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Behavior Modification. William G. Huitt Educational Psychology Interactive. Last rev: June 2012. Behavior Modification Techniques. Five categories of behavior modification techniques Develop a new behavior Strengthen a new behavior Maintain an established behavior

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William G. Huitt Educational Psychology Interactive

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William g huitt educational psychology interactive

Behavior Modification

William G. Huitt

Educational Psychology Interactive

Last rev: June 2012


Behavior modification techniques

Behavior Modification Techniques

Five categories of behavior modification techniques

  • Develop a new behavior

  • Strengthen a new behavior

  • Maintain an established behavior

  • Reduce inappropriate behavior

  • Modify emotional behavior

Adapted from: Krumboltz, J., & Krumboltz, H. (1972). Changing children's behavior. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall.


Develop a new behavior

Develop a New Behavior

Successive Approximation Principle

Target behavior is one in which learner has seldom or never behaved.

Reward successive steps to final target behavior (also called shaping).


Develop a new behavior1

Develop a New Behavior

Continuous Application of Consequences

Target behavior is one in which learner has seldom or never behaved.

Provide immediate reward after every performance of the target behavior.


Develop a new behavior2

Develop a New Behavior

Negative Reinforcement Principle

Learner shows reluctance to exhibit target behavior or engage in learning process.

Arrange for learner to escape a mild aversive stimulus by engaging in target behavior.

Allow learner to avoid mild aversive stimulus by emitting target behavior.


Develop a new behavior3

Develop a New Behavior

Premack Principle

High-frequency behavior can be used can be used to reinforce low-frequency behavior.

Access to preferred activity is contingent on completing the low-frequency, non-preferred activity.

Also called “grandma’s rule”


Develop a new behavior4

Develop a New Behavior

Cueing Principle

Provide a cue or signal to learner as reminder to emit the target behavior at a particular time.

Cue can act as discriminative stimulus.


Strengthen a new behavior

Strengthen a New Behavior

Decreasing Reinforcement Principle

Gradually require a longer time period or more desired target behaviors before a consequence is provided.


Strengthen a new behavior1

Strengthen a New Behavior

Variable Reinforcement Principle

Provide learner with consequences after a variable number of desired target behaviors have been emitted.

Generally will have been through a series of fixed schedules before using variable schedule.


Maintain established behavior

Maintain Established Behavior

Substitution Principle

May need to change reinforcers when a previously effective reward begins to no longer control behavior

Present reinforcer just before (as close as possible) your presentation of the new, hopefully more effective, reinforcer.


Reduce inappropriate behavior

Reduce Inappropriate Behavior

Satiation Principle

Allow learner to continue (even insist that he continue) performing the inappropriate or undesired behavior until he or she tires of it.


Reduce inappropriate behavior1

Reduce Inappropriate Behavior

Extinction Principle

Arrange for the learner to receive no reinforcement for engaging in an inappropriate or undesired behavior.


Reduce inappropriate behavior2

Reduce Inappropriate Behavior

Incompatible Alternative Principle

Reinforce an alternative action that is inconsistent with the inappropriate or undesired behavior or cannot be performed at the same time.


Reduce inappropriate behavior3

Reduce Inappropriate Behavior

Response Cost Principle

Remove a pleasant or positive stimulus immediately after the undesired act is emitted.

As response cost and punishment result in increased hostility and aggression, these should be used infrequently and in conjunction with reinforcement.


Modify emotional behavior

Modify Emotional Behavior

Avoidance Principle

To teach a learner to avoid a specific situation, simultaneously present the situation to be avoided (or some representation of it) and some aversive stimulus (or it’s representation).


Modify emotional behavior1

Modify Emotional Behavior

Fear Reduction Principle

To help a learner overcome a fear of a particular stimulus and/or situation, gradually increase the exposure to the feared situation while the learner is otherwise comfortable, relaxed, secures, and/or rewarded.


Behavioral learning theories

Behavioral Learning Theories

To review

  • Overview of behavioral learning theories.

  • Classical conditioning theory.

  • Overview of operant conditioning.

  • Techniques of operant conditioning.

  • Schedules for applying consequences.

  • Behavior modification techniques.

    To take a quiz on behavioral theories.


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