). The concept behind this three part desensitization would help to reverse anxious feelings and leave the client functioning healthily. Part 1 consisted of determining a hierarchal scale for anxiety stimulus. Step 2 involved learning relaxation techniques as a response. Part 3 involved joining the anxiety stimulus and the relaxation techniques together in order to help the client get rid of all of their anxiety. (Mischel, Shoda, & Ayduk, 282). Considering the aforementioned information, it is clear that this pure behavioral approach could be effective for certain people depending on their situation and who they are as a person. Children suffering from disruptive behaviors could benefit form this approach and some adults including those suffering from social phobic situations may benefit from this approach because the relaxation techniques used as a response could be used prior to social interaction or what ever else the person’s stimuli for anxiety was in order to help them not be debilitated by it in the situation.

    2) Functional analysis is a methodical approach of observing the condition of people with research to help predict variable/causes of a behavior . The goal was to predict and control a specific behavior for a person. Skinner (1953) used this method to focus on the independent and dependent variables, providing cause and effect of the behavior being worked on. Skinner believed that mental events and experiences are too complex to be properly observed to their full capacity. These “mental events” as Skinner (1953) refers to them, are what motivate behavior and are highly subjective. Because of this there are not typically useful for more casual analysis of behavior. As explained in the previous question, some aspects of behavior are obtained through events and experiences that a person has gone through. Skinner (1953) explained that it is not reliable to explain a person’s behavior based on their mental events. The complexity behind these mental events is beyond what a person simply experiences and our behavior is justified by us based on feelings.

    Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Ayduk, O. (2008). Introduction to personality: Toward an integrative science of the person (8th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

    Skinner, B. (1953). Why Organisms Behave. In Science and human behavior. New York: Macmillan.

    Reply

    • Salome Wilfred
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 10:54:30

      Anissa,

      I really liked your emphasis on the importance of perception. I think it is so important to understand a client’s perception of certain stimuli to better understand what may be maintaining their thoughts and emotions. I also, think understanding an individual’s perception about themselves in relation to the stimuli can give a lot of insight into why the phobia or anxiety developed, why it was maintained, and maybe even how the client might approach treatment and recovery.

      Reply

    • Julia Sherman
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 11:50:53

      I also currently work in a residential setting that utilizes tokens for positive reinforcement, and it is certainly an effective way to encourage children to continue exhibiting positive behaviors. However, it requires staff to be diligent in making sure they observe and properly reward the behaviors. I have noticed that for myself, that can be difficult depending on the situation. For instance, there are children at my program who have issues remaining quiet during room time (we have then spend time quietly in their rooms in between transitions to different activities). On some rare days, those children will manage to find something quiet to do, and because it is so quiet, sometimes I do not realize that it is an uncommon behavior that should be rewarded. I am trying to get better at this, but my point is that it can be much easier to recognize when a child is misbehaving than when a child is behaving. Positive reinforcement has been shown to be a much more effective method for adjusting behavior than punishment is, so it is important in behavioral therapy to always be paying attention.

      Reply

      • Julia Sherman
        Oct 02, 2015 @ 12:00:48

        Sorry, I accidentally pasted my last reply onto this one. This is what I meant to post:

        Anissa, I agree with your point that perceptions are essential for understanding each individual’s behavior. However, in purely behavioral therapy, perceptions are not taken into account because they prevent research from being as scientific as possible. What you describe is closer to CBT. But your point is valid–as difficult as it may be to measure individual perceptions, they provide essential insight into why people exhibit certain behaviors, and I think most psychologists would agree that perceptions must be considered during treatment.

        Reply

    • Meagan Monteiro
      Oct 02, 2015 @ 23:31:40

      Anissa,

      I really like that you focused on a person’s perception, especially in terms of anxiety. I think that it can be a major component of anxiety and contribute highly to excessive worrying and meta-worrying. I also think that perception is important to consider while determining reinforcements or ways to increase or decrease certain behaviors. For instance, different people may react differently to certain stimuli, or different rewards will have different values depending on a person and their own perception. It is important to have a complete understanding of a person and their perceptions regarding their behavior before utilizing reinforcements.

      Reply

  17. brian faust
    Sep 30, 2015 @ 15:46:30

    1) In our modern day era it is not unreasonable to assume that a pure behavioral approach towards therapy is outdated. However, there are acute instances where a transparent behavioral avenue is appropriate and effective. The treatment of GAD and anxiety disorders is a prime example of mental dysfunctions that can be remedied through a predominately behavioral lens. Joseph Wolpe is one prominent theorist who outlined the effectiveness of a behavioral approach towards anxiety disorders. In 1958, Wolpe developed a concept known as, systematic desensitization (Mischel, Shoda, & Ayduck., 2008). Systematic desensitization aims to reduce the fear that is elicited through the introduction of a specific phobia (Mischel, et al., 2008). This treatment is based off of classical conditioning. Wolpe taught is clients relaxation techniques such as “deep breathing”, in order to treat these disorders. It is not possible to be relaxed and anxious at the same time. By introducing the relaxation inducing techniques, the patient is able to but the anxiety inducing thoughts on the back burner.

    2) Based off of Skinner’s reading, functional analysis is determining a cause and effect relationship between a stimuli and a response (Skinner, 1953). Skinner refereed to this as functional analysis. Functional analysis can further be broken down into three parts: antecedent, behavior and consequence. The antecedent could best be described as the catalyst or trigger for the behavior. They then must identify the behavior itself in order to identify the consequences of the said behavior. The role of mental events or you inner psychic is used to explain behavior rather than to observe it. Mental arguments can be a learned behavior that one has experienced in the past.

    Reply

    • Gabriel Lamptey
      Oct 01, 2015 @ 20:35:12

      Hi Brain,

      The functional analysis of behavior technique used by Skinner has proven quite effective in analyzing different behaviors for example, in one of the studies, Functional analysis of behavior was used to analyze behaviors such as SIB’s (head banging behaviors) of some autistic children and the goal was to determine which variables interplay and which variables can be manipulated to understand when the behavior mostly occurs, and when the behavior less occurs, especially when variables such as attention is modified. Head banging occurred more frequently when the practitioner or adults directed attention to the child in comparison to when the child was by playing by themselves. Data analysis revealed that the function of the behavior (head banging) was to get attention from the adult or practitioner (Cooper et al, 2007)

      Cooper, J., Heron, T., & Heward, W. (2007). Applied Behaviour Analysis. New Jersey: Pearson Education.

      Reply

      • Brian Faust
        Oct 03, 2015 @ 10:18:09

        Gabriel, I think the “headbanging” example that you used to illustrate the effectiveness of functional analysis was great. Especially when used to describe the behaviors of autistic children. The “function” of the “headbanging” was to elicit more attention from the caregiver.

        Reply

  18. Gabriel Lamptey
    Oct 01, 2015 @ 00:27:56

    1) Although pure behavioral approaches are now rarely utilized in therapy, there is still significant effectiveness in treating certain disorders (i.e., anxiety) when the primary focus of intervention is behavioral in nature.  Based on your reading from Ch. 11, explain why this statement is typically true.  2) Based on Skinner’s (1953) reading, explain functional analysis and the role of “mental events.”

    Pure behavioral approaches focus on observable and measurable aspects of behavior eliminating cognitive and unobservable underlining’s of behavior such as the biological or genetic undertones of behavior, one of the reasons why they are rarely utilized in contemporary therapy. For example, there are substantive research supporting biological basis of disorders. For instance, 40 studies of mono- and di-zygotic twins and found that there is a potential genetic link to schizophrenia (Gottesman, 1991). Therefore, in most contemporary therapy, behavioral approach is used alongside other approaches such as cognitive therapy to effect treatment. In some cases, depending on which disorder, for example anxiety, pure behavioral approach can be employed with primary focus on helping an individual desensitize reactions to identified variables or stimuli. Pure behavioral approach as an intervention for treating anxiety will be successful because behavioral approach will focus purely on an individual’s behavior expression(anxiety) in relation to stimulus conditions. Behavioral assessment questions will be geared toward, when the behavior experienced or expressed, the behavior (anxiety) in relation to which stimulus or stimuli, and which physiological expressions (e.g. sweating, pacing, pale face, etc) accompanies the behavior. The purpose is to establish a co-variation between the occurrence of the behavior(anxiety) and variables in an environment. Establishing correlation or co-variation will assist the behaviorist to develop a hierarchy of behavior(anxiety) –evoking stimuli ranging from mild to severe, which will form the bases used for treatment design (Mischel, et al., 272)

    B.F. Skinner’s functional analysis proposes the scientific study of behavior where analysis of behavior is linked precisely to conditions that controls and determines it. Skinner, therefore, concentrates on the study of observable co-variations between independent variables and dependent variables (Skinner, B. F. (1953). In Skinners view point, once the correlation between independent or stimulus variables and dependent or response patterns are established, they can be experimentally studied and manipulated to achieve desired outcomes. For example, an attention seeking behavior can be controlled and eventually extinct by manipulating response patterns to the behavior.

    Gottesman, I.I. (1991) Schizophrenia Genesis: The Origins of Madness. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman & Company.

    Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., Ayduk O. (2008). Introduction to personality: Toward an integrative science of the person (8th ed., pp. 270-290). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

    Skinner, B. (1953). Why Organisms Behave. In Science and human behavior (pp. 23-39). New York: Macmillan.

    Reply

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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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