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Nature has its way of shaping a person’s behavior, but apart from nature, the past experiences of a person can also help in shaping the behavior of the person. According to psychology, learned behaviors with reinforcements either positive or negative are essential to the modification and shaping of a desired behavior. Since I was a small child, I used to be an arrogant person, and to whom never put anything into my head no matter how serious it was and this frustrated my parents so much. For various occasions before joining my academics, I used to do nothing for myself and neither did I appreciate the person who either came my way and assisted me nor did I anything good out of it as I believed that I was there to be assisted and not to appreciate those who helped as I thought it was their duty.

Days passed with my parents getting very annoyed, I joined my schooling, and with the same mindset, I never took anything seriously. I made many friends some of whom were very close, but unfortunately, they were very serious in their education. We did our first exam, and due to my poor and awful habits I didn’t do well but failed. Back home, my parents knew my capabilities and believed that I could do better and even said that I could take the first position in our class. However, this could not stick in my head but only landed on deaf ears, entering on one ear and finding a throughway on the other. My parents were not strict, and therefore I couldn’t feel the effects of their frustrations on me. As the year was close to ending, we sat for the final exam that was supposed to graduate to the next class. Unfortunately, the worst happened, and I never scored the minimum marks to take me to the next grade.

Back at home, I had to break the news to my parents with the feeling that whatever I was delivering was worse, but due to my careless behavior, that never mattered to me. My parents were frustrated and with bitterness decided to withdraw all their attention to me. All the luxuries that I used to enjoy back at home including watching the television, having my clothes washed and even receiving no punishment now started to shift to what I had not expected. My father went an extra mile and headed for the school and asked my teachers to be strict on me. There too, I was made like a prisoner, and the teachers had to assign me special homework that I had to complete and achieve a certain percentage. If I failed, I had to be punished, and back at home, the same was happening.

My parents promised to reinstate my luxury and even promised more as long as I did better in my exams. Not only was I to receive positive rewards for better performance but as well the negative rewards could befall with all the luxuries being pulled off in the event I did not make better performance in school. With all these conditions, I realized that I was not doing my self any better by not performing and came to know that everybody especially my teachers and parents were happy when I had done better. Slowly, I made good progress, and to their promise, I received several gifts and appreciation. After a certain period, I realized that I did not have to work hard to please another person but could as well do it for my benefit. I decided to put more effort and maintain my status as I was also happy with my performance having beaten the previous giants I the class. If it wasn’t for the rewards and punishment, I could not have identified my potential and therefore, behavior reinforcement aided in shaping my academic achievement and responsibility.

The behavior theory can be used to explain the reason as to why I was able to learn a new behavior, shifting from the previous unwanted behavior (Dovidio et al. 2017). The unwanted behavior on my part was that of non-performance and indiscipline both in school and at home which angered my parents and teachers and devoting their time to reshape my ways. According to the behavior theory, the behavioral psychologists believe that a person can never change or shape behavior on their own and therefore an external stimulus must be present to influence the desired behavior. The behaviorists such as B.F. Skinner do not believe in free will, and thus they believe that one has to learn through a system of reinforcement as well as punishment in the immediate environment (Skinner, 2014). Despite the critics, the behavioral approach is very effective as long as one doesn’t care by thinking what others are thinking as long as the desired behavior is achieved. The influence of the behavioral theory tends to affect people every day as well as throughout their lives as behavior is learned through experiences that do not cease to influence the lives.

Operant conditioning is a perspective that tries to explain the behavioral theory by depicting that behavior is influenced by a stimulus from the outside environment and continues to shape the behavior of the person (Mazur, 2016). A shaped behavior may be subject to relapsing, and this can be attributed that learned behaviors need to be reinforced for a certain period to make sure that the learned behavior is able to stick as learned. In operant conditioning, there are two types of rewards, and this involves punishment that can be positive or negative. Both positive and negative reinforcement are used to reward certain types of behaviors whether wanted or unwanted.

Positive reinforcement involves the promotion of a particular behavior that is desired. Various actions can be deemed to be positive reinforcement, and this maybe rewards such as gifts or verbal appreciation to make the person associate the behavior with the newly acquired behavior (Crone, Hawken & Horner, 2015). On the other hand, negative reinforcement involves punishing the person by denying them rewards whether material or verbal rewards and instead substituting the reward with a harsh punishment. Exposing a person to a harsh punishment for a behavior that has been newly acquired makes the individual aware that the behavior is not needed and thus they are forced to drop it and adopt the desired ones.

Apart from the desired behaviors being obtained through reinforcement, they can also be acquired through intrinsic values. A person can learn that when they do a certain thing, they are often rewarded, and they feel happy about it, and therefore it becomes a motivation compelling them to work harder to obtain more of the behavior to foster their happiness. Motivation can, therefore, be intrinsic and extrinsic as well. Intrinsic motivation refers to the driving force that compels a person to adopt a certain desired behavior that is rewarding (Rheinberg & Engeser, 2018). On the other hand, extrinsic motivation refers to the driving force that comes from the outside, a stimulus responsible in forcing the desired behavior into the person leading to the extinction of the previous undesired behavior.

Being brought up by parents who at first did not punish me made me believe that everything was normal and that no effort was needed for me to acquire the knowledge that was essential in making me pass my examination. In the beginning, therefore, I can attest that lack of motivation or punishment hindered me from exploring my abilities and therefore hindered even the intrinsic stimuli from reinforcing positive behavior that is the biter performance in school. The trend, however, got reversed when the external stimuli that happened to by both my parents and the teachers made some advances towards the acquisition of a new desired behavior. The stimuli, in this case, are therefore the teachers and the parents that necessitated the need for a behavioral change.

Positive reinforcement was done through rewards as well as verbal communication through congratulatory messages, and this, therefore, was a motivation to doing even better in my studies. In the times which I failed my exams, the rewards were substituted with punishment, this time negative punishment that was responsible for helping me associate the punishment with failure and therefore to cease the punishment, I had to perform better. The continued failure of the exams attracted more punishment even worse than the initial ones, and this discouraged me from performing poorly in class.

Positive reinforcement was associated better performance, and I was treated nicely both at home and at school, and therefore to make this trend continue, I had to revert my awful ways of performing poorly to the full dedication of my time in learning so that I could make my parents proud. In addition to making my parents proud, the positive rewards played a significant role in arousing the intrinsic stimuli for positive performance. I did not relapse but instead took the positive steps in maintaining the behavior making it possible to be maintained until present.

Parents play a critical role in shaping the behavior of their children and therefore to make their children grow with a positive and desired behavior they have to cultivate it at a younger stage as it will be difficult to rectify the behavior when the person is grown up. Reinforcement, therefore, plays a crucial role in shaping the behavior of a person and therefore the behaviorists were not wrong in suggesting that behavior is learned and is influenced by a stimulus.

References

Crone, D. A., Hawken, L. S., & Horner, R. H. (2015). Building positive behavior support systems in schools: Functional behavioral assessment. guilford Publications.

Dovidio, J. F., Piliavin, J. A., Schroeder, D. A., & Penner, L. A. (2017). The social psychology of prosocial behavior. Psychology Press.

Mazur, J. E. (2016). Learning & behavior. Routledge.

Rheinberg, F., & Engeser, S. (2018). Intrinsic motivation and flow. In Motivation and action (pp. 579-622). Springer, Cham.

Skinner, B. F. (2014). Contingencies of reinforcement: A theoretical analysis (Vol. 3). BF Skinner Foundation.

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