Behavioral Insights / Behavioral Ideas (2)



Following up the issue of behaviorism in account planning I'll quote a rather randomly picked text on how behavior modification might work. It's just as good as any other source to get a first idea. The text has been quoted from http://www.ryerson.ca/~glassman/behavior.html .

There are interesting and quite obvious parallels to altering behaviour (=purchase or usage behaviors) through communications. Obviously, the methods move away from BIG BRAND IDEAS towards small steps and schemes of reinforcement. It's also interesting to notice the importance of defining CONCRETE behaviors to be altered and of researching CONCRETE behavior triggers and reinforcers instead of e.g. vague "positioning spaces" or other abstract constructs. Have a read:

The theories and research of the Behaviorist Approach gave rise to therapies designed to change behavior by using learning principles. Many of these therapies have been remarkably successful for several people who have specific behaviours or habits that they want to alter. Research has found that once you understand the principles of learning, you may even be able to modify your own behavior. Here's how it's done:

STEP ONE: IDENTIFY A PROBLEM BEHAVIOR

The first step in habit change is to identify a behavior that you wish to alter. Decide on the one most important problem which you would like to change. Now check to see that your problem is specific. If you are having trouble stating your problem in this form, you might try making a list of concrete examples. So, rather than saying, "I procrastinate", try rephrasing it as "I put off studying for a test until the day before". Rather than saying, "I'm physically out of shape", try restating the problem as "I avoid going to the gym" or "I drive my car instead of walking two blocks." If the problem you selected is too general, look for a more concrete form to describe it.

STEP TWO: SELECT SPECIFIC TARGET BEHAVIORS

Now that you have identified a specific problem which you would like to address, the next step is to state the goal. Like the problem, the target behavior should also be specific. Decide on what behaviours you would have to change in order for you to attain your goal. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, the behaviours you may need to employ to reach this goal are exercising more and eating less or different foods. In addition to being specific, the target behavior should also be realistic. Thus, if you haven't exercised much and your goal is to do 100 sit-ups per day, it is probably unrealistic (and unhealthy!) to set a goal of being able to do that many sit-ups by the third week of the program. If your goal is to stop procrastinating and study more consistently, you may be tempted to aim immediately for 8 hours of studying, 7 days a week. But this schedule may be such a drastic change from your present behavior that you may risk burning yourself out within a few days, and then dropping the whole program because you feel that you have "failed". It's important to ensure that you do not set yourself up for a failure by making the goal too strenuous at the beginning of the program. So check to make sure that your target behavior and the time-frame to achieve it are realistic. If they are not, try breaking your goal into smaller steps– the steps can never be too small, but they can be too big .

STEP THREE: COLLECTING BASELINE DATA

Often, although we have identified a problem behavior, we aren't really aware of how often we do it or if it is more likely to occur in some circumstances than others. This type of information is called baseline data. For example, if your problem behavior is smoking, are you aware of how many cigarettes you smoke each day or if you smoke more at certain times or places or with certain people? In order to effectively change behavior, we need to be cognizant of what we are doing now. For a week or two before you begin a behavior change plan, keep track of the occurrence, the antecedents and the consequences of your behavior. For example, "Monday afternoon, felt anxious about a test, smoked two cigarettes, felt more relaxed. Monday evening, had a drink with a friend, smoked three cigarettes, felt relaxed", etc. In this example, we might conclude that feeling tense and drinking with a friend are stimuli that cue smoking behavior (i.e. discriminative stimuli), and the behavior is reinforced by a feeling of relaxation. In some cases, we alter our behavior simply by being aware of it. Thus, you may stop your nail biting habit while collecting baseline data just because you have become conscious of this habit. If you achieve your change in this way, keep collecting the data to make sure that you don't revert to the old behavior.

STEP FOUR: PLAN YOUR PROGRAM

When you have collected sufficient baseline data to identify the discriminative and consequent stimuli, the next step is to plan your program. To be maximally effective, your program should do the following:

1. Control discriminative stimuli. This might be accomplished by eliminating, avoiding, or reducing the incidence of these stimuli. For example, if you bite your nails every time you watch television, you might want to avoid watching television for a while.
2. Develop small, realistic steps for accomplishing your goal. You should already have done this in Step Two.
3. Provide a schedule of frequent reinforcement. Your program should emphasize positive reinforcement and minimize punishment. A structured way to do this is to create a contract in which you specify what reinforcer(s) you will receive for particular accomplishments. So for the first week of a smoking reduction program, the contract may read "For each day I smoke 25 or fewer cigarettes, I will allow myself 60 minutes of TV watching. If I smoke 26-30 cigarettes, I will allow myself 30 minutes of TV. If I smoke more than 30 cigarettes, I will not watch any TV but will spend the evening studying. Further, if at the end of the week I have smoked 25 or fewer cigarettes on at least 5 days, I will have dinner at a restaurant of my choice." Notice that the contract includes both short-term and long-term rewards,
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STEP FIVE: CARRYING OUT THE PROGRAM

Now that you have collected baseline data and all the planning has been accomplished, it is time to execute your program. As you carry out your program, you may find that you have to make some adjustments. You may have identified new discriminative stimuli, found that the steps you have outlined are unrealistic, or realized that the reinforcers you have selected are not sufficient or are not delivered with enough frequency to change the undesirable behavior. However, give your program some time to work- at least a week or two. The behavior you wish to change has probably been around for some time; don't expect it to disappear overnight.
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Reference:
Martin, G. L., & Pear, J. (2002). Behavior Modification: What It Is and How to Do It, 7th ed. New York: Prentice-Hall.