Universal laws are the laws that make the universe operate. They keep everything working in a logical fashion. They are what keep the planets in orbit and the forces that make grass grow.
The law of gravity is a universal law.
They are not part of any religion, nor do they violate faith in or lack of faith in God.
Universal laws apply to everyone, they do not discriminate. They don’t require knowledge or belief, they just work automatically. They cannot be changed but their properties can be adjusted if you know how.
Today I’ll discuss how you can use the law of reinforcement to change your habits.
The Law of Reinforcement
Any behavior that is continually reinforced will become automatic, any behavior that we fail to reinforce will dissipate.
The law of reinforcement is what causes habits to form in the first place, and it can be used just as effectively to break them.
Any first year college student enrolled in a basic psychology course has learned the law of reinforcement.
I was lucky enough (said with sarcasm) to actually use this law to teach lab rats to navigate a maze. Lab rats are not cute, they are big and scary with beady eyes and disgusting tails.
The rats were starved before the experiment, thus giving them motivation to complete the maze. I did not feel good about starving these creatures, no matter how gross they were. I just didn’t think it was right.
Once they reached the end of the maze, they were reinforced with a food pellet. At least they were being fed.
My job was to time the rat each time it went through the maze.
As expected, the more times the rats went through the maze, the faster they were able to get through it. They learned how to navigate the maze. They formed a habit.
Immediate at first
In order for the rat to link the desired behavior (navigating the maze) with the reward (food), the behavior must be reinforced each time the act was performed correctly.
The reward must be received immediately. If the delay between the completion of the maze and the reward is too long, the behavior will not be associated with the reward. You must link the emotion to the act.
You must also reinforce your own desired behavior EVERY TIME in the beginning. You must reward yourself continually. Make sure that the reward is good for you, however – a beer or a donut as a reward is not such a good idea unless you want to tackle breaking another bad habit.
Emotional rewards work the best. Wallow in your every success. Give yourself an enthusiastic ATTABOY each time you get it right. Make yourself feel really great about your success.
After continuing with the rat experiment, I noticed that the times were not improving. After a while the rat even began to slow down. He stopped giving 100%. This is a principle of the law of reinforcement called fatigue.
After the new behavior is mastered, rewards become passé and are no longer appreciated. You will begin to slack off due to boredom. You will no longer give 100%.
At this point, a new strategy is in order – add an element of surprise and vary the schedule of reinforcement.
If you’ve ever watched someone losing at a slot machine, you have witnessed this phenomenon. With each losing coin, they get more excited, feeding the machine faster and faster as the excitement builds. Each time they don’t get a reward makes them even more eager to try again. They are sure that the next coin will be the reward.
Be spontaneous and give yourself a reward as a mental surprise. If you are working with a friend on a weight loss plan, make it a game. Roll dice or draw cards to see how many pounds you must lose or how many days you must go to the gym before you are rewarded.
You can also reinforce behavior by giving yourself a reward even greater than expected. This way, you look forward to hitting the jackpot.
By the way, they destroyed the rat after the experiment. At that point I changed my major to education and the rest is history.
- 4 Ways to Parent Your Emotions (living4bliss.wordpress.com)
- Positive Reinforcement (thespedteacher.wordpress.com)