Miss Psychobabble: How To Create Better Study Habits Through Reinforcement

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All of us have habits we would like to break and other habits we would like to develop, whether it is excessive smoking, spending countless hours online, or not studying, etc.  People often blame these unpleasant behaviors to laziness or unhealthy personality.  Behaviorism dictates that if all habits are learned then, learning too can alter them.

Learning, in psychology, involves modifying behavior through experiences.  B. F. Skinner pioneered a form of learning called operant conditioning.  The central component of operant conditioning is reinforcement.  Operant conditioning influences one’s behavior depending on its consequences (i.e. punishment or reward) (Feldman, 2012).  To support this, Robert Williams and James Long wrote a book called "Toward a Self-managed Life Style" (1983) that explores the possibility of changing various areas in one's life by effectively reinforcing a positive behavior and not rewarding a negative one.

With this principle in mind, how can you modify your behavior to create better study habits?  Here are 4 tips you can use:
1. Goal setting
It involves two things: (a) identifying your goals and (b) knowing the resources you may need.  It is not enough to say that you want to study more; you must make a quantifiable and realistic goal (e.g., 3 hours of study time daily).  In order to keep your brain stimulated, you may need to study in a suitable environment such as the library or a quiet corner in your house.  Be ready for this.
2. Taking action
Since your goals are clearly set, you must bravely take your first attempt.  It might be too much to drastically start with 3 hours of study time a day, so start with at least 45 minutes daily.
3. Monitoring
Monitoring involves tracking your progress and altering your goals based on the reevaluation of your current situation.  To illustrate this, have a study log to know if you have been studying more than or lesser than your intended study time.  You can also analyze the factors that hinder you from studying, such as distractions from external noises or too much texting.  Then, add another goal that is fit to counteract these distractions such turning your smartphone off for 3 hours.
4. Rewarding
You must figure out a well-deserved reward for successfully studying during the allotted amount of time.  Go out with your friends or indulge in your favorite dessert.  For optimum results, keep the reward scheme consistent each time you reach your goal!

Surely, positive reinforcement such as fun or monetary compensation can increase the repetition of the desired behavior. This is why different companies such as Coke and Volkswagen used positive reinforcement to change the community's behavior for the better.

May these simple steps help you to create better study habits in the future! :)

Feldman, R. (2012). Understanding Psychology (11th ed.). NY: McGraw-Hill.
Williams, R., & Long, J. D. (1983). Toward a Self-managed Life Style. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.