Dec 6, 2019 in Analysis

Behaviour Modification

I was delighted the moment I realized that I would have to work on the assignment meant to help me deal with a habit I have been struggling with for a long time. It was very clear to me what I wanted to change. I have a habit of biting my lower inner lip. I cannot really tell how it all started, but I know it happens subconsciously. My relatives and friends do not like it because they say it is annoying. I have been facing pressure from them since they want me to do something about it. I realise this is my best chance to change the behaviour. Although I know it might take some time before I completely get rid of it, I have no doubt in my mind that I have the ability to deal with it and I am determined to do it. I always bite my lips whenever I am in deep thoughts, especially when I am under pressure to find a solution to a problem or to answer a question in class. This behaviour has made my lips swell from the inside and it makes me very uncomfortable. I also realize that it is not good for my professional development because it also makes my mind lose concentration in class.

The first four days of this assignment were all about observing my behaviour. I realized that I bite my lips mostly when I am pensive. There was a time when I was asked to think about one thing that I would like to change in my home environment. I gave it thought and ended up biting my lower lip. From that day, I always have the urge to bite my lips whenever I am in deep thoughts. Sometimes, I feel like it makes me think even better and find solutions to any kind of question I might have. Looking at this from a classical conditioning perspective, I can say that the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) is being pensive, the unconditioned response (UCR) is biting my lower inner lip, the conditioned stimulus (CS) is whenever I am in class and the conditioned response (CR) is biting my lower inner lip when I am in class. The data I collected for the first four days was rather interesting. I realized that there was some significant relationship between how often I bit my lips and the days I did it. During the first day of the assignment, I recorded the highest number of times I bit my lips in class. The frequency of biting my lips gradually declined in the subsequent days. On the fourth day of the assignment, I recorded the least number of times I bit my lips. However, I realized that the number of times I bit my lips in class from 3.30 to 4:00 did not change much. I have no idea why it happened so, but it would be interesting to find out why.


I believe that the number of times I bit my lips decreased from day one to day four because I was more conscious of my action and the need to change the behaviour. Anytime thoughts of biting my lips crossed my mind I quickly realised that I should not be doing it and that is why the frequency reduced. Before the assignment, I had no motivation or reward to stop biting my lips, and so I could do it frequently. Furthermore, I was not aware about how often I did it because I did not take note. However, when the assignment began, I was aware of the need to change the habit and the need to reduce the number of times I bit my lips. It is for this reason that the frequency of the habit reduced by the day.

The next set of four days was meant to ensure that I change the habit of biting my lips. Of course, I have started this exercise during the first four days. For me to achieve this goal, I had to either punish or reward myself to help me change the habit. The behaviour I needed to change was biting my lower inner lip, and the goal was to ensure that the habit frequency decreases. According to Lavond and Steinmetz, the operant conditioning shows that for one to decrease an unwanted habit, it is advisable to use a punishment rather than a reward. In this regard, I chose to go for a negative punishment as a way of helping me stop to the unwanted habit. I am a big fan of ginger cookies so I decided to use cookies to help me change the habit. Specifically, I decided not to have cookies at the end of the day if I bit my lips at any point in class. I used limiting myself to cookies as a punishment because I knew missing something I really liked would help me change the behaviour.

I can confidently say that I was able to make some significant steps towards changing my behaviour because I did not bit my lips in more than half of my classes in the four days I used a punishment to change my behaviour. There is a big difference between the period I used a punishment and the first four days when I did not use any incentive. There is no doubt that the negative punishment played a big role in me changing my behaviour in the last four days. I tried not to bite my lips because I wanted to enjoy a packet of ginger cookies at the end of the day. I would feel very disappointed if I did not get a packet of cookies and would want to make sure that I got one the following day. Other than the reinforcement, I also tried to keep myself busy by either engaging my classmates in meaningful discussions or getting an interesting book to read. I ensured that I kept my mind occupied.

This assignment was very helpful in making me understand why I used to bite my lips. The first four days helped me realize a pattern of how I used to bite my lips in class every time I was pensive. The classical conditioning approach helped me realize why I used to do it. However, operant conditioning was more helpful in changing the habit. Nonetheless, positive reinforcement would also have helped me change my behaviour because I would have rewarded myself every time I read a book or engaged in a discussion with my immediate neighbour in class. This approach would also be very successful because I would look forward to a reward at the end of every class rather than wait until the end of the day. This would not only help me reduce the rate at which I bit my lips, but would also improve my intellectual capacity since I would be reading more books that would make me more knowledgeable. The only challenge I would have would be that I would have to look for a lighter snack and some beverage because there is a limit to the amount of cookies I can consume in a day. I intend to continue punishing myself until I get rid of the habit.


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