Summer is a student of Binghamton University, Clinical Psychology; and Florida Institute of Technology, online BCBA course sequence.
I am an ambitious person. As a student, my work and goals come first. Empirical articles excite me. And, I enthusiastically lead projects when given the chance. I am also an ambitiously impulsive person. If I find a Netflix show that catches my attention, I might just have to watch all five seasons that week. Despite hating to run, I spontaneously signed up for a half marathon. Did I mention I adopted a pig as a pet after defending my thesis? Of course, these two characteristics clash. I like to think about it as the detour-dilemma. I know the detour (i.e., my impulsive ideas) will impede arriving my destination (i.e., ambitions). But some detours look so good. Irresistible even. Let’s face it, I just cannot say no to a billboard pointing the way to Cracker Barrel.
At this point, you are probably wondering what does ambition, impulsivity, and GPS have to do with applied behavior analysis (ABA)? Well, ABA is like my GPS. It provides the means to reach my destination without becoming lost during a detour. In other words, I use ABA to indulge my impulsivities while also obtaining my ambition and success. Let me illustrate:
Binge-watching shows and movies. Before ABA, this behavior onset early evening with an average duration of multiple hours (yes Netflix, I’m still there). This behavior was incompatible with writing. Now equipped with the knowledge of behavioral science, I use the Premack principle to enhance my productivity. First, I complete my operationally defined goals (e.g., write first draft of the Method section of a manuscript). Larger goals sometimes require a task analysis to make more manageable. Then, I may watch my shows/movies until bed. I am proud to say I have multiple manuscripts published and under review, thanks to ABA.
Running and exercise. I enjoy exercise, with the exception of running. During my graduate studies I came to two realizations: 1) much of my behavior is attention-maintained, and 2) due to my schedule, I was deprived of attention. It became clear to me that running half-marathons is a contemporary way for a mid-20-year-old to contact this valued reward. So, I signed up for a half-marathon. There was a problem though: attention was too delayed to increase my running behavior. I decided to use a token economy. I defined running behavior by different distances and speeds, each having a specified point value tracked within Excel. Back-up reinforcers included preferred meals and small purchases, each worth a specified number of points. Each week, I tracked behavior and points and exchanged for preferred items as I desired. My running behavior immediately increased in distance and speed. I will admit, this behavior plan quickly failed by week three when I experienced the difficulties of an open economy and the time required to manage such a system. Luckily by that point, I had contacted the naturally occurring reinforcers of running (endorphins, some praise from peers) and eliminated the EOs for punishment (poor physical fitness leading to worse side stiches/blisters). Basic behavioral principles turned me into a running machine and I signed up for two additional half-marathons.
Pigs as pets. Yes, you read the introductory paragraph correctly. I adopted a pig. Thankfully with the assistance of ABA, this decision did not result in a disaster. I assessed her preferences using paired choice arrangements and used principles of reinforcement to litter train her and decrease aggression across settings. Interestingly, Rosie (my pig) turned out to be a better behavior analyst than me and continues to shape my behavior each passing day. I now administer treats each time she pants at me. In my defense, her panting is very cute.
In sum, ABA is the GPS guiding me to my destination, allowing detours to enhance the trip rather than waste time or cause stress. It has turned my weakness into a strength by transforming impulsivity into creativity, productivity, and strides towards my personal interests and values. I use behaviorism each day to improve my life and I look forward to each opportunity I can problem solve using a behavior analytic approach.
Check out Summer's and the other ABA Ambassadors' blog here!