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Do you want to study more effectively, establish an exercise routine, drink more water, eliminate maladaptive ways of thinking about the world, quit smoking, or read more for pleasure? If so, you will find the content of this textbook useful and possibly life changing. It’s not often an author can make that statement and mean it, but you will quickly come to see the utility of this information. Also, you may find quite a few of the strategies familiar. Some have been used on you while you have used some on other people in your life. Because of this, you will learn some of the material fairly quickly and easily. Other material will be new but I have presented it in ways that will hopefully expedite your mastery. I have also chosen to use examples that could be encountered in any person’s life. It is my belief that by doing this, you can better relate to the material which will also aid in your learning.

The book is divided up into 19 modules falling under six major parts. In Part I, we set the stage by discussing the basics of behavior modification. From that we move into a discussion of the scientific method and how the study of psychology and application of behavior analysis and modification is based on sound scientific research. Part II begins the process of developing a behavior modification plan. Before you can change any behavior you have to want to change. This may seem like such an obvious step, and we might expect that anyone engaging in behavioral change arrived at that point through their free will, but you will find that is not always the case. Some people are forced into change by friends, family, or even the society they live in and when that occurs their commitment to see the change through is quite low. We next discuss the important task of defining the behavior we want to change and setting goals to see its completion through. Next we discuss how to determine what causes our behavior and what maintains it, via a functional assessment and good record keeping.

Part III continues our task of developing a plan and concerns strategies to change the behavior. We will discuss basic principles and procedures used in operant conditioning, and then proceed to tackle more advanced procedures that are antecedent, behavior, and consequence focused. Finally, we will discuss procedures that fall under the jurisdiction of respondent conditioning and observational learning. Though having a course in the principles of learning will be helpful, it is not a pre-requisite. I have presented the information in this textbook as if it is the first time you have seen it. This elementary approach will benefit the novice student of learning theory and help advanced students bring together seemingly disconnected topics.

As a final set of steps before implementing your plan we move to Part IV and selecting strategies from a master list of at least 30. No plan runs smoothly but careful planning can lead to greater success if we can anticipate temptations and mistakes that we might make/encounter. Having clear rules for our plan should aid with its success, and writing a behavioral contract will more formally commit us to making the change. With this all behind us, we will discuss how to propose the plan for approval by your instructor and then once this has been returned approved, how to implement the plan or enter the treatment phase.

With our plan underway, we need to determine how well it is doing and this is where Part V comes in. We will discuss ways to “see” how successful your plan is and then how to implement adjustments. Once the plan has achieved success we move into maintenance of this new/changed behavior and guard against relapse. Finally, we will discuss how applied behavior analysts communicate plan success to the broader scientific community via a research article.

It is important to ensure you have mastered all the skills and content learned in this course. As such, Part VI is wisely named ‘Bringing it All Together’ and presents you with a series of exercises in which you are given a scenario and need to select the best strategies to help the person bring about positive behavioral change. You will also have the opportunity to run through the entire process of developing a behavior modification plan, whether for yourself or another person. The purpose of this final part of the book is to prepare you for a job in the area of applied behavior analysis, help you to correctly identify and utilize the various strategies and tools discussed in the class, and if it is the case, prepare you to take a comprehensive final exam.

I believe that one shortcoming of many classes you will take over your academic career is that information is presented in isolation when it is really part of a much larger picture. In this book, we discuss many strategies and you will be told ‘how’ to use them, but the ‘when’ is almost more important. Most students truly understand what the strategy is but when faced with real life situations, are not sure which ones to draw off of. The same is true of statistics classes. Students understand what the t-test, ANOVA, correlation, z-score, regression, etc. are, but when given a data set and asked to choose an analysis to either describe the data or draw inferences from it, they cannot. If they were told from the start that they had to use one specific test, most would be fine, but the step before, or deciding which test to use on your own, is a skill many classes fall short on equipping students with. I hope that the activities presented in each module will help you understand how to use the strategies and then the activities in Module 19 will help you to understand when to use the strategies. Both skills are necessary.

As you navigate through the textbook you will find that each module begins with a brief overview, outline, and then learning outcomes. After this, each section has its own learning objectives. The module learning outcomes are high level expectations for what you will learn in that module, or skills that you will acquire. The section learning objectives are specific content that you should learn and can serve as a study guide for quizzes or exams.

Finally, this textbook is structured not just as a textbook, but as a curriculum. The behavior modification project will likely be one aspect of the graded components of this course, with quizzes and/or exams and in-class participation or activity points being other component(s). This portion your instructor will develop either on his/her own or using the additional resources I have provided in the Instructor’s Manual. But the behavior modification project is presented in this textbook in a fashion that can be used as is, and includes the following:

Elements of the Behavior Modification Plan and Point Value

Plan Component Module Points Value
Planning Sheet 1: Identify Your Target Behavior 2 5
Planning Sheet 2: Pros and Cons of Changing or Maintaining the Behavior 3 25
Planning Sheet 3: Operationally Defining Your Target Behavior and Setting Goals 4 15
Planning Sheet 4: Gathering Data and Conducting a Functional Assessment 5 30
Planning Sheet 5: Selecting Reinforcers and Designing a Token Economy 9 30
Planning Sheet 6: Selecting Strategies 11 30
Planning Sheet 7: Identifying/Anticipating Mistakes and Temptations 12 20
Planning Sheet 8: Formalizing Rules for Your Plan 13 25
Plan Proposal 14 50
Treatment Phase ABC Charts 15 5
Making a Graph 16 5
Treatment Phase Token Log 16 5
Maintenance Self-Efficacy Question 17 5
Introduction Section Submission 18 2 pts. EC
Method Section Submission 18 2 pts. EC
Results Section Submission 18 3 pts. EC
Discussion Section Submission 18 3 pts. EC
Final Paper 18 100

As you can see from this table, the project is worth quite a few points, and in many classes, it will be worth at least 50% of your final grade. It behooves you to take the project seriously from an academic success perspective, if not a general life perspective. But the good thing is that these points are completely under your control. If you invest the time and energy into the project you can finish the class with a good grade, and have a set of skills that will benefit you later in your career and home life.

And finally, I invite you to provide me, the author, with feedback about the book. Since this is an Open Education Resource (OER) textbook meaning it was selected by your instructor for use in this class at little to no cost to you, and since any changes are directly under my control, I can literally make them for future semesters on the fly. There is no formal publisher update or production schedule to follow. Changes do not necessitate new editions making older ones obsolete or printing massive numbers of new copies in which the cost is passed off to you in many cases. All it requires is that I make the change and then upload the new version at whatever website this book is housed at. I will also update the edition/version information on the cover. Minor changes will result in renumbering the decimal portion of the edition number indicating the version (1.01, 1.02, 1.03, etc.) while major changes, if needed, will result in a new edition all together (2.0, 3.0, etc.). So, it will be easy for instructors to know if changes have been made and a record of changes follows this preface. Please let me know if something is unclear, if you see a typographical error, etc. I will take any and all feedback seriously, even if just praise for the book. Contact me at ldaffin@wsu.edu, whether you are an instructor or student. If you want proof of whether I will take suggestions seriously, consider this. A student recommended that all the self-modification project documents be grouped together at the end of the textbook so students could print them all at one time, and without having to seek them out in the book itself. With version 1.01 I have created an appendix at the end with these documents. So your voice will be heard.

I wish you the best as you work through this book and hope you find it useful.


Lee W. Daffin Jr.


To the extent possible under law, Lee W. Daffin Jr. has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Preface, except where otherwise noted.

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