Operant conditioning chapter 8 some practical applications
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Operant Conditioning – Chapter 8 Some Practical Applications…. Theories of Learning October 17, 2005 Class #24. Some “antismoking” ad campaigns invite children to smoke. Hook the child and you have a lifelong smoker….

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Operant Conditioning – Chapter 8Some Practical Applications…

Theories of Learning

October 17, 2005

Class #24

Some “antismoking” ad campaigns invite children to smoke

Hook the child and you have a lifelong smoker…

Nicotine, heroin and alcohol addicts have the same relapse rate of about 80%J Clin Psychology 1971;27:455

Want To Quit

  • Ask: smoking status is a vital sign

  • Advice: to quit in a clear, strong and personalized way

  • Assess: willingness to quit

  • Assist: the patient, set a quit day, anticipate challenges, remove tobacco products

  • Arrange follow-up or refer

Do Not Want To Quit

  • Relevance: why quitting is important be clear, strong and relevant

  • Risks: explain short term and long term risk

  • Rewards: improve health, save money, feel better, look better, provide a good example

  • Roadblocks: withdrawal symptoms, weight gain, fear of failure

  • Repeat: every time patient returns to office

Quit recently

  • Congratulate

  • Reinforce: use open ended questions such as “how has stopping helped you?”

How Smokers Try To QuitAmerican Lung Association survey 1998

  • 73% cold turkey

  • 44% gradual withdrawal

  • 39% confused about medicinal help

  • 70% believe nicotine replacement and behavior modification therapies help

  • 35% think they need a Rx for the patch

  • 20% think they need a Rx for the gum

Cold Turkey

  • Cold Turkey can be be effective for some…

    • Choose a symbolically important day for quitting

    • Tell everybody that you are quitting and ask for help

    • Have a non-smoking ceremony the day of quitting

Gradual withdrawal

  • Aversive therapy

    • Curtis, 1976; Barske, 1977

      • Rapid puffing until side effects (nausea) success rate around 20%

  • Fading

    • Becona & Garcia (1993)

      • Identify and eliminate the cigarettes you can do without

      • 57% and 41% success rate in 6 and 12 months

  • Behavior Modification

    • Cinciripini (1994)

Behavioral Therapies

Behavior Modification

  • Behavior modification is more effective than group therapy, and relaxation training.

  • Successful programs follow the rules of operant conditioning developed by BF Skinner in the 1950s

Operant conditioning rules

  • Contract with the patient regarding what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

  • Keep objective records

  • Develop a program of positive and negative reinforcements and positive and negative punishments to strengthen and weaken appropriate and inappropriate behaviors

  • Study results

  • Alter the program

Objective records

  • Food and smoking diary

  • Activity diary

  • Medical management diary


Activity diary

The behavioral chain

Cut the weakest link, replace, reinforce










Out with






Positive Reinforcement

A method of reinforcing a behavior by rewarding such behavior


  • Deposit the money you saved by non-smoking in a vacation saving account

  • Praise your relative for not smoking

Negative Reinforcement

A method of reinforcing a behavior by removing an unpleasant stimulus


  • If you don’t smoke you give a good example to your children

  • If you don’t smoke you feel better

Positive punishment

A method to reduce a behavior by delivering an unpleasant stimulus such as: If you are going to smoke eat the butt or over-puff

Negative punishment

A method of reducing a behavior by removing a pleasant stimulus: If you cannot party without smoking don’t party

Reinforcements and support

  • Biological: Pharmacology

  • Social: intra-treatment (group therapy) extra-treatment (internet sites, support groups)

  • Family: other smokers in household  lower abstinence rates. Encourage significant others to quit along with patient

  • Personal: frequent follow-up visits, telephone calls, buddy system


  • The weakening and eventual disappearance of a learned behavior

  • Partial reinforcements produces behavior with greater resistance to extinction when the reinforcement is discontinued.

Example of behaviors that help to stop smoking

  • Choose a goal: ExampleExercise 5 days a week, quit smoking in 2 weeks.

  • Keep a diary: Easier to achieve your goals if you keep a diary.

  • Ask friends and family to help.

  • Do not buy cigarettes.

  • Join a smoke cessation program.

  • Take your medications daily.

Example of behaviors that help to stop smoking

7. Avoid alcohol.

8. Ask for non-smoking tables and rooms

9. Open a no-smoking saving account.

10. Get involved in the no-smoking campaign.

11. Make a list of the benefits of smoking.

12. Make a list of the problems associated with smoking.

Be careful…

Behavior modification summary

  • Behavior and activity diary

  • Analysis of the behavioral chain

  • Action

  • Follow-up

  • Social and psychological rewards and support


  • http://www.vsrc.org/Smokingcessation.ppt

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