Behavior Modification:  Dentures 

Behavior Modification is the application of conditioning techniques to teach new responses or to reduce or eliminate maladaptive or problematic behavior.  Conditioning techniques are a basic kind of learning that involves associations between environmental stimuli and the human’s responses.  Maladaptive is derived from adaptive which means adjustments made in respect to their environment, such as behavioral changes and maladaptive is defined as showing faulty adaptation.  Problematic is derived from problem which is a matter difficult to deal with or solve and in turn means open to doubt or debate.

Now that I have defined behavior modification, I would like to share a case study I performed while in a psychology class in Concord College located in Athens, West Virginia. 

I chose to use differential reinforcement which is the process by which the frequency of a desirable behavior is increased while the undesirable alternative behaviors are eliminated.  Differential reinforcement is used when the desired behavior already occurs occasionally and when there is an available reinforcer. 

My subject became my husband because I spent most of my time with him.  He had a partial denture for his four front teeth.  He rarely wore it out in public so I chose to change this and target it as the undesired behavior.   My positive reinforcement or stimulus when he would wear his partial in public was to flirt with him and be very affectionate for fifteen minutes.  When he would exhibit the undesired behavior I would ignore him for fifteen minutes.  This case study was conducted over a period of six weeks on a daily basis. 

The case study resulted in the subject (my husband) wearing his partial 95% of the time as opposed to 28% at the beginning of the experiment.  To my surprise, our relationship became enhanced over the period of the case study.  A related article states how “Positive reinforcement from one person led to positive reinforcement from the other” (Larsen, 1991). 

At the completion of the experiment my husband was informed of being the subject of an experiment and initially exhibited signs of anger.  However, shortly after being informed, he showed gratitude to me by saying “thank you” and engaging in further conversation of how we should use applied behavior analysis and behavior modification more often since this method of modifying behavior is so reliable.  Now he asks for the reinforcement when placing his teeth in his mouth prior to going outside.