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Most behavior modification programs currently used are those based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), formerly known as the Experimental Analysis of Behavior which was pioneered by B. F. Skinner. It is the use of empirically demonstrated behavior change techniques.

Awarding students high marks for good work is only behavior modification in the broadest and weakest sense. Attention and praise at the second-by-second level are more likely to follow its principles. Positive reinforcement in behavior modification is in providing compliments, approval, encouragement, and affirmation. A ratio of five compliments for every one complaint is generally seen as being effective in altering behavior in the desired manner. The other areas that have repeatedly shown effectiveness are the work of behaviorists working in the area of community reinforcement for addictions and behavioral activation for depression.

Systematic desensitization

Systematic desensitization is a type of Pavlovian therapy/classical conditioning therapy developed by a South African psychiatrist, Joseph Wolpe. It is sometimes called graduated exposure therapy. The goal of this process is that an individual will learn to cope and overcome the fear in each step of the hierarchy, which will lead to overcoming the last step.

Joseph Wolpe (1958) created a therapy technique for fearful adults similar to the procedures used by Jones three decades earlier. He found that many of his patients could be encouraged to expose themselves gradually to the situation or object that feared if they were at the same time engaging in behavior that inhibited anxiety. Many of the fears felt by Wolpe’s patients were so abstract, for example, fear of criticism and fear of failure. It was impractical to confront them with real-life situations that would evoke these fears. Wolpe reasoned that he might have fearful adults imagine what they feared.

This is done by forming a hierarchy of fear, involving the conditioned stimulus (e.g. a spider) The patient works their way up starting at the least unpleasant and practicing their relaxation technique as they go.

Therapists ask the client to imagine the least threatening situation in the anxiety hierarchy. The client repeatedly imagines (or is confronted by) this situation until it fails to evoke any anxiety at all. This process is repeated while working through all of the situations in the anxious hierarchy until the most anxiety-provoking. The patient is also given training in relaxation techniques to help with breathing and muscle detensioning.

Therapists ask the client to imagine the least threatening situation in the anxiety hierarchy. The patient is also given training in relaxation techniques to help with breathing and muscle detensioning.

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Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance is the most widely researched cognitive consistency theory. It suggests that we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and beliefs in harmony. Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes.

Cognitive dissonance theory is concerned with any instances when two cognitions are psychologically inconsistent. The creation of dissonance is similar to the creation of imbalance and is thought to be distressful and motivates the person to restore consonance.

Dissonance is a negative drive state which occurs when two ideas or beliefs are psychologically inconsistent. Festinger defined it as the difference between two ideas that are not mutually incompatible. For example, a smoker might have read that smoking leads to cancer but have not witnessed it.

However, three important factors play a role to verify if cognitive dissonance occurs when people carry out a behavior that is inconsistent with their attitudes, and hence whether attitude change occurs.

Decision making: Dissonance theory assumes that dissonance occurs when an individual has to choose between two alternatives. The person experiences post decisional dissonance because of selecting an alternative with negative aspects and rejected others with positive aspects. For example, a person who wants to buy a new car has to choose between two reputed brands. The person will only read articles and magazines that praise his car and at the same time ignores reports that criticize their car.

Forced Compliance: forced compliance occurs when an individual acts inconsistent with his or her beliefs. Dissonance will need to be reduced by re-evaluating their attitude to what they have done. In an intriguing experiment, participants were asked to perform a series of dull tasks. They were then paid either $1 or $20 to tell a waiting participant that the tasks were really interesting. Almost all of the participants agreed to walk into the waiting room and persuade the subject accomplice that the boring experiment would be fun. The participants who were paid only $1 rated the tedious task as more fun and enjoyable than the participants who are paid $20 for the lie.

Investment or justification of effort: When an individual puts a lot of effort to achieve something towards which he/she has a favorable attitude, it becomes more important to their self-concept. If there is a dissonance here the effects also would be stronger. For example, a person has put in a lot to join a golf club. But later he found that the sport is boring and dull for him.

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The Big Five personality factors are conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extraversion. Some researchers have labeled the CANOE personality model as an easy aid to remembering each factor.

  • Conscientiousness is defined as an individual’s tendency to be organized, thorough, controlled, decisive, and dependable. Of the Big Five factors, it is the personality factor that has been related to leadership second most strongly (after extraversion) in other researches.
  • Agreeableness, or an individual’s tendency to be trusting, nurturing, conforming, and accepting, has been only weakly associated with leadership.
  • Neuroticism, or the tendency to be anxious, hostile, depressed, vulnerable, and insecure, has been moderately and negatively related to leadership, suggesting that most leaders tend to be low in neuroticism.
  • Openness, sometimes referred to as openness to experience, refers to an individual’s tendency to be curious, creative, insightful, and informed. Openness has been moderately related to leadership, suggesting that leaders tend to be somewhat higher in openness than non-leaders.
  • Finally, extraversion is the personality factor that has been most strongly associated with leadership. Defined as the tendency to be sociable, assertive, and have positive energy, extraversion has been described as the most important personality trait of effective leaders.

Researches on the Big Five personality factors have found some relationships between these overall personality factors and leadership.

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