Behaviour modification

9 September 2016

The Effect of Behaviour Modification on Studying and Procrastination University of Sydney Abstract A study was conducted to determine the effects of behaviour self-modification on the number of hours spent studying and procrastinating. The 141 participants were second year University students studying Psychology. Baseline behaviour was recorded for both studying and procrastination followed by a treatment week where each student selected to modify either studying or procrastination and planned and carried out their behaviour modification.

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Results were significant, revealing that those trying to decrease procrastination were successful in decreasing this behaviour, as well as increasing the alternative behaviour, studying. Similarly, students trying to increase studying were successful, as well as decreasing their procrastination. Overall, it was found that behaviour modification has significant effects on the amount of time spend studying and procrastinating. The Effect of Behaviour Modification on Studying and Procrastination

Behaviour modification is an interesting aspect of Psychology as it gives people the opportunity to alter their behaviour for reasons that may include health, happiness, education or general wellbeing. Many researchers have found that behaviour self-modification programs are especially effective with immediate reinforcement and are more successful than other cognitive methods (Levitz & Stunkard 1974; Galscow & Klesges 1985).

The effectiveness of these programs also depends on other factors such as the person’s commitment to change, the degree of preparation and the management of antecedents. In order to alter behaviour, it is more successful to partake in a behaviour modification program which includes reinforcements or punishments, rather than simply relying on other cognitive processes. One study, involving overweight people, showed a behaviour self-modification program which resulted in greater weight loss than other methods, including nutrition education (Levitz & Stunkard 1974).

Similarly the effectiveness of behaviour modification is seen in smokers who were able to abstain from smoking using self-reward strategies and positive self-statements at a greater rate than those who used other cognitive strategies (Galscow & Klesges 1985). Immediate reinforcers have a much stronger effect on behaviour than a delayed punishment (Martin & Pear 2007). Choosing a behaviour which will provide immediate gratification is often more likely to occur than an alternative behaviour, even if the punishment is somewhat severe.

This includes cumulatively significant punishments, such as smoking increasing the risk of lung cancer, because the negative effect from each cigarette is too small to notice, whereas the immediate gratification produces enjoyment. This highlights the importance of immediate reinforcement when conducting a behaviour self-modification program. The methods of behaviour modification found to be successful vary, (Perri & Richards 1977), however there are steps one can take to increase the likelihood of success. (Martin & Pear 2007). Firstly, it is essential that problems are specified and goals are set.

These goals should be in quantitative terms so that overall success can be easily determined. Secondly, there should be a commitment to change. This should be evident in the effort made to plan a successful behavioural modification including management of antecedents and appropriate reinforcements. A baseline of behaviour should be recorded for comparison with the following self-control program to quantify success and overall effect. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of behaviour modification on the number of hours spent studying and procrastinating.

It was hypothesised that, in the treatment week, there would be a decrease in the number of hours spent procrastinating for the “decrease procrastination” group, and an increase in the number of hours spent studying in the “increase studying” group. Studying will be defined as any kind of reading, writing or other preparation which is related to the student’s University course work. It is the desired behaviour; Examples include reading background material for a lecture or tutorial, studying for quizzes or creating course notes.

Procrastination will be defined as all other recreational activities with the exception of socialising and exercising. This is the delaying behaviour; Examples include watching TV, browsing the internet for pleasure or playing computer games. Method Subjects There were 715 second-year Psychology University students who were required to take part in this study as a tutorial exercise. Of these students, 628 created online accounts to record their behaviour. The number of students who successfully completed the task by recording data for all 8 days was 141. These 141 students provided all data used in this study.

All students used data sheets to record their behaviour for all 8 days of the exercise. This data was logged online. Procedure Students were instructed to choose the behaviour that they wanted to change; They could decrease procrastination or increase studying. Students would, in the first four days, record both their studying and procrastination habits in a results table provided. Students were then required to devise their own strategy to either decrease procrastination or increase studying. These strategies aimed to complete goals set by the student which were improvements from their current state, but realistic and achievable.

These plans included, preferably immediate to the behaviour being performed, reinforcement for the desired behaviour or punishment for the behaviour to be decreased. Since often this was not practical, there were options for alternative reinforcement/punishment schedules. Firstly, daily targets could be set to reach, or not exceed, a certain number of hours of study or procrastination. Secondly, rolling targets or limits could be used where appropriate reinforcement or punishment is given when a number of hours of a behaviour is met.

Finally, students could use duration limits or targets on how long they engage in a behaviour once they have started. The independent variable was the 2 x (2) mixed design with the between subjects variables being modifying studying or procrastination, and the within-subjects variable being the targeted and non-targeted behaviour. The recorded hours became the dependant variable. Results There were no statistical differences found in the conditions of the baseline week. In the treatment week, time spent studying was found to be significantly different to the time spent procrastinating in the group who tried to decrease procrastination.

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