Approaches to Forming Habits

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A habit refers to a behavior that a person adapts and performs repeatedly as part of his or her daily routine; the person exhibiting the specific habit does it unconsciously. A habit is uncontrollable and the person exhibiting it is unaware of the habit’s existence and exhibits it efficiently; though they are not aware they have the habit. A habit can either be negative or positive. Behaviors such as excessive smoking, alcoholism, spitting and removing mucus using hands are examples of bad habits while washing hands and closing the toilet’s door after use are examples of good habits. Bad habits are easily eliminated especially in children after noticing it. There are various ways in which a certain behavior is acquired; they are broadly classified into two classes: that is behavioral and social/cognitive approaches.

Behavioral approaches

It entails the process of learning experiences as a way of developing a personality. The surrounding environment has a major influence on the process of developing a personality. The environment consists of the people that surround one; as well as the non-living environment, for instance, the weather. Learning refers to processes that have a permanent impact on one’s behavior, knowledge and the way of thinking; it also comes about through experiences that an individual goes through. Behavioral approaches to learning include classical and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning, also known asPavlovian or respondent conditioning, Ivan Pavlov developed the approach. This is a form of habit-forming where a conditioned stimulus becomes associated to a significant stimulus and acquires the capacity to yield a similar response. For example, I urinate on myself when I see running water from a tap and at times on seeing a tap even before the water runs. Running water is not necessary to start urinating; rather seeing the tap alone is enough to give me the urge. In this case, the tap is the neutral stimulus; while running water is the significant stimulus making urination the unconditional stimulus.

Operant conditioning

 It is also referred to instrumental conditioning. This is a method in which an individual acquires and decides whether to continuously practice the habit or not based on the consequences of adopting the habit. A result can either be reinforcement or a punishment.

 Reinforcement is a consequence that increases the probability of a behavior occurring; while punishment reduces the chance of the behavior recurring.  Reinforcement occurs in cases where the process of acquiring a new habit has a positive impact on the person acquired it; while a punishment is as a result of negative impact on the person. For instance, if the consequence of clubbing enables one to associate with the crowd that they have always wanted; the behavior, that is clubbing, is reinforced. But in case one loses the money, other valuables or gets attacked, he or she stops the habit of going to clubs.  B.F. Skinner developed the Operant conditioning.

Social/Cognitive Approaches to Forming Habits

Bandura’s Social cognitive theory: the theory states that an individual’s behavior as well as the social factors are key elements in habit-forming. The theory postulates that people observe the way others behave and imitate them, this is called observational learning. For instance, I acquired my walking style by observing how my nursery school teacher walked. She was my role model when I was young; this is because she was always there for me when the older boys and girls bullied me. She always encouraged me to work hard and succeed like her when I grew up. I liked the way she walked with confidence and from my analysis I thought that her confident walking style acted as a protective weapon from bullying by both men and women. I adopted her walking style as a way of protecting myself. I have managed to maintain the walking style to this day and it has molded me into the confident person I am today. I have neither regretted adopting it nor tried to imitate another person after adapting her walking style. Based on the social cognitive theory: there are three factors that must be present in order for me to change my walking style.

They include:

Environment. This entails the factors that are external to an individual's environment and provides opportunities and social support. In my case the environment involved was my teacher and the second reason was behavior. The fact that my teacher exhibited a unique walking style is what contributed to my decision to adapt this behavior. The third reason is the person. I must have been interested in imitating the new habit for me to adopt or acquire it.

It was however important for my parents or guardian to help me to drop the acquired behavior - the walking style when I was still young. They should have talked to me or even punish me when necessary in order for me to drop the behavior. The impact of this consequence would have been the reduced frequency of occurrence of such behavior, and I would have eventually dropped the behavior to avoid the further punishment. This would have prompted me to have my walking style and not try to imitate someone else.

Social/cognitive theory explains my personality better. I am who I am because I see and imitate other people’s behavior. I would never have known whether dressing in a certain way is decent; after the moment I saw a friend, a relative or a stranger’s mode of dressing. I am therefore a victim of adapting other people’s habits; this is sometimes intentional and other times unintentional. For a person to overcome this behavior, he or she has to face it and work on his or her personality to form his or her own character. Everybody has a habit, whether positive or negative; many people agree that they find it considerably difficult to stop these habits. People should therefore not be judged by their behavior, but rather they should be helped to overcome them. This is because once a person adapts a bad habit, it might become addictive and he or she may not manage to overcome it. Most people have noted that their habits are part of their lifestyle and they openly admit that they may not be willing to stop. This is because they are not sure what they would do if they dropped the habit.

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