Learning and Behavior Models

Maura is a 28-year-old female who is visiting a therapist because she is concerned about a repeating pattern of behavior that she has been engaging in during the past 10 years. Maura seems to get involved romantically with partners who have very stable careers but appear to be unable to make a romantic commitment to her. Maura will often date these partners for years. When she asks for a greater commitment, much drama and hurt feelings ensue. She reports that she does not remember much of what happens right after the relationship ends, and shortly after a break up, she finds herself dating someone new. The pattern repeats itself and all of the bad memories from the previous breakups come flooding back.
After reading the case, address the following issues:
Select two of the learning models you have studied thus far and compare/contrast them as you analyze the case of Maura. How does each explain the learning and behavior occurring? Which model do you find explains the behavior most fully and why?
Which model(s) explains why Maura does not remember the negative events until much time has passed?
Focusing on the model you feel best explains the behavior, design a basic modification program to help the client engage in more desirable behavior.
Describe the ethical considerations that should occur when designing your modification plan

Sample paper

Learning and Behavior Models

In most cases, individuals are at the risk of repeating their previous actions or behaviors willingly or unwillingly due to the psychology of habits.  The psychology of habits helps individuals to know the reasons behind their repeated behaviors over time. Psychology comprises of the study of behavior and mind appreciating and embracing all aspects, activities and actions of both the conscious and unconscious part of the human brain. To many therapists and psychologists, psychology is an academic discipline and part of applied science that aids in understanding persons and group of individuals through the establishment of general principles, rules and regulations that comprise of researching specific cases of human behavior. On the other hand, Psychology of habit is part and parcel of the larger and broader field of psychology that helps therapists and psychologists to analyze an individual behavior to establish patterns and trends in their actions, activities and mind. Thus, a habit forms a repeated pattern of behavior that can be conditioned and could be carried out for years. However, the longer a behavior lasts, the stronger the behavior becomes to an individual. This study seeks to provide detailed information about Maura’s case who is a 28- years old female who has a habit of dating and breaking up with partners who have a stable career for over ten years now.

Question 1

A human being can be explained and referred to as a learning being that learns different things and behaviors each and every single day through the surrounding environment, emotions and other people.  With time, psychologists have developed learning models that are used to explain the different methods and ways that an individual can use to learn different survival tactics and behaviors.  Learning models present a conceptual framework that helps in describing a systematic and chronological procedure and process in organizing learning experiences to attain and achieve various learning objectives (Wang, 2011).  Some of the most appropriate learning models that can be applied in Maura’s case include:

  1. Behaviorism
  2. Behaviorist learning theory is an approach adopted by psychologists and is widely based on the propositions that human behavior can be easily researched scientifically without recourse or causing any internal harm to mental states of the subjects. It is considered as one of the pillars of psychological treatment and therapy. Most of the psychologists who have adopted this approach state that free will are an illusion which does not exist in human behavior and as a result, all human behaviors can be associated and attributed to the environment surrounding an individual or an animal either through reinforcement or association. Psychologists believe that observation of an individual behavior is the best and most convenient method of investigating and studying psychological and mental processes of individuals. Behaviorism widely functions and operates on the principle and the rule of stimulus response. Thus every human action, activity, and behavior are not out of free will but rather as a reaction to a stimulus that is associated with the environment. As a result, it is easy to explain all human behaviors without the need of putting into consideration the internal mental states or consciousness. This model was developed by Ivan Pavlov and B. F. Skinner.
  • Operant conditioning

  1. Operant conditioning is a learning model that was developed by B. F. Skinner and is widely based on the paramount concept that all human and animal habits and behaviors that are triggered either by internal or external factor will tend to continue for longer periods of time than expected but behaviors that are constantly punished will definitely come to an end after some times. Operant conditioning is known to attempt to modify and influence behavior through the use of both positive and negative outcome. Thus, animals and individuals are able to associate a certain outcome to a certain behavior which can be taken and referred to as the stimulus. Individuals and animals are thus attracted to engage in behaviors and activities that will result in the positive outcome rather than activities and behaviors resulting in negative effects and outcome. The father of this learning model, skinner, believed that an individual should put more emphasis on the external observable causes of certain human behaviors.  The operant conditioning contains five basic processes that are vital in ensuring that an individual or the subject in that matter learns at the end of the process. These basic steps include: positive and negative reinforcement, punishment, response cost and extinction weaken behavior.

I find behaviorist learning as the most satisfying learning model that explains the conduction and situation at hand. In our case, Maura experiences a repeating pattern of getting involved romantically with individuals who have stable careers but at the end of the day do not make a commitment to her. According to behaviorist learning, free will is an illusion that does not exist and it is evident in this situation. Maura’s behavior of engaging with various partners is widely influenced by the stable career of the partners (Sallis, 2008). Her behavior of engaging from one man to another can be taken as the response to the previous relationships that do not end in her way. Thus, as a way to console her emotions and attempt to succeed in settling in a meaningful relationship, she has to jump from one man to another. Moreover, her behavior can be analyzed through observation even without making mental investigations considering that she has already formed a habit that immediately she breaks-up she finds a new partner without taking some time off. The desire to settle down and succeed triggers her behavior for the past ten years.

Question 2

In our case, the 28 years old Maura does not remember right what happens after each relationship and after sometimes she finds herself dating a new person. Surprisingly, the pattern repeats itself and all the bad memories from the previous breakups come flooding back at a later date. The best learning model to explain this condition and habit is operate conditioning that attempts to modify the behavior of the victim, in this case, Maura through the use of positive and negative reinforcements.  The bad memories that Maura experiences can be categorized as negative reinforces that are typically characterized by the removal of unpleasant results after the desired behavior. In our study, the desired behavior is more or less related to Maura’s behavior of hooking up with stable career partners immediately after breaking up forgetting all the bad memories and all the hurting she had to go through after the breakup.  The goal of the negative reinforcement is to increase the behavior of an individual. In additional, the operant conditioning has both the positive and negative punishments that result from an individual’s behavior. On the contrary, punishment occurs when there is an increase of undesirable events in an attempt to reduce or decrease the behavior that follows. Positive punishments are meant to weaken the response from the subject or an individual while a negative punishment occurs when a favorable event is totally removed after an undesirable behavior occurs.

The bad memories of the past breakups can be regarded as the positive punishment that is meant to weaken the behavior of the victim, in this case, Maura. Maura usually reacts to breakups through engaging in another relationship that usually do not end as per expectations and to console herself she immediately gets into another relationship. However, the bad memories occur at the end of every breakup in an attempt to reduce her behavior of getting involved in another relationship without taking some time to think about the repercussions of her behavior (Niggemann, 2012). Thus, it is correct to categories the occurrence of the bad memories far much later as a positive punishment that attempts to curb and reduce Maura’s behavior of getting into relationships.

 Question 3

Behavior modification process is one of the complex processes that can ever be created and developed by therapists and psychologists in the attempt to help victims to change their behaviors for better. For an individual to successfully develop an appropriate behavior modification program, he needs to start by describing the target behavior where he looks for patterns in the behavior by finding answers to questions such as where does the behavior occur and when the behavior occurs? Moreover, the individual needs to avoid mistakes such as confusing motivation and behavior when describing the behavior,  measure the behavior to get the precise data and finally, he needs to identify a baseline for the behavior. The paramount principle of behavior modification comprises of changing of the environmental events that are related to an individual’s behavior.

As a result, developing a basic modification program for Maura, a therapist needs to describe the target behavior which is constantly getting into a relationship with career stable partners who fails to commit to her. The therapist needs to identify where the engagement or rather the relationship occurs, in the workplace, in church or at home. Moreover, he needs to identify the intense of behavior and the frequency of the behavior (Sallis, 2008). Thus, the primary modification factor comprises of include reinforcing the desired behavior while at the same time ignoring the undesired results. Below is Maura’s behavior shaping process:


  1. Maura will Change her workplace.
  2. Maura will change her residential location.
  • Maura will change her work schedule to ensure that she is busy most of the times.
  1. Maura will try to change her inner friends who support her behavior.
  2. Maura will be seeing a therapist once a week for help.

As Maura masters each and every step, she should move to the next step of deciding to change by committing to the program and the process. For the modification to provide positive results, all significant parties need to put their efforts together, have particular and clear behavioral goals as well as have consideration of the total context of the behavior.

Question 4

Most of the human activities are widely influenced and guided by ethics. In most cases, ethics helps in giving reasons for acting in a particular manner or refraining an individual from acting the way they do, for approving or not approving various codes of conducts. Ethical issues and considerations are applicable to both individuals and groups in the society. Considering that a human being is a social being, activities of an individual can affect another person or the society at large and as a result, ethics are paramount in ensuring that individuals behave in a professional and acceptable manner.  Some of the most important ethical issues that would result in Maura’s modification plans include:

  1. Privacy – confidentiality of the information provided by the patient in this case Maura to her therapist is paramount. Maura has total belief and confidence in her therapist and as a result, the therapist should not disclose the patient information to other patients or another therapist of which is a basic requirement for all medical practitioners.
  2. Operant conditioning – operant conditioning g is one of the current trends in ethical considerations in behavior modification that is solely aimed at changing the behavior of individuals. Conditioning the patient to certain changes should be carefully evaluated to ensure that the conditioning does not have negative implications on the victims’ life and those around them(Niggemann, 2012). Personal life and other behaviors should not be affected by the operant conditioning.


In conclusion, after a detailed research, we can say that understanding an individual behavior right from the root causes is paramount in ensuring that there is a positive change.  Additionally, seeking psychological help can aid a victim from leaving his behavior for better and ensuring that there is a change in behavior. By following the above-created modification process Maura can change her behavior.


Niggemann, O. S. (2012). Learning Behavior Models for Hybrid Timed Systems. . In AAAI (Vol. 2, pp. 1083-1090).

Sallis, J. F. (2008). Ecological models of health behavior. . Health behavior and health education: Theory, research, and practice, 4,, 465-486.

Wang, Y. Z. (2011). Combining building and behavior models for evacuation planning. . IEEE computer graphics and applications, 31(3),, 42-55.

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