Sunday, February 24, 2008

Overt and covert behavior

The term "behavior" has been misrepresented and misinterpreted by many in the school psychology field, including proponents as well as opponents of behavior analysis. Proponents have used the term too loosely, while opponents have used a bit of a warped definition to attack the field.

Furthermore, school psychologists as well as behavior analysts have also taken a very narrow view of the definition of behavior.

According to Cooper, Heron, and Heward (2007), in order for a phenomenon to be considered a behavior, we need to have several conditions:
  1. there must be a part of the organism which is moving.
  2. there must be a change in the environment as a result of this movement.
With this, it is easy to see that throwing a desk or completion of homework are behaviors. However, some individuals in the field develop behavior plans based on the lack of a behavior, such as "not doing homework" and "not throwing a desk as targets or goals of behavior plans.

That is not going to work.

You need to target behaviors constantly. You may want to reduce certain behaviors or increase other ones, but you want to target behaviors or to set behaviors as goals - not non-behaviors.

Let's look at reading, something that is often not considered to be a behavior. While reading, there is movement of the lips, tongue, and vocal chords. After the behavior is done, there is a transformation of the sound waves in the environment, which informs us that we have had a behavior occur.

Ahh, someone would say - that only counts if the person is reading out loud. What if the person is reading silently.

Yes, it is sticky, but not unmanageable. If one is reading silently, thinking, feeling mad, or examining a beautiful painting, there are neurotransmitters which are being released and activating neurons. After the neurosynaptic reaction the brain is different than what it was prior to starting the behavior. Therefore, these activities qualify as a behavior.

Overt behaviors are those that anyone can observe, while covert behaviors are those that only the organism can examine.

More on this after a bit....


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Chiller said...

very helpful...Im revising for my psychology exams on the social approach in the moment and this blog saved my day...:))

Anonymous said...

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Joseph Gedeon