learned habit just makes us feel better but we don't understand
how or why; it is still a consequence.
negative reinforcement--relief or escape from stress, self-
criticism, interpersonal pressure, or any other unpleasant
experience. Ask: were there any cues in the situations that
enabled you to anticipate and avoid something unpleasant
without actually feeling bad at all? (Example: one might avoid
an argument by avoiding a topic. In this case, escaping the
threat of a fight reinforces avoiding the topic, but there has
been no resolution of the conflict between the two of you.)
unwanted consequence--punishment, criticism, deprivation of
something you wanted, increased self-criticism or interpersonal
conflicts, unpleasant thoughts about terrible possible outcomes,
having to correct the mistake you made, or any unpleasant
Consequences may be positive and negative, expected and
unexpected, immediate and long-term, extrinsic and intrinsic, material
and symbolic (a failing grade), emotional and interpersonal and even
unconscious. To understand ourselves, we have to be honest about all
the possible consequences.
It is very important to ask yourself: Is it possible that a part of me
really unconsciously wanted the consequence I got? Also, ask yourself:
How does the outcome make me feel about myself? Do I have an
unconscious need to put down or hurt someone else? to rebel or resist
pressure? to put down myself? to fail? to feel bad or guilty? to live out
a "life script?" Chapters 4, 9, and 15 might be helpful. Also, writing out
one's explanations might clarify the situation and help with the
decision of exactly what to observe in the next step.
STEP THREE: Observe and record the antecedents and
consequences of the behavior, emotion, or interaction.
Every time the "target" behavior occurs observe carefully and
record the exact conditions that preceded it and followed it. Consider
the factors mentioned in steps one and two which you think could
possibly be relevant, or any other possible cause.
Record your observations on 3 X 5 cards. Do this for several days,
or at least until 8 or 10 occurrences of the target behavior have been
observed. Several observations are necessary to determine if the
behavior is only occasionally reinforced.
STEP FOUR: Complete a "behavioral analysis" using both your
recall and your recorded observations of antecedents and
For each target behavior, list the stimuli that seem to elicit the
behavior and the payoffs that result from and reinforce the behavior.
This should "explain" the behavior, i.e. what causes the behavior and
why this one behavior is dominant over all the competing behaviors.