Sample Essays on Explaining Behavior

Explaining Behavior

Behavior refers to how humans conduct themselves. Behavioral problem’s crop up when individuals conduct themselves inappropriately. There are a number of theories that seek to explain how persons end up having behavioral problems (Ayers and Clarke et al., 2000). In this paper, three theories will be expounded on. These theories are: behavioral theory, humanistic theory and cognitive theory.

The behavioral model explains that problems in conduct arise from reinforcement of bad behavior through rewards. The person, most probably a child does not get punished for the wrongdoing by the authorities. This may make them not discern the inappropriateness of their behavior causing them to continue propagate it to adulthood (Rescorla, 2007, p137). Schultz (2006, 94) did an investigation on the effects of rewards on behavior exhibited in the neural pathways of the brain. He came to the conclusion that individual neurons may be studied in the reward systems of the brain and makes it possible to alter behaviors by altering their states. This suggestion is rather farfetched and too futuristic though.

A study on how behavioral theory has affected the carrying out of legal issues, it has been observed that criminals at times prefer to commit the crimes that are most rewarding and likely to attract the least severe penalty. It all depends on what drives them. For those driven by ego, they might get involved in serious crimes in order to create a name for themselves.Most of the studies done on the criminals rely solely on the criminal’s rational explanation of their behavior with little input from second party or third party experts. This leaves the field of criminal behavior with little wealth of psychosocial knowledge. However, it is assumed that most criminals attain deviant behaviors as a result of conditioning that is, breaking the law without facing immediate repercussions. The gains made from it only make the problematic behavior more ingrained (Langevoort, 1998, p1510).

Operant conditioning can be used to alter bad behaviors for the better, but the trouble with it is that it does not change the attitudes of the individuals. The major premise behind operant conditioning is that rewards work better at changing behaviors as opposed to punishments (Appsychology, n.d). Examples of behavior that may be improved by operant conditioning are punctuality and maintenance of hygiene. The fact that these behavioral problems were caused by conditioning in the early stages of life make operant conditioning better at countering them. The reason why punishment is avoided is the immediate nature with which it has to be meted in order to have it get associated with the undesired behavior. The degree of severity with which a punishment should be meted determines whether it will be effective or attract resentment (Wheldall and MERRETT et al., 1985, pp. 65–75). 

The second theory explaining behavior is the humanist theory. It was incepted with the emphasis that humans are inherently good. This differed with most of the other theories at the time that concentrated on the psychological problems and abnormal behaviors exhibited by humans. Humanistic theory of behavior is mainly anchored in the development of the self-concept of an individual. It has a focus on nurturing of emotional needs and abhors punishments while being indifferent to creation of good relationships with others. The problems that may arise from this setting include being self-conceited and having no regard for the welfare of others. An example of a deviant behavior in this scope is extreme selfishness. This is evident in the way a person relates to others. Such deviant individuals have very few friends and have sadistic tendencies. Their personal fulfillment emotionally is their primary goal. They do this with little concern over the negative effects that those around them experience. As they are not concerned with formation of relationships, they happen not to be aware of the implication that their behavior has on other people.

Moreover, humanist theory emphasizes on the individuality of persons and it asserts that the human being is basically concerned about growth. The average human has needs with varying levels of importance, whose ultimate aim is to achieve self-actualization (WSU, n.d.). These needs include: physiological needs; safety and security needs; love and a sense of belonging; esteem needs and finally self-actualization. If any of these needs are not met, it results in the individual suffering from a myriad of conditions that include the person becoming maladjusted, neurotic and psychotic. If the needs are met, then the individual progresses smoothly towards self-actualization (WSU, n.d.).This may explain why children that have grown in poverty, where basic needs are barely met tend to have psychosocial problems. Research done on families that had prospered after having experienced poverty confirmed this sentiment. It was noticed that the rate of deviant behavior expressed by children from such families reduced as they prospered. This must have been as a result of having their needs met, which made it much easier to journey towards self-actualization without suffering from psychological maladjustment.

The concept of self encompassed in humanist approach has to do with how an individual thinks of themselves. This is limited to those individual’s private thoughts. They make sense only to the individual and can never be understood by others. Carl Rogers, a notable psychologist, observed that every human hungers for positive regard. If offered that, it induces an ability to adapt and grow within the circumstances they find themselves in (WSU, n.d.). This growth results in them becoming human beings that are fully functional. On the flipside, lack of positive regards may result in such a person seeking solace in other distractions such as drugs and retrogressive behaviors. One of the best ways to counsel individuals having behavioral problems applying humanistic theory would be to offer them unconditional positive regard. The therapist should encourage the patient to cultivate on having cordial relationships with other people and affirm the person having problems with their behavior. Doing this frees them to embark on the journey of having their needs fulfilled, towards self-actualization (WSU, n.d.).

The other theory explaining behavior is the cognitive theory. It focuses on the beliefs held by a person and uses attitudes, attributions and expectations in describing behavior. Problematic behavior is described as a result of maladaptive thinking and perception of self-efficacy (Benedek, 2005, p1233). In general, it is a study of the how the human handles thought processes and the way they use the same to interact with the world. The behavior of a person and their reactions to events are tied to their interpretation of what happens around them. The same event happening to two persons can elicit two distinct responses, depending on their interpretation. An example would be a person being stepped on by another. He or she may interpret it as an assault and react accordingly. In a second scenario, another may interpret that action resultant of the clumsiness of the other, and have a forgiving reaction. A person with a behavioral disorder would most probably react to the described event violently. The interpretation of events is closely tied to a person’s core beliefs. An individual believing that the world is an unsafe place is most likely to interpret being stepped on as an assault, which confirms their belief. Negative core beliefs oftentimes result in personality disorders.

When a person’s cognitive faculty fails to function properly, it leads to a range of behavioral problems, the most prominent one being anxiety disorder (Thorwardson and Butler, 2014, par 4). Anxiety disorder refers to a number of mental problems that occur as a result of the individual being in constant worry and uneasiness. There are several specific disorders classified under anxiety disorder, and they include:

Panic disorder -in which the sufferer is gripped by intense fear that repeatedly. This results in the person having an increased rate of heartbeat, suppressed or difficulty in breathing and sweating. For some, this is accompanied by chest pains and a feeling of having a heart attack others describe it as a feeling of being on the brink of insanity (Calmclinic, 2009).

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) that keeps a person have a consistent and constant thought or fear that drives them into performing rituals that seem abnormal to the general population. The thought or fear that plagues them is called their obsession. The most common examples of OCD patients are persons that have extreme fear of germs causing them to have a ridiculous emphasis on hygiene (Calmclinic, 2009).

Post-traumatic stress disorder– this condition can develop after a terrifying experience such as assault, natural disaster or sudden demise of a close person. Persons affected by this disorder are oftentimes emotionally numb and keep on having frightening thoughts and memories of the tragic event (Calmclinic, 2009).

Social anxiety disorder– it is a social phobia that makes the affected person be overly self-conscious in social situations. The person is usually worried about how he/she will be judged by others and ends up acting and behaving in ways that attract ridicule and embarrassment (Calmclinic, 2009,).

Phobias– this is unwarranted and exaggerated fear of objects or situation. It is a psychologically crippling condition that makes a person fear things such as spiders, heights, dark or snakes. It ends up making the individual avoid common everyday activities and situations (Calmclinic, 2009).

Anxiety disorder is considered to be a mental disease that if left unchecked might result in more serious conditions. Behavioral disorders that are cognitive are mental diseases that the affected person has little control over (Etkin and Schatzberg, 2011, 977). Overcoming these behavioral disorders requires intense counseling and in extreme cases, commitment to mental institutions (Lockman and Wells, 2002, p965).

Having observed behavioral problems from the perspective of the three theories equips one with the knowledge to identify different ways of solving those problems. These theories came as a result of psychology experts being puzzled by the variety of behaviors exhibited by humans. the behavioral theory based on conditioning was put forth by Pavlov after realizing that he could get a dog to associate the ring a bell with provision of food. The humanist theory was advanced to emphasize on the innate goodness of humans and their core needs. Behavioral problems occur as a result of being denied those needs, assert humanists. The cognitive theory touches on rational and emotional abilities that a human possesses. This includes their beliefs and fears. Poor cognitive abilities and unfounded fears and beliefs are the ones that result in behavioral problems.

 

References

Appsychology. n.d.Operant Conditioning. [online] Available at: http://www.appsychology.com/Book/Behavior/operant_conditioning.htm [Accessed: 9 Mar 2014]

Ayers, H., Clarke, D. and Murray, A. 2000. Perspectives on Behaviour: A Practical Guide to Effective Interventions for Teachers‘. 2nd ed. London: David Fulton Publishers.

Benedek, E.P. 2005, “Out of Options: A Cognitive Model of Adolescent Suicide and Risk-Taking”, The American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 162, no. 6, pp. 1233-1234

Calmclinic. 2009. The 7 Main Types of Anxiety « Calm Clinic. [online] Available at: http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/types [Accessed: 9 Mar 2014].

Etkin, A. &Schatzberg, A.F. 2011, “Common Abnormalities and Disorder-Specific Compensation During Implicit Regulation of Emotional Processing in Generalized Anxiety and Major Depressive Disorders”, The American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 168, no. 9, pp. 968-78.

Langevoort, D. C. 1998, “Behavioral theories of judgment and decision making in legal scholarship: A literature review.”Vanderbilt Law Review, 51(6), 1499-1540.

LOCHMAN, J.E. & WELLS, K.C. 2002, “Contextual social-cognitive mediators and child outcome: A test of the theoretical model in the Coping Power program”, Development and psychopathology, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 945-67.

Rescorla, L., Achenbach, T., Ivanova, M.Y., Dumenci, L. & al, e. 2007, “Behavioral and Emotional Problems Reported by Parents of Children Ages 6 to 16 in 31 Societies”, Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 130-142.

Schultz, W. 2006, “Behavioral Theories and The Neurophysiology of Reward”, Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 57, pp. 87-115.

Thorwardson, N. and Butler, D. 2014. Richard Jessor – Home Page – Problem-Behavior Theory ~ A Brief Overview. [online] Available at: http://www.colorado.edu/ibs/jessor/pb_theory.html [Accessed: 9 Mar 2014].

Wheldall, K., MERRETT, F. and Borg, M. 1985. The behavioural approach to teaching package (BATPACK): an experimental evaluation. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 55 (1), pp. 65–75.

WSU. N.d.Humanistic Psychology. [online] Available at: http://faculty.weber.edu/tlday/HUMAN.DEVELOPMENT/humanism.html [Accessed: 9 Mar 2014]