Behavioural Modification

Behavioural Modification is a therapeutic and treatment approach designed to change a undesirable negative behaviour. By using a system of positive or negative consequences, an individual learns the correct set of responses for any given stimulus.

Classical Conditioning is a type of learning where a natural. involuntary response (e.g. - salivation) is elicited by a conditioned (or sometimes called learned) stimulus (e.g. - a bell) that previously was presented in conjunction with an unconditioned stimulus (e.g. - food). The classic example is of Pavlov conditioning his dogs to salivate upon hearing a bell ringing. Typically, classical conditioning elicits involuntary responses.

Operant conditioning is a type of learning where a specific action is elicited because it produces a punishment or reward. Operant conditioning was first described by behavioural scientist B.F. Skinner. In contrast to classical conditioning, operant conditioning usually elicits voluntary responses.

Skinner Operant Conditioning

Increase behavior Decrease behavior
Add stimulus Positive reinforcement Positive punishment
Take away stimulus Negative reinforcement Negative punishment

Always remember: the goal of reinforcement is to cause an increase in a behaviour (e.g. - you want a child to do more dishes).


Action Reinforcement
Positive Reinforcement Child does dishes You encourage/praise the child (positive stimulus)
Negative Reinforcement Child does dishes to avoid nagging by mother Mother's nagging goes away (takes away an adverse/negative stimulus)

Always remember: the goal of punishment is to cause a decrease in a behaviour (e.g. - you want a child to stop bullying others).


Action Negative Punishment
Positive Punishment Child bullies another child You reprimand the child (negative stimulus)
Negative Punishment Child bullies another child You take away the child's toy (reinforcing stimulus removed)

Extinction is the discontinuation of reinforcement (either positive or negative), which eventually eliminates a behaviour. This can occur in both operant or classical conditioning.