Behavioral theories attempt to understand and change human behaviors. Some theories, like those promoted by Sigmund Freud, link behaviors to the unconscious, such as repressed memories of trauma. These theories resolve undesirable behaviors by addressing their mental source. Other theories, such as those promoted by B.F. Skinner, view behavior as a set of positive or negative responses that can be changed through reinforcement. While behavior theories may differ in their take on how human behavior arises, the benefits of these theories include changed behavior, improved self-belief and greater self-confidence.
Behavioral theories can be used to motivate change in the short- and long-term. The Good Behavior Game (Reference 3) is a method used to reinforce positive behaviors in the classroom. Students work individually and in teams to earn rewards such as special privileges or prizes at the end of the day or week. The opportunity to win is lost if defined undesirable behaviors occur more than a pre-set limit, with each instance tracked on a blackboard or flip chart. For example, each instance of talking out of turn might be one undesirable behavior that counts against the team. Students are motivated toward those behaviors that result in short-term reward.
Behavioral theories that use positive reinforcement have also demonstrated long-term positive consequences. First and second graders who took part in the Good Behavior Game showed less tobacco, alcohol and drug dependency and anti-social behavior by the time they reached young adulthood, according to a study published in June 2008 in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence (Reference 4).
- Behavioral theories can be used to motivate change in the short- and long-term.
- The opportunity to win is lost if defined undesirable behaviors occur more than a pre-set limit, with each instance tracked on a blackboard or flip chart.
Increase Self Belief
Substance Abuse & the Conflict Theory
With the publication of “Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory” in 1986, Albert Bandura documented the theory that cognition in conjunction with environmental influences can drive an individual’s behavior and lead to increased self-efficacy or self-belief 4. Bandura’s theories emphasize an individual’s ability to drive her own development and take action, while recognizing that environmental conditions influence how individuals change. The recognition that an individual has the power to change her behaviors with subsequent changes in outcome builds self-belief, which drives further change.
Cognitive behavioral theory attempts to adjust behaviors by helping people think differently and more positively about the challenges they face, and application of cognitive behavioral theory in a therapy setting can build confidence. Patients who apply cognitive behavioral therapy in an attempt to better manage their pain show improved confidence in their ability to engage in life activities, according to the American Psychological Association. Patients are taught to identify negative thoughts about pain and how to reduce it through awareness and relaxation techniques. Incremental training in daily activities helps build skills to cope with pain and also builds confidence that the individual can engage in and enjoy a range of activities.
- Cognitive behavioral theory attempts to adjust behaviors by helping people think differently and more positively about the challenges they face, and application of cognitive behavioral theory in a therapy setting can build confidence.
- Incremental training in daily activities helps build skills to cope with pain and also builds confidence that the individual can engage in and enjoy a range of activities.
Substance Abuse & the Conflict Theory
Social Learning Theory in Children
Facts About Insecurity in Teens
What Is the Meaning of Lifestyle?
Stages of Intellectual Development in Children & Teenagers
Developmentally Appropriate Behaviors for School Age Children
Conformity in Teenagers
What Are the 4 Major Forms of Therapy in Psychology?
Aggressive Female Behavior
The Operant Conditioning Principles Used to Teach Someone to Ride a Bike
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sigmund Freud
- Evidence Based Programs: The Good Behavior Game Manual
- National Institutes of Health: Effects of Classroom Behavior Management in First and Second Grades
- Emory University: Overview of Social Cognitive Theory and of Self-Efficacy
- Ghose T. “Just a theory”: 7 misused science words. Scientific American. Updated April 2, 2013.
- Rehma I, Mahabadi N, Rehman C. Classical conditioning. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. Updated February 17, 2020.
- Walrath R. Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development In: Goldstein S, Naglieri JA (eds). Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development. Springer, 2011.
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- Cvencek D, Greenwald A, Meltzoff A. Implicit measures for preschool children confirm self-esteem’s role in maintaining a balanced identity. J Exp Psychol. 2016(62):50-57. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2015.09.015
- Benson J, Haith M eds. Social and emotional development in infancy and early childhood. Elsevier, 2009.
- Schwarzer R, Frensch P, eds. Personality, human development, and culture: International perspectives on psychological science, vol. 2. Psychology Press, 2010.
- Brady-Amoon P, Keefe-Cooperman K. Psychology, counseling psychology, and professional counseling: Shared roots, challenges, and opportunities. Eur J Couns Psychol. 2017;6(1). doi:10.5964/ejcop.v6i1.105
- Ellis A, Abrams M, Abrams L. Personality theories: Clinical perspectives. Sage Publishing, 2019.
- Rowe M. Thinking about behaviour and conformity in groups: some social psychology resources. Teach Public Adm. 2013;31(2):218-225. doi:10.1177/0144739413490303
- McComas WF. The Language of Science Education. Springer Science & Business Media, 2013.
- Sagan C. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Random House, 2011.