Behavioral and Social-Cognitive Approaches to Forming Habits

1 January 2017

Behavioral and Social/Cognitive Approaches to Forming Habits PSY/250 Behavioral and Social/Cognitive Approaches to Forming Habits Habit is defined as “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary” (Dictionary. com, n. d. ). Most people have some sort of habit that they have acquired or learned throughout their life. Some are as non-noticeable and as simple as looking both ways before crossing a street or roadway. We are taught this at an early age for safety purposes, but to us, it is just a normal “it makes sense” act that we practice probably every day.

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Some individuals learn habits from a young age; other habits can form once an individual gets older and makes their own decisions. Forming a habit can come from many role models or witnessed behavior. For example, if an infant cries or upset, usually they are comforted by food or soothing from the mother. At this point, the infant recognizes that a particular act receives a particular reward. This is an example of behavioral approach to a habit. If the infant cries, it gets rewarded with milk and soothing.

Since the child only knows how to communicate by crying, this is how the child lets the parent know that they are in need of something, in some cases, just in need of attention. Another approach is the observational learning in which people learn to do something without actually performing it (Krapp, 2005). It can also be termed as social/cognitive approach. An example of this would be a child witnessing a sport on television. They see the actions play out with the team, and go out and “reenact” what they saw even though they have never played the game.

The child does not necessarily know the rules of the game, but the basic tools and concept of the game. Bandura claims that people are more apt to copy behavior that leads to a positive outcome (Krapp, 2005). However, some individuals have habits that can have a negative and possibly deadly outcome. For example, drug and alcohol habits have the possibility to become deadly. Most individuals are aware that those particular habits are not healthy for them, but they are attracted and tempted by the way those habits make them feel.

Those habits are said to be diseases, but at what point are they a sickness? At first, I believe, that the “sicknesses” are habits and it is only until you try all means possible to quit, that it becomes a sickness. A habit can start by having a beer after a game, smoking a joint when you are stressed, or using some other sort of substance to make you feel better. At some point, one starts making excuses or reasons to continue the habit even if the original situation that made you start that habit, is not where the habit is taking place anymore.

One of the habits that I have is biting my nails. From as far back as I remember, I have been biting my nails. I suppose I developed this habit by witnessing my father do the same thing. I can remember being a young child and seeing my father sitting on the couch with his hand in his mouth biting his nails. I do not remember the first time I did it, and I still continue this habit to this day. Actually while writing this paper, I find myself pausing and thinking and noticing that when I pause, my hand automatically goes in my mouth, and I start nibbling at my nails.

I feel that I concentrate better when my hands are busy doing something. Whether it is biting my nails or twisting my hair, my hands are always doing something. I have attempted to quit this habit, and at this point, I am very unsuccessful. When I put acrylic nails on, I obviously do not bite my own nails, but I do find myself picking and messing with the nails that have been put on. Whether it is tapping my nails, or picking at my cuticles, I am constantly messing with them. By using the behavioral personality theory, I am not exactly sure why I have this habit.

I do not get any sort of satisfaction from the habit or feel any sort of accomplishment. Writing about it now, I wonder why I continue such a habit if I am not getting anything out of it. The habit is not making me a better person, nor am I fulfilling some comfort issues. I continue this habit all the times and I find that it is not situational. I bite my nails when I am bored, and when I am busy, when I am nervous, and when I am excited. It is a constant habit that I continue daily, if not hourly.

I can develop a plan to condition myself to quit the habit by making sure my hands are busy with something else. If my hands are busy, then I will not be able to put them in my mouth to bite my nails. I have also found that if my mouth is busy, with eating or chewing gum, then I will not bite my nails either. So at this point, the habit not only has something to do with my hands, but also it is an oral fixation. As far as the oral fixation and satisfaction, I do not feel as though I am getting anything out of it, but I continue, and most likely will continue the habit.

In conclusion, every person has some sort of habit that stems from personal experience or observation. Many people have role models that have taught them this habit and will continue the habit until they are completely satisfied or the habit is replaced by another habit. References Website: www. dictionary. com, n. d. Cerutti and J. E. R. Staddon, Annual Review of Psychology. (Annual 2003), p115. Psychologists and Their Theories for Students, Ed. Kristine Krapp, Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2005. p39-66

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