Behavior Modification Strategies in Diverse Settings


There are multiple benefits to studying behavioral psychology at a professional level, including the opportunity to evaluate and even design behavior modification (BM) strategies that would be effective across diverse settings. As a commonly used treatment approach, BM finds extensive use in self-management and relationship regulation in the family. Therefore, BM instrumentalizes the principles of operant conditioning in self-improvement and the transfer of information on social norms between parents and children. Additionally, BM is helpful in employee discipline promotion interventions and law enforcement practices to limit cultural traditions that violate fundamental human rights. This paper’s purpose is to use current peer-reviewed research to review and evaluate BM interventions in the abovementioned settings, including their real-life implications and connections to the Bible.

BM in Self-Management: Research and Personal Experiences

In their randomized controlled trial, Patel et al. (2019) demonstrate BM interventions’ applicability to self-management in weight control. The researchers explore the use of sequential self-monitoring of dietary intake with the help of MyFitnessPal – a popular mobile application for calorie counting. Within the frame of the sequential approach, the participants were supposed to track their body weight for four weeks and then start to track their daily caloric intake using the assigned digital application. The results demonstrate the sequential strategy’s ability to promote the loss of 3-5% of initial weight in high-BMI participants within three months (Patel et al., 2019). The strategy, however, did not outperform the simultaneous approach (keeping track of one’s weight and caloric intake simultaneously) in terms of weight loss results.

The sequential technique can be called effective since it incorporates building self-regulation skills before starting the key intervention. This makes it aligned with Bandura’s social cognitive theory, in which fostering self-regulation competencies is viewed as a crucial component of behavior change (Beauchamp et al., 2019). The intervention also demonstrates the shaping technique or the use of approximations to the target behavior – sound caloric intake control skills. As per Miltenberger (2016), the shaping steps that are “too small” lead to slow progress (p. 174). Patel et al. (2019) avoid excessively brief steps and make the pre-intervention (weight monitoring) stage last for four weeks. Thus, the intervention maximizes the participants’ potential for habit formation by proceeding from simpler (weight tracking) to more complex (entering and analyzing caloric intake data) behaviors that promote BMI normalization.

I had some weight control issues some years ago, and the sequential technique would probably maximize the effectiveness of my weight loss strategies that were used in a disorganized way at times. Instead of using questionable practices, such as intermittent fasting or monostrophic diets, it would be beneficial to acquire weight self-monitoring habits and then implement calorie counting tools that provide users with reminders. From my perspective, it would reduce the need to exclude some foods that I like from the diet, thus minimizing the stress associated with new eating behaviors I struggled to achieve. As per Proverbs 25:28, “a person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls” (Holy Bible, New Living Translation, 1996/2015). Therefore, from the Biblical viewpoint, the intervention aims to facilitate the formation of habits to promote one of the greatest values – self-control.

BM in the Context of Family: Research and Personal Experiences

In their meta-analytical research, Leijten et al. (2019) summarize the state of the science regarding BM for the reduction of children’s disruptive behaviors. Instead of testing a particular intervention, the researchers compare different techniques based on research data and identify the components of parenting programs that are the most responsible for positive changes in children’s behaviors. Leijten et al. (2019) conclude that praise and logical/natural consequences outperform other discipline techniques in reducing and preventing problematic behaviors in children aged 2-9. The interventions’ effectiveness finds support in other academic sources. For instance, Miltenberger (2016) describes praise as an effective generalized reinforcer, whereas natural (independent) and logical (those predetermined by the parents) consequences are known to motivate appropriate behaviors, especially when they follow the behavior immediately. Overall, both approaches emphasized in the article are universally accepted as effective BM techniques.

The researchers’ conclusions regarding disruptive behavior prevention align with the observations I made when my children were in preschool and primary school age. As a parent, even without knowing specific concepts in behavioral psychology, I would frequently praise my children for demonstrating compassion, being kind to peers and gentle with animals, and respecting their older relatives. Their responses to praise were extremely positive, which gradually helped me to establish healthier communication and personal hygiene habits. Regarding the consequences approach, I could also use it to explain the link between skipping a meal and its inevitable consequences, such as discomfort, hunger, and gastric issues in the long-term perspective. As per Hebrews 12:11, “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful,” but it produces “a harvest of righteousness” later (Holy Bible, New Living Translation, 1996/2015). Finally, as for logical consequences, I could limit my children’s screen time even more if they ignored my directions regarding watching TV.

BM in the Workplace: Research and Personal Experiences

In their quantitative descriptive study, Marlina et al. (2021) explore the potential influences of three variables (reward, punishment, and standard operating procedures) on work discipline. The setting for the study was the Kota Banjar Regional Work Unit and its workforce. Based on the results of the correlation analysis, the authors propose a three-component program to improve employee discipline in the unit. It includes punishment delivered by means of a structured system that considers the employee’s workload and responsibility level to maximize fairness. The reward system would involve awards for excellent performance and high-achieving professionals. Finally, the unit’s overcomplicated standard operating procedures and their delivery to the workforce would need to be improved with attention to clarity.

Although the proposed intervention lacks a detailed description, its key principles are aligned with BM principles, making the approach potentially effective. The proposed punishment and reward system is based on the principles of positive (monetary rewards for exceptional achievement and efficiency and a system of fines or work-related limitations following serious errors) reinforcement (Miltenberger, 2016). Similarly, since the punished employee’s behavioral improvement can lead to the removal of negative stimuli (pay cuts, suspensions, etc.), negative reinforcement also finds use (Miltenberger, 2016). The proposed system would also be likely to incorporate direct behavioral assessment, including supervision and recording of employee error data (Miltenberger, 2016). This could have both positive and negative influences, including fear and reductions in discipline violation instances.

Basically, the intervention could be effective for almost any workplace. In the past, I worked in a canning factory for some time. There was an inflexible system of fines that did not take the specific employee’s workload and situation into account to analyze the sources of errors. Eventually, many employees decided to find another workplace with less unfair punishment practices. The punishment system proposed by Marlina et al. (2021) would probably reduce fines for low-wage employees with a heavy workload or implement newer investigation practices, thus challenging the one-size-fits-all approach. It would also promote the values of “giving justice to the weak” and “maintaining the right of the afflicted” (Holy Bible, New Living Translation, 1996/2015, Psalm 82:3).

BM in Culture-Specific Practices: Research and Applications

Lundberg (2021) explores the issue of bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan. The author proposes a complex crime prevention method that incorporates advocacy activities, public education, kidnapping victims’ destigmatization, community workshop initiatives, sponsoring girls’ access to education, and creating crisis centers (Lundberg, 2021). The criminalization of marital rape and longer sentences for those involved in bride kidnapping are also recommended. The proposal makes extensive use of the positive reinforcement model, including tougher prison sentences for violating women’s rights and the encouragement of social ostracism towards perpetrators by changing cultural norms (Miltenberger, 2016). The strategy also exemplifies indirect assessment by encouraging new ways to detect crime, including hotlines/services for victims (Miltenberger, 2016). From the Biblical viewpoint, the practice of supporting bride kidnapping as a cultural tradition should disappear since “love must be sincere” (Holy Bible, New Living Translation, 1996/2015, Romans 12:9). In general, the proposal is based on effective principles that could reduce the rate of forced marital unions.

Forced marriage has never been part of my culture, but I know an immigrant from Rwanda whose older sister was kidnapped, with no retaliation for her offender. As per Morewitz (2019), Rwanda is among the countries in which kidnappers easily avoid punishment, and only violent rape becomes the reason for investigations. Women in my acquaintance’s native country would definitely benefit from a multi-component strategy detailed by Lundberg (2021). Most importantly, it would reduce victims’ self-stigmatization – a common reason why they do not seek help.


The course has been extremely helpful in terms of popularizing a scientifically informed approach to self-discipline and promoting positive behaviors in others. Particularly, the program, including textbook readings and creative assignments, encourages the student to learn to anatomize almost any everyday situation to single out the motivators that increase or reduce the likelihood of specific behaviors and courses of action. After the program, I recognize multiple applications of behavioral psychology to self-management, including building healthier eating habits through self-monitoring, so I would associate it with the concept of self-help. In terms of family, such applications include promoting children’s safety and skills that would eventually support their effective socialization and performance as students. The Bible teaches that “hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs” (Holy Bible, New Living Translation, 1996/2015, Proverbs 10:12). Therefore, in both application areas, it is crucial that any BM strategies come from sincere love to oneself or the child rather than the desire to vent one’s anger and hatred.

The program has also supported my learning about BM in the workplace and culture-related issues. As for the workplace, the concepts of order and personal responsibility are relevant to diverse applications of BM, including employee lateness prevention programs that implement aversive stimuli in response to disruptive behaviors. Colossians 3:23 encourages believers to “work willingly as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people,” which emphasizes a sense of responsibility (Holy Bible, New Living Translation, 1996/2015). With reference to culture, BM can find multiple applications, ranging from crime prevention to reducing the frequency of litter dropping of other harmful behaviors that are not followed by financial punishments universally. Considering such examples, I would associate BM in culture with moral evolution, civilizing processes, and the encouragement to “supplement faith with a generous provision of moral excellence” (Holy Bible, New Living Translation, 1996/2015, 2 Peter 1:5).


Beauchamp, M. R., Crawford, K. L., & Jackson, B. (2019). Social cognitive theory and physical activity: Mechanisms of behavior change, critique, and legacy. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 42, 110-117. Web.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation. (2015). Tyndale House Publishers. (Original work published 1996).

Leijten, P., Gardner, F., Melendez-Torres, G. J., Van Aar, J., Hutchings, J., Schulz, S., Knerr, W., & Overbeek, G. (2019). Meta-analyses: Key parenting program components for disruptive child behavior. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 58(2), 180-190. Web.

Lundberg, A. M. (2021). Prosecuting bride kidnapping: The law isn’t enough. Aligning cultural norms with the law. Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, 53(1), 475-522. Web.

Marlina, L., Setyoningrum, N. G., Mulyani, Y. S., Permana, T. E., & Sumarni, R. (2021). Improving employees’ working discipline with punishment, reward, and implementation of standard operational procedures. Perwira International Journal of Economics & Business, 1(1), 37-43. Web.

Miltenberger, R. G. (2016). Behavior modification: Principles and procedures (6th ed.). Cengage Learning.

Morewitz, S. (2019). Kidnapping and violence: New research and clinical perspectives. Springer.

Patel, M. L., Hopkins, C. M., Brooks, T. L., & Bennett, G. G. (2019). Comparing self-monitoring strategies for weight loss in a smartphone app: Randomized controlled trial. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 7(2), e12209. Web.

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