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“The principle modus operandi of [environmental]
organizations is to frighten people rather than offer them a
world to which they will turn because of the reinforcing
consequences of doing so”.
B.F. Skinner
Chapter 5
~ Behavioral Psychology~
Contingency management
Amber Gilewski
Tompkins Cortland Community College
Behaviorism or behavioral psychology:
• Focuses on the ways in which behavior is
controlled by the environment
• The total physical, social, political, and
economic situation in which a person behaves
• The total environment cues behaviors, which
then are followed by consequences:
– Rewards
– Punishers
Schedules of Reinforcement
Continuous reinforcement schedule:
• People’s actions tend to change more quickly
when consequences are consistently
administered Portlandia: No Grocery Bag
Intermittent reinforcement schedule:
• Behaviors will last longer when reinforcers are
withdrawn, and will extinguish more slowly
• Behaviors developed under optimal
reinforcement schedules can become habitual
and thus very durable (i.e. charging for bags)
Contingency trap:
• Occurs when immediate short-term
reinforcers are more powerful than longterm ones
Behavioral engineering:
• Involves altering the contingencies that
create or maintain destructive actions to
motivate pro-environmental behaviors
• People are more likely to act in
environmentally responsible ways when
reinforcers are intrinsic
• In other words, when the activity is enjoyable
or in alignment with the person’s values
• Values aren’t typically sufficient to motivate
• However, the opportunity to reduce cognitive
dissonance – the disconnect between
attitudes and behavior – is reinforcing
Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM):
• Focuses on interventions that reduce or
remove punishing aspects of behavioral
change, in four ways:
1. Recognizing the barriers to environmentally
appropriate behaviors
2. Selecting particular behaviors to promote
3. Designing programs that effectively address
specific barriers
4. Following-up after the intervention to evaluate
• Attempts to curtail environmentally
destructive behavior are likely to extinguish if
not consistently prompted (using SDs) or
• Humans deplete resources because the real
costs of consumption are not yet contingent
on actions
Social dilemmas or social traps :
• Happen when there is an inherent conflict
between an individual’s self-interest and the
interest of the larger group
Steps of a self-control project:
Define the problem
Set a goal
Make a public commitment
Observe baseline behavior
Design a stimulus control
Formulate a contract
Check on changed behavior
Consider ways of generalizing the change to
related behaviors
The Stages of Change Model. Reprinted from DiClemente, C. (2003). Addiction
and Change: How Addictions Develop and Addicted People Recover, New York:
Guilford, Figure 3, p. 30. With permission.