Monday, August 2, 2010

My big, Fat, Behavior Intro

OK…. So before I get too deep into all the details of behavior and how it relates to us, I want to make sure we are all have working definition of behavior.

Behavior is anything observable. Anything we do and say that can be observed is behavior. Behavior is communication.

The act of speaking is behavior – but so is the act of walking, pushing, hitting, etc.

All animals – and human beings fall under that category – have their reasons for behaving the way they do. As complex as we would like to believe we are, when it comes to surviving on this planet – we are all simple.

The need to survive is the great equalizer.

B.F. Skinner is the father of behaviorism. Behaviorism seeks to understand behavior as a function of environmental histories of reinforcing consequences.

That means that everything that is around us affects our behavior.

Everything we have come in to contact with in some way has affected our behavior, and how we behave in the future.

The focus of my blog will be to make this concept easy to understand!

The acronym that is used in behavior land is MEATS.

M = Medical
E = Escape/Avoidance
A = Attention
T = Tangible
S= Sensory

We can categorize ALL behavior under the above functions of behavior. There can be more than one function, but they will always fall under these categories.

Medical - We ALWAYS look at medical first. We always want to rule out a medical reason for behavior. If you are sick, you will behave very differently than when you are not sick. My son, when he was a baby, never engaged in the behavior of tugging on his ear unless he had an ear infection. If I were to go right for the other functions of behavior, I would not be treating him correctly.

Once it is ruled out that an individual is healthy, the other functions of behavior are looked at.

Escape/Avoidance – Any behaviors that get you out of a situation. Think when you are at a cocktail party, and someone is talking your ear off. You can engage in a number of escape behaviors. You can excuse yourself to get a drink, use the restroom, tell the person you see someone you want to catch up with. Those can all be categorized under “escape”. Once you leave that person, you may engage in avoidant behavior for the rest of the evening to steer clear of the person.

When I go to the mall, I engage in avoidant behavior by putting my cell phone to my ear every time I pass a kiosk where someone wants to “ask me a question.” Of course, I can just tell these people I am not interested, but I don’t….

Attention – Whether it is “good” attention or “bad” attention – attention is any response to behavior mediated by another individual. Sometimes it is not just the attention that someone is seeking, but a consistent and predictable response. We tell someone “I love you” not just to bare our souls, but to receive that predictable response back of “I love you too.” That is attention seeking behavior. We engage in a behavior to get a behavior back in return.

Tangible – Everyone behaves in various ways to get access to things that they want. If the end product is that the item is in our hot little hands, we have engaged in a behavior with a tangible function.

Sensory – We ALL have behaviors we engage in simply because they feel good. Touching, eating, smoking, drinking, etc – all can fall under that category.

As I mentioned above, there can be more than one function to a behavior. We can go out to a bar, and the function can be all of the above – to escape a task at home, engage in attention seeking behavior with friends, and feel good.

I will continuously be referring to these functions throughout my blog. It would be impossible to write a behavior blog without beating these functions to the ground.

Hopefully, out of all my entries, this will be the most boring. I am obliged to start this blog explaining these functions so that the rest will make more sense, and it can be fleshed out well!

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