Ohh…are you being good? Behaviors can be learned by observation, example, order, or correction. What is the difference between how behaviors are learned and corrected in humans and animals?
TRAINING BEHAVIOR IN HUMANS
The first way humans learn behavior is through observational learning of a behavior, attitude, or emotional expression. A baby, even before understanding words, observes how to act from watching actions and gestures from others, as was discovered by Albert Bandura, an American-Canadian psychologist in 1961. When a baby is just over a year old, the baby starts to learn the association of gestures with words. Parents introduce words which accompany gestures to indicate simple orders such as “yes”, “no”, “stop”, “don’t”, and “come here”. The baby begins to develop vocabulary and respond with gestures to communicate. Once a child reaches adolescence, and are able to distinguish between right and wrong, they may question why they are asked to do something. They are either obedient to rules or use abstract reasoning to determine how they will react. A person might be conditioned to follow a rule, and do so in obedience, simply because they know it is right or wrong. This is typical of younger children. However, as a child grows into adulthood, they use reasoning to consider the options they have and what consequences might be associated with these decisions.
Behaviors can be conditioned with rules, procedures, and expectations in place. Rules have set consequences which are most effective if they are served as soon as a rule is broken. Rules are stated and understood at the beginning of any endeavor, and if a rule is broken, there is a punishment which should be expected. Procedures on the other hand, outline the how-to process for an expected behavior of which there are no consequences. It is important for teachers to have these in place at the beginning of the school year. It establishes structure and guidelines that help prevent unruliness in the classroom. Without these stated and enforced, classes can be difficult to manage because with each individual comes to the classroom with their own idea of what is expected.
Modeling is another way to teach expected behavior in a positive manner. Both children and adults learn visually through observation and being shown how to do something. In a social setting, a person might observe other people and adjust how they act to match them appropriate to the setting. A teacher might use modeling in the classroom to point out how a student is demonstrating good behavior for the class to follow. An airline attendant may show travelers on an airline how to use oxygen masks in case of emergency.
Ordering is another way people learn to behave. Firmly, yet respectfully giving an order can be effective. Yelling orders, demanding behavior, without any respect, can have very little effect other than trying to intimidate the person to conform. Within the workplace, a manager might give orders to their staff that they need to stay on task to meet a deadline.
Having consequences in place helps behavior stay on track but gives a person the freedom of being able to know what happens if they don’t follow them. Part of the responsibility of being an adult is being able to have the freedom to make decisions by oneself taking into consideration consequences. Considering the consequences before doing something that may break the rules, helps a person evaluate whether a bad behavior is worth the punishment. Before a person breaks the law, they should consider that they might get caught, be fined, or go to jail. The behavior or result of the behavior, might be more important for an individual than the consequence. For others, the consequences restrain the person from pursuing a behavior which could compromise their safety or that of another person’s.
There are people who also have erratic behaviors which can be the result of medical issues or affected by drugs or alcohol. Behavior also affected by spontaneity, and irresponsibility—at the spur of the moment what seems like a good idea overcomes any rational thought process. Unwritten rules of our society might also affect behavior which is erratic, and these who act out of what is acceptable within society can be subjected to social consequences.
Positivity is always a good rule of thumb when it comes to behavior and reformation. A responsible person with a well-formed conscience is able to correct themselves. Although not immune to human error, they realize when their behavior is out of line, and seek to change their behavior to do what is right. Even if it is bad behavior that is repeated, they have a positive attitude knowing it is something which they can work on.
A positive attitude can be used to correct bad behavior in another person or in oneself. Even the most self-motivated person who wants to reform their behavior, is capable of slipping back into bad behavior. If a person has a positive attitude and can forgive themselves of their imperfection, they can continue to persevere at good behavior until they perfect it, and probably be very successful in their efforts. For those who need another person to hold them accountable, a positive spirit from an accountability partner can keep a person on track especially in the cases when temptation tries to win out over resolution. Just like a bridge from old behavior to new behavior, using positive reinforcement can help pave the way over falling into despair caused by not holding to new resolutions. People like to understand that they are good and are doing a good job. By complimenting a person on their achievements and letting them know they are doing well can add wonders to their morale and self-confidence. Finding qualities that can be praised as part of reformation helps encourage correction.
Using incentives is another way to reward success. Especially for more challenging transformations of behavior, it is a good idea to have a plan in place. Strategizing how to change a behavior might include making a list of objectives of desired results, a list of reasons to serve as reminders of why it the transformation is necessary, and ideas for rewards for achievements along the way. Some behaviors take longer to change than others. Earning incentives for good behavior can make working for new resolutions more fun!
Life experiences can motivate a person to change behavior. The life experience might be learned from one’s self or from witnessing the life experiences of others. A person might go through a life-changing experience which changes their perspective enough to make them committed to change their behavior. A person who becomes addicted to a substance might suffer in such a way that their situation ‘wakes them up’ to not continuing. The person can even find support with groups of others who can help them keep on the path of recovery and be committed to making better choices. Likewise, a person can learn from another’s experience. A friend’s story can leave such an impact which causes them to rethink their own behaviors and become committed to changing their own life.
Repetition also contributes to correcting bad behavior. Repeating a mantra that a certain action should not be done, reinforces that it shouldn’t. Having constant reminders to stay on the path of good behavior helps keep resolutions at the forefront of the mind. Relearning helps build new habits to foster steady good behavior.
Correcting behavior the wrong way can be classified as forms of abuse. Physical contact, verbal correction, and manipulation are sometimes used as ways to correct, but they are also more likely to be classified as abuse. Whether physical contact is abusive or not is determined by the evidence, what the intent is, if a minor or adult is involved, how hard the force, and an evaluation of the severity from the damage. Examples of physical correction are grabbing an arm to hold it back, spanking a child, slapping a face, beating someone, burning someone, or hitting or harming a person using a weapon, rape and other ways. Verbal comments can also be abusive. Harsh words, yelling at a person, name calling, harassment are all ways which can cause emotional damage. Even if a person is angry, correcting a person should be done firmly, but using gentle words. It is usually unproductive to yell although it may help vent feelings. Manipulation is also commonly used as a last resort when no other means of correction seem to work. While this may be effective as a way to bring about the desired behavior in a person, there is deception involved which leads to mistrust and resentment. The short-term good of achieving correction, is brought about by the evil from manipulation. Correcting behavior in another person is more likely if it is the person’s willful choice to change, rather than by tricking them using deceptive means.
The Effects of Positive Reinforcement on Humans for Correcting Behavior
How effective is it to use positive reinforcement as a means for correction rather than negative reinforcement? For one it is more likely to have a successful outcome. People generally respond to positiveness better rather than being forced into correction. It also is less risky. Using negative means for correcting behavior show that the person correcting an individual has less control over the situation. They are resorting to force to yield an outcome. In many ways, it is the way an adult might correct a child who they have lost control over. They resort to yelling, spanking, or manipulation. Adults who have not mastered positive reinforcement can also use these methods as a way to correct other adults. It generally does not work, because by adulthood there is a knowledge of one’s own independency and an expectation of individual respectfulness. Positive reinforcement and patience is more likely to work for both children and adults. It builds up the individual and guides them to making better choices on their own. The result is that the adult is proud that they have achieved a desired behavior, because it was their decision to change. Using negative methods, forces behavior that is likely to only change out of fear of further abuse.
Effects of Therapy for Abuse and Disorders
Counseling is an effective means for those who seek to change their behavior, those who have been physically or emotionally abused, and for those with disorders. Counseling can provide positive reinforcement while the individual works through their individual situations. Sharing information in a counseling environment provides professional guidance in a safe environment, with a qualified professional.
The Success Rate of Prison as a Means of Effectively Correcting Humans
Persistence in changing one’s own behavior pays off as some behaviors can land a person in prison. Most prisons offer in-prison rehabilitation programs which help identify criminal tendencies and solve recidivism, a person’s relapse into criminal behavior. These in-prison rehabilitation programs have been successful in reducing recidivism by up to 35% to prevent future crimes. According to the California legislature, there are 8 significant criminal risk factors: antisocial behavior, antisocial personality, criminal thinking, antisocial relationships, poor relationships with family and/or spouse, low performance at school and at work, low social engagement for leisure or recreational activities, and substance abuse. Rehabilitation programs can help lower the criminal risk of people who display these characteristics. Prison education, employment, and health treatment programs offer a number of directions to prisoners can provide hope to prisoners setting them on a new road for their future.
TRAINING BEHAVIOR IN ANIMALS
Both humans and animals have the ability to be trained to change their behavior. In 1902, Ivan Pavlov, a Russian psychologist, studied behaviors in dogs and learned they could be trained to recognize an object to trigger a response. He noticed that a dog’s salivation changed when food was placed in front of the dog. Pavlov was able to condition a dog to have the same behavior using an unconditioned stimulus which was then associated with the response. For example, a dog started to saliva when there was food. A bell was introduced. The dog was trained that when a bell was present, food would be present. Therefore, the dog was conditioned to learn that the bell meant food and so he would start to saliva. When the bell was shown to the dog, the dog started to saliva because he knew that food was coming.
Symbols used to Trigger Behavior in Children and Adults
Conditioning is common in children especially in elementary school who are grasping new concepts of structure and order. They learn that certain symbols and colors have meaning and that they are expected to recognize and act on these. Teachers use call-and-response techniques to manage classroom behavior. Teachers teach students short, clever rhymes to let the student know they need to stop what they are doing and pay attention. They also use hand gestures and clapping as part of their call-and-response. Students respond to desired behaviors while having fun communicating back to the teacher that they understand what needs to be done. Adults also learn symbols which have meaning. Traffic signs are symbols of what behavior is expected from a driver or pedestrian. Behavior is trained so that we know how to drive and cross the street. There are also consequences which result when a driver or pedestrian does not follow these signs.
Similarities Between Learned Behavior in Animals and in Humans
Animals and humans learn behavior through positive reinforcement, observation, and repetition. Animals and humans respond to positive praise. Visually both learn what behavior is expected. Practicing behavior repeatedly helps master a new behavior. While most may assume that humans have a higher intellect than animals, this is not necessarily the case. Animals can be very intellectual and have the keen ability to sense danger, have an awareness of their surroundings, and the ability to communicate through sound. Most animals can be trained to new behaviors, although most respond to stimuli while humans are more likely to make decisions for their own new behavior for the sake of self-improvement.
Taming the Differences
It is more likely that an animal is subjected to physical conditioning as a way to learn behavior. It would be thought of as abuse to use a stick to train a child, but with a dog, there is no thought to using a stick or a leash for correction and to control them. Animals are submissive to humans, for whatever behavior the human wants of them—if no other reason of having no choice because of their confinement. They are taken from a community of same animals and are in a human’s kingdom, the house. They do not have any organizations they can call for help or support. At the mercy of the human, they hope for the best care. The human on the other hand at least has access to support organizations and resources available for abusive situations.
Human Differentiation Between the Behavioral Bias
Humans are conditioned best with intellect and a positive attitude. In George Orwell’s book 1984, he writes about a community called the Proles. These are people who have their own community within a larger government-controlled community they do not interact frequently with. The Proles are more concerned about their immediate world. They preserve the human spirit, are a feisty group of people, focused on love, hard work, are of a lower social level, and do not keep up with the world outside of their own. These Proles could be compared to the typical large retail stores of today, such as Walmart. As hearty, blue-collared employees they may have been with the store for many years and have built a bond and community with other employees who have been there for a long period of time. For these large discount retail stores, such as this one, it is typical that there is a community which forms within the store. The demographic is that of one which might be more social, less accepting of others, composed of individuals with lower education levels, a higher degree of attitude, and a need for order. These people need a structured system. They may fight the system with an attitude and break the rules but they need structure to align themselves to for productivity and success as individuals and as a whole. Obedience is also more likely, because rules and expectations are clear, but so is rebellion.
The next stage of education level is those who have a professional nature and maintain inner discipline and self-control. They readily adaptable to working with others. These people tend to accept others easier and realize that productivity is more important. Although structure is needed for behaviors, such as an HR policy, there isn’t much need for consequences for broken policy from management as all are expected to be adults. These employees require a looser managed structure because they are able to control their own behaviors.
People who are of an even higher intellect, need minimal to no structure. They typically are responsible for controlling others, and while they control themselves, they think in a wider capacity and have an ability to do more within their position. No rules can apply to them because they typically choose to live outside of any system’s rules. While they are capable of making larger decisions for the good of society or people, they also are capable of great damage. They typically do not misbehave, but they are not obedient to the small man’s laws. Overall, these people may break the rules or law, but typically they are loyal to their responsibility and make decisions for the good of people. Any bad behavior at an advanced level usually falls into loop-holes and is justified because the good outcome outweighs the bad. There is a reason in other words.
Correctional facilities apply to all. However the more intellect a person has and is a respected within society, despite whether what they do is good or bad, they are more likely not to go to a correctional facility. Quick thinkers also fall into this category as well, however, they are more likely to be institutionalized than those with caliber in society. Intellect is not necessarily defined upon education level. Speed is also a sign of intellect. Some people think so quickly they are able to twist the current system to their benefit and fool the entire population.
In the end, it is one’s own behavior for which one is ultimately accountable. Each must be responsible for guiding their own conscience for good and striving to go in the direction of good behavior over the tendency for making bad choices. This doesn’t necessarily mean a person lives less fully by having good behavior. It means they care about other people in the world who their behaviors may affect and for their own eternal good.
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