Psychological Self-Help

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usually begin to lose interest and the behavior declines. But not on. 
Behavior that has at one time served a useful, obvious purpose
and become well established may continue long after it is needed.
Examples: a person just starting in business may need to "pinch
pennies" and make shrewd deals to survive; thus, being a Scrooge is
reasonable and rewarded. However, a rich person may continue to be
a Scrooge when it isn't necessary. Spending money in a way that early
in his/her career would have been reckless still creates anxiety in the
wealthy person. Frugality continues because it still feels good to save
and be shrewd. Likewise, a workaholic may put in 12 hour days for
years after he/she has become successful. The hard work still reduces
his/her anxiety. The effective rewards are still there, they are just
There are two implications: (l) if the reinforcement situation
changes and you have to persevere longer than usual to reach the
goal, you may not continue long enough to get rewarded. John, the
procrastinator, may not have learned (or accepted reality) that more
work is necessary at this level for a good grade. (2) If you unthinkingly
continue an old behavior, you may neglect better alternatives. After
being dumped, a lover may avoid loving anyone else for a long time.
Keep considering your choices. The rejected person can love again, the
workaholic can relax, the greedy can be generous. But only if they
think about changing. 
Reinforcement can be positive (adding rewards) or negative (removal
of something unpleasant) 
Everyone understands what rewards are--getting money, praise,
pleasure, etc. The process of providing something pleasant--a reward-
-following a behavior in order to strengthen that behavior in the future
is called "positive reinforcement." We discussed this under operant
conditioning. There is a different procedure called "negative
reinforcement." It involves taking away or escaping an unpleasant
stimulus or situation. This escape is, of course, pleasant and
reinforcing, i.e. it strengthens the behavior immediately preceding the
escape of something unpleasant. Examples: if a whiny child becomes
quiet after you threaten him, your use of threats is reinforced. If your
friend's obvious irritation is reduced by your giving in to her/his
wishes, your submissiveness is reinforced. If you feel more
comfortable abiding by the rules, obeying laws, doing your homework,
or following traditions, your "good" behavior is partly the result of
negative reinforcement (escaping criticism or punishment or guilt). 
Negative reinforcement is an important key to understanding
human behavior. Any behavior that reduces an unpleasant feeling or
threat is reinforced. Examples: anxiety may be reduced by obeying
parents, doing homework, rationalizing, or escaping into TV. Sadness
may be lessened by drinking, smoking pot, making up with someone,
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