Psychological Self-Help

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brain that is especially adept at learning to cope, but we also learn
many self-defeating behaviors. Every person has thousands, probably
millions, of learned behaviors or habits. Many are very useful, like
brushing our teeth, driving a car, talking, etc. Bad habits are probably
learned in the same ways as good ones. Replacing bad habits with
new, valued ways of behaving probably follows the same learning
principles. So let's learn how to change our behavior by learning more
about the process of learning. First, a case. 
John, the procrastinator 
Consider the case of John, a college sophomore, who is
a procrastinator. John is of average intelligence and
wants to be successful, a manager in a corporation. Yet,
he puts off studying, especially math and science. He
knows he could learn it but these subjects take time and
become boring. He can't just fake his way though a
physics exam. John has been and still is especially good
at sports, particularly baseball and football, because he
is stocky and strong. Also, John has many friends, both
male and female. It is very hard for him to study when
he has so many fun things to do. Lately, he has noticed
resenting the teachers who pile on a lot of work. He is
just barely staying off probation. 
Clearly, John is in a reinforcement-rich environment; there are so
many enjoyable things to do. Thus, it is hard for studying to compete
with all the opportunities to socialize, party, relax, play sports, listen
to music, talk, flirt, have sex, etc. How could studying math and
science possibly be more enjoyable than all these fun things? This
chapter focuses on this kind of dilemma. 
(Follow up at age 38: John flunked out of college in his junior year,
got married to a girl in his hometown, and had three children. His job
is secure but uninteresting; it involves operating large earth moving
equipment. He has become a loner and depressed. He and his wife
drifted apart. Divorced at 37, he misses his children terribly. He still
tends to procrastinate, is late for work, doesn't pay his bills on time,
and makes no plans for the future. He manages to keep his job but
isn't likely to be promoted. The dreams of success he had in college
seem so far away and futile to him now.) 
Background to theories explaining why we behave as we do
Learned people have always been interested in learning. 2400
years ago, Plato believed that we all had a soul which knew
everything. He thought this knowledge was available to us through our
"mind's eye" via introspection and reasoning, not observation. His
student, Aristotle, disagreed; he believed we learned through
observation and thinking to discover the "laws of nature." For instance,
Aristotle observed and concluded that ideas were associated in certain
ways; namely, ideas that are similar, opposites, frequently paired, and
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