Behavioral theories are used to predict the way that a person or group of people will react to a certain situation. They are used in the sciences of psychology and sociology for different purposes. In psychology, behavioral theories are used to predict responses in individuals and to try and prescribe treatment protocols for people who struggle in different stress situations. For sociologists, theories are prescribed for groups of people and how they react as a community or a culture to the same kinds of stresses. Here is a look at some examples of behavioral theories and the importance of these discoveries:
Delayed Gratification: The Marshmallow Study
One of the most popular behavioral theories recently has been that of success predictions in children based on their ability to delay gratification. In the study, children were offered one marshmallow now, or two marshmallows later. The study followed these children and showed that kids who were able to wait for the two marshmallows were also more likely to work hard for delayed gratification rewards like education. This theory offers opportunities to work with your kids toward learning about delayed gratification, and encouraging positive traits like this as a building block for future success.
This behavioral theory, proposed by B.F. Skinner, suggests that learning is caused by a change in behavior. This learning can be forced by creating systems of positive and/or negative reinforcement. In parenting, for example, this is shown by giving your children chores. This will ultimately teach them to care for things on their own. If they are not quick to follow instructions, a combination of positive reinforcement, like allowance, may help them to complete their work. On the other hand, they may also require negative reinforcement like being unable to play with their friends until their chores are done. In many cases, the most effective conditioning seems to have a combination of both systems in place.
Sociological Theories of Deviance
In sociology, behavioral theories are often applied to understand better why someone chooses to go against the norms of society. One theory suggests that deviant behavior is learned, and the younger the student is, and the more attached to the teacher, the stronger the propensity for that behavior is. Another theory suggests that people who don't have a strong attachment, commitment, involvement and belief in their community are less likely to strive to follow the social norms of the culture around them. A third theory suggests that when social norms are in conflict, or are weak or confusing to someone, they are less likely to create goals and methods of achieving those goals which fall within social norms. Like the behavioral theories in psychology, sociological theories like this strive to help understand why someone would become a criminal or other deviant, so that they can help create productive solutions in allowing them a better path forward.