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An AP Psych creation

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Ben's Operant Conditioning Project

Baseline Behavior: Swearing 


Target Behavior: The goal was primarily not to swear in public and after time, not at all, by either coming up with alternative words and/or not saying any words associated with "bad words" at all. 


The timeless "swear jar" is what I used for my own personal experiment, to break the habit of swearing. For every swear word I said for a week, I would put five cents in the jar. Putting a nickel in the jar every time I swore acted as a negative punishment which eventually caused me to begin creating replacement words for the swear words I was originally saying to prevent myself from having to give up more money. For example, to replace the "f-word", I use "fudge" or instead of the "shi-word", I replaced it with "shiza", etc. I used a negative punishment because from experience, I find that to be the most effective form of punishment escpecially if the item or activity you take away is something the person enjoys or likes, plus it would have been a lot harder to test an experiment on myself with positive punishment by making myself do extra chores that I simply don't have time for or the mental commitment for. 

Punishment Schedule:

The way I punished myself was on a continuous basis, meaning EVERY time I swore I would put a nickel in the swear jar. Because I didn't use reinforcement as my approach to stop the behavior, there was no set "schedule" other than punishing myself everytime I commited the behavior.



Why Not Use Positive Reinforcement?



I chose not to use a reinforcement because according to the notes we took on operant learning, punishments allows for the consequence to make the behavior less likely to happen again or continue in the future, which is the ultimate goal, while with reinforcement the consequence makes the behavior more likely to happen in the future. Also, according to our notes, negative punishment is the most effective punishment (often called omission training).


How did I prevent against response generalization?

For this particular experiment I would say it is difficult to generalize because the punishment is so specific to a particular behavior. Generalizing could potentially lead to associating any words remotely similar to the classic swear words as bad, causing me to not want to use them at all because of the punishment of giving up money, but logically I think it would take a very long period of time for that type of generalization to occur. 


How did I shape through successive approximation?


I have yet to use rewards in my experiment since I am going by using negative punishment, but if I were to add an element of positive reinforcement I could potentially give my self a small piece of candy every five times I use an alternative word to replace the swear word. For example, every five times I say "fudge" or "shiza" instead of the "f-word" or the "sh-word", I would be rewarded with a piece of candy. The reinforcement, theoretically, over time could shape my language into not using swear words at all. By using this method of reinforcement I would be on a fixed - ratio schedule, but this method would not be very effective for this particular experiment.