We’ve all heard of Palov’s dog, right? Well, just in case you haven’t or you’ve forgotten the specifics, let me catch you up.
Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist who in the early part of the 1900’s conducted an experiment on a dog. Ivan noted that a dog would salivate when meat was brought. That was a natural response. However, Ivan discovered that if he rang a bell every time meat was brought to the dog, he could modify the dog’s natural behavior so that eventually he could make the dog salivate with only the ringing of the bell.
Early Behavior Modification
I inadvertently accomplished a behavior modification in my own children, as I’m sure you have as well. For example, my kids used to be terrified of storms – the kind that makes the sky explode and sends bright streaking light slashing through dark boiling clouds. It really is a terrifying experience for a child and their natural response is fear, of course.
For a couple of my kids, who had extra sensitivities to sound and environmental factors – this experience felt like the world was ending. So, to ease their terror, I made it fun by making “Storm Cookies” whenever a storm blew into town. Storm cookies were actually just good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies. The kids and I would gather in the kitchen to make the cookies while the storm raged and blew outside. Pretty soon our little home was filled with the smell of baking cookies and the kids forgot about the storm.
To this day, when a storm blows in from the south, my kids excitedly announce it’s time to bake Storm Cookies. Storms and foul weather have become a happy affair instead of one of doom and gloom. I modified my children’s natural response. Behavior modification happens every day to us whether we realize it or not.
Modified Behavior in Our Everyday Lives
We have conditioned people to stop their vehicles when they see a red light/sign; to drink a cup of coffee every morning; to reach for that candy bar after lunch; disrespect groups of people and feel justified or to do something more extreme like killing other people and feeling proud of it. In every case, the behavior modification was accomplished through the meat-and-bell process until it feels natural to engage in that sort of behavior.
The stimulus to modify the natural behavior is associated with the satisfaction of a need; the cup of coffee for a burst of energy in the morning; the candy bar as part of the meal to satisfy hunger; the disrespect of other groups of people by approval from leaders, and the killing of others with medals and honors.
Think about how a child develops. A child will grow up and thinking and doing what he was exposed to every day of his upbringing. We become what we think and do on a regular basis. As an adult, we can choose to modify any behavior to create the kind of life we want. We are not at the mercy of what we were trained to think and do as a child. We have the ability, through the Law of Modified Behavior to change.
Some of us may feel we should be able to do whatever we feel like or follow the path of least resistance but doing so is like neglecting your garden in the spring and letting whatever seeds happen to drift into it to find a place to take root and grow.
What do you think you will harvest in the fall?
That’s what happens if you just let yourself go – you’re at the mercy of whatever happens to fall into your heart and mind and take root; It’s a natural process.
The person who consciously selects the modification tools to stimulate certain behaviors, will be able to create the kind of life he or she wants. The power of creation is in your hands.