Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mr. Skinner

I swear I haven't dropped off into an abyss! I'm still kickin', I'm just ultra busy and ultra stressed. It's April, a.k.a. Hell Month, and there are only 12 days left in the semester. Ahhhh!!

Being the nerd and bookworm that I proudly am, I was reading my textbook Tuesday afternoon in preparation for Techniques class that evening. This week's section was all about token economies, positive versus negative reinforcement, punishment, and behavior contracts based upon the work of B.F. Skinner -- LU psychology classes, anyone? The information was also very reminiscent of the reward systems I have been taught to use for the past two summers as a TA at the Faison School for Autism. Token economies have wide application, though, and as I was reading, I was thinking about how I could apply this sort of system to my own life and habits. The system has one primary downfall: because it relies on extrinsic motivation for rewards, sometimes intrinsic motivation to complete desired behaviors or discontinue undesired behaviors is diminished.

As you may well know, I love a good challenge! I thought, wouldn't it be cool if I applied a token economy to my life, completing desired behavior and rewarding myself for it? In this way, intrinsic motivation to complete selected behaviors probably wouldn't be diminished because I'm naturally intrinsically motivated to check things off of to-do lists, document information, and create organizational charts. If this isn't grade-A nerd status, I don't know what is!

Long process short, I have decided to monitor and track one specific behavior using a system of positive reinforcement, which is intended to increase a desired behavior. In my case, the desired behavior is, as of yet, undecided, but I will reward myself with something I love -- dessert. For every ____ times that I engage in _____, I will reward myself with one small dessert item, such as a piece of chocolate or a cookie. This is considered fixed-ratio reinforcement, because I am rewarding myself every time after a specified number of completed behaviors. Still following me?
For every time that I don't _____, I won't reward myself with a dessert item, but I also won't "punish" myself or remove anything.
I'll be monitoring my ____ behavior for one week (beginning once I decide on a behavior), and I'll be periodically posting updates. At the very least, I hope that this challenge will be informative. For example, I learned that I don't consume nearly as much water as I thought I did before I self-administered my H2O Challenge.
As soon as I decide what the desired behavior is that I wish to increase, I'll post an update to this challenge. Due to the end-of-semester craziness ensuing right now, the challenge may even have to wait. Just something to ponder in the meantime...

Here's the disclaimer that I feel obligated to provide: I do not need to monitor my behavior, and I promise I am not a crazed lunatic looking for yet another excuse to create an Excel spreadsheet or a chart (or am I?). I'm simply looking to challenge myself to be more cognizant of a specific behavior, while simultaneously watching how much bad-for-me food I shovel into my mouth. You feel me? Well, tough ta-tas.

P.S. Have you ever experimented with or used behavior tracking or reinforcement schedules? I love the good ol' token economy system! It makes education and reinforcement that much more exciting when I'm teaching (and learning) at Faison. I absolutely cannot wait to return for my third summer!


McRaff said...

Ah, love the psychology post, AK! Good luck with the end of the semester and choosing a behavior to track... I did this for a project once and tried to decrease the number of times I hit "snooze" in the morning. It wasn't entirely successful then, but I might have to try again!

Girl Emerging said...

I knew SOMEbody from the LU Psyc department would appreciate this ;) I've had trouble choosing a behavior because I'm already so anal and type-A about everything that most of it is already monitored! The snooze button is a great idea--mind if I steal it if nothing else clicks?