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Adams

Report of Behavioral Program


Emily Adams
Advanced Human Learning
PSY 605
Fall 2013

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Problem Behavior
When I begin a study session, it usually occurs on my laptop computer. I open any
documents I need to, as well as many websites I do not need to. I open my email accounts and
social networking sites very soon after I begin the designated study session. When I lose interest
in those sites, I keep them open as I begin my schoolwork. Throughout the homework session,
my mind wanders or I become confused about or overwhelmed by the assignment, I direct my
attention back to email or social media websites. This is a tactic I have justified as self-care.
The idea is that by getting my mind off of the bothersome homework assignment, I will return to
it refreshed and clear-headed. However, this is rarely the case when switch my attention back to
my homework. What usually happens is I return to my homework even more confused since
now I have completely lost my train of thought. Yet this has been a persistent pattern throughout
my undergraduate experience. Now that I am in graduate school, I have noticed this behavior
has increased considering the new amount and intensity of work I am given.
Since I am not able to stay focused on my assignments, I fear my grades will suffer.
When I think I am not meeting the expectations of my professors, I self-indulge with socialmedia to get my mind off of my worries.

Background to the Problem


I was raised with the social world of the internet since I was 12 years old. Chatting with
friends online was one of my very favorite things to do through junior high and high school.
Social media sites gained popularity when I was in my early twenties, and quickly became a
preferred pastime. Since in college, if I feel overwhelmed while doing homework, logging on to
Facebook is a quick and easy escape. Usually I have a length of this time in mind, five minutes,
tops, is frequently my thought process before 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or an hour goes by and I

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have no idea how much time is escaping me that I had actually set aside for homework. My
ability to be distracted easily on Facebook, or other random internet sites contributes to my poor
time management skills. However, I have never let my internet use interfere with school work
until this fall semester when I was admitted into a graduate program. Frequent factors that
contribute to decreased on-task studying time seem to be when I am fatigued of the assignment I
am working on, or when I feel confused or overwhelmed about an assignment. The most
common cause this semester I have been off-task is due to feeling overwhelmed while studying,
considering my work load has increased substantially. These factors lead me to find stimulation
elsewhere, most likely on social media websites. When I log on to Facebook, for example, I
instantly forget about my work looming overhead, and instead, I am reminded of my friends and
family and read articles they post, or an update about how their day is going. This instantly
uplifts my mood, and I am happy until I realize I have to eventually return to my assignment.
However, when I return to my assignment I am no more focused than I was before and
sometimes even less so.
Scholarly Literature Perspective
Hall and Parsons (2001) speak of Internet Behavior Dependence, a form of internet
addiction. Internet dependence at one end of the scale can be as powerful as gambling addictions
(Hall & Parsons, 2001, p. 2). They also note that students are one of the most susceptible
demographic to have this dependence (Hall & Parsons, 2001, p. 4). However, they dont view
this as any sort of serious illness, We see this disorder simply as a maladaptive cognitive coping
style that can be modified through basic cognitive-behavioral intervention (Hall & Parsons,
2001, p. 3).

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Steve Jones reports that regular internet use is very common amongst students today. He
claims that 72 % of college students check their email at least once a day (Jones, 2002, p. 3).
According to Hall & Parsons (2001), maladaptive internet use can impair cognitive, behavioral,
and affective functioning in an otherwise healthy person, and we specifically do not endorse a
pathological etiology for this problem (Hall & Parsons, 2001, p. 3).
Pempek, Yermolayeva, and Calvert (2009) report a study that reports around 50% of 1217 year olds visit social networking sites every day. Not only everyday but, 22% logged on to
social networking sites several times per day (p. 2). They also reported college students on
average spend approximately 30 minutes a day on Facebook.com in particular; this was usually
broken up into smaller visits throughout the day (Pempek, Yermolayeva, & Calvert, 2009, p. 5).
Fifty-five percent of respondents reported they logged in a few times a day, while 31%
reported they logged in several times that day (Pempek et al., 2009, p. 5).
In fact, Pempek et al. also reference a study of U.S. Midwestern college students that
found 91% of respondents have Facebook.com account and use it (as cited in Pempek et al.
2009, p. 2). The reason for this could be, as Jones points out, younger generations were raised
with the internet always at their fingertips, One-fifth (20%) of today's college students began
using computers between the ages of 5 and 8. By the time they were 16 to 18 years old all of today's
current college students had begun using computers and the Internet was a commonplace in the
world in which they lived (Jones, 2002, p. 3).

There is also the academic side of frequent internet use. Many colleges and Universities
expect students to use online resources for assignments and for communication. Jones (2002)
reports that 38% of the college students in his survey use the internet most often to engage in
work for classes, and 7% most often use it for professional communication (Jones, 2002, p. 8).

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He also reports that 79% of the students reported the internet has positively impacted their
academic experience (Jones, 2002, p. 4). However, in the same study, 42 % utilize the internet
most often for social communication (Jones, 2002, p. 4).
Not only is the internet a means of communication with friends, but also serves as a
distraction tool for students who may feel overwhelmed by the demands of academia. They may
procrastinate assignments while engaging in distracting behaviors (internet sites, texting, etc.)
until the very last minute before the assignment is due. Engaging in self-regulation to avoid
these common stressful situations will help prevent them from re-occurring. Macan, Shahani,
Dipboye, & Phillips (1990) report some advice to handle stress and better manage time for
college students while trying to stay focused while in school (p. 1). The basic recommendations
are to identify needs and wants, rank them in regard to their importance or priority, and then
allocate time and resources accordingly. Other tips include: Try to handle each piece of paper
only once, delegate work, and continually ask yourself, What is the best use of my time right
now? (Macan, Shahani, Dipboye, & Phillips, 1990, p. 1). I often encounter this situation while
in a study session, feeling overwhelmed or not equipped to tackle my next obstacle. Keeping
this in mind might help me stay focused

Behaviors to be addressed
The first behavior that needs to be addressed is the amount of time I spend on-task during
a study session. The duration of this time needs to be increased. The antecedent to this behavior
is the beginning of a study session-when I sit down to start my homework. The behavior of
being on-task consists of my attention remaining on the designated homework without being
distracted by anything else. The second behavior is the amount of time I spend off-task during a
study session. The duration of this time needs to be decreased. The antecedent to off-task

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behavior is usually tied to feeling fatigued or inadequate during the study session. This behavior
consists of directing my attention to anything that isnt my designated homework-whether it be
checking my email, Facebook, or checking my phone for a call or a text message. Since by
addressing the first behavior, I believed those results would sequentially yield positive results for
the second behavior. I would record my data in duration, or the length of time the behavior
occurs. My behavioral goals were as follows:

Increase Percentage of On-Task Studying Time


Decrease percentage of Off-Task Studying Time
I used the chart below to collect my baseline data. I used continuous recording and wrote

the session number, the start and the end time of each instance I was on-task. These sessions
were frequently disrupted by checking my text messages, logging on to Facebook, or checking
email. Whenever I was distracted I made sure to write the start time and end time for each
occurrence, then subtracted the off-task time from the total study session to get the total on-task
time. I calculated the percentage of on-task time considering the total session length, and did this
for all 13 data points. I then calculated the total average percentage for all 13 points. Since my
baseline data displayed my average percentage of a study session spent on-task was 66%, this is
where I will start to slowly increase the behavior.
Baseline Data
Study Session
% on-task
1
93
2
100
3
87
4
81
5
100
6
34
7
31
8
87

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9
10
11
12
13

80
33
24
26
83

Average=

66%

Behavior change procedures to be implemented


I chose a technique that allowed me to increase the duration of on-task study sessions
through successive approximations from an entry level behavior to a goal behavior. This
technique is known as shaping. The antecedent to my behavior (beginning the study session)
will remain the same, but my behavior (staying on-task until the timer goes off) will gradually
change. There is an entry level behavior that is already present that I will build toward the goal
behavior. My entry level behavior (once I sit down to begin my homework at my desk) is
beginning my homework. I will slowly increase the duration of this behavior, until I have
reached the goal duration of on-task studying. The reinforcement is administered only after each
criterion level is reached. Since I am slowly increasing the percentage of time, I need to meet
that requirement every time the percentage is increased, or I do not receive the reinforcement.
The reinforcement chosen must be effective and powerful for the individual. A carefully
and thoughtfully chosen reinforcement is the key to a successful behavior change. In this
situation, I knew I would appreciate using Facebook as my positive reinforcement, especially if I
am deprived of it. The reinforcement should only be available under the circumstances of the
appropriate behavior change, so I would only have access to Facebook if I met the required
percentage of on-task homework time. If I did not withhold logging on to Facebook, I would
risk satiation. Satiation occurs when the learner habituates to the reinforcement (when it is
readily available to them), and they lose interest. I chose positive reinforcement, rewarding

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myself with something desirable, I would allow myself to log on to Facebook after completing a
requirement. I knew punishing myself, or applying something aversive, for not staying on-task
would lead to resentment of the project. I also knew that by using response-cost, or taking away
something desirable if I did not meet criteria, would yield the same results as punishment. My
other option was negative reinforcement, or removing something that is pleasurable, didnt fit
with my project since there was nothing aversive present besides the homework assignments,
which are impossible to remove.
I placed myself in control of administering the reinforcement. However, with great
power comes great responsibility. This would encourage self-regulation and accountability. I
also addressed the following factors to ensure the consequences were effective: I placed myself
on a continuous reinforcement schedule, presenting the reward every time I met criteria. This
would make certain the desired on-task behavior would successively increase every time
reinforcement was given. The reinforcement was presented immediately after meeting time
criteria, this would strengthen the desired behavior and not any behavior that follows.
Reinforcement was given briefly to guard against satiation, as well as consistently to encourage
the appropriate behavior every time. The Facebook application on my phone made the
reinforcement portable. I was able to reward myself immediately and consistently when at the
library or when I wasnt working on a computer.

Observation and recording procedures


I focused on the duration of study time to record and improve upon. I could have chosen
to record frequency of interruptions and slowly decreased the occurrences. However, putting the
focus on increasing the time of on-task studying made more sense to me. In terms of time
studying, I recorded the percentage of a study session I was on-task for instead of the amount of

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time (minutes/hours). This enabled me to schedule varying lengths of study sessions and still
have consistent data. I set a goal percentage of a session each time I began. With every fourth
successful time I met criteria, I would increase the required amount of time again. Each set of
four successes were recorded as phases in my graph. There were a total of 5 phases.
The following chart I designed to keep track of each study session I engaged in, the
duration expected of me, how many successful sessions I had completed, and whether I was
given reinforcement. This chart was especially helpful when I considering the number of times I
had met criterion in a phase and knew to increase the percentage required in the next phase.

Session
Phase 1:
1
2
3
4
5
6
Phase 2:
7
8
9
10
11

Program Implementation
% On-Task
Minutes
% Completed
Needed
Completed

Reinforcement
Given?

71%
71%
71%
71%
71%
71%

43/60
43/60
34/60
43/60
4/60
43/60

71%
71%
56%
71%
7%
71%

Yes
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes

76%
76%
76%
76%

46/60

76%

Yes

Description of Program Implementation


The program lasted six weeks total. Some days I engaged in multiple study sessions and
some days I had none. Each study session didnt always consist of the same amount of time, so I
used percentage of time I was on-task during each session instead of minutes. I implemented all
of the program and procedures myself on myself. I was responsible for keeping track of time,

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recording amount of on-task time, and controlling the reinforcement. The fact that I applied
everything in this program required self-regulation.
To get a baseline of time I am typically on-task during a study session, I decided how
long I wanted my study session to last, then wrote down the exact time I started (e.g. 12:46pm).
If I checked a text message, looked at a non-school related website, or got up from my desk, I
recorded the exact time I began the distracted task and the time I began my homework again (e.g.
distracted: 1:15pm-1:32pm). These disruptions occurred multiple times during one session, to
which I recorded each of their duration. After thirteen baseline recordings, I added the total time
off-task and subtracted it from the total length of the study session leaving me with the amount of
time I was on-task. I calculated the percentage of focused studying in terms of the total study
session. I completed this task for all 13 data points. The average amount of time I was on-task,
which was 66%. I then began to implement the treatment.
First, I decided to slowly increase the amount of time I needed to be on-task in 5%
increments. Second, I decided to increase these increments every fourth successful attempt I
made. For example, in my first session I increased 5% from my baseline of 66% to a
requirement of 71%. I would need to meet that requirement four times successfully before I
increased the requirement by 5% again. My sessions were usually 30 to 60 minutes, so I
calculated the total required minutes I needed to be on-task. For example, if I needed to be
focused for 71% of a 1 hour study period, I multiply .71 x 60 = 42.6. I would need to remain ontask for 43 minutes of that hour study period, and I would set a timer. When the timer went off
and I completed the total task percentage, I positively reinforced myself with 9% (of my study
period length) of Facebook time. If my study period was 1 hour, 9% of that hour would be 5
minutes (.09 x 60 = 5.4).

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Third, I decided the ultimate criterion level of my on-task study time would be 91%. My
goal behavior was to remain focused for 91% of the study session. If my study session was an
hour long, 91% of that session would be 55 minutes (.91 x 60 = 54.6). The next increment of
required time would be 76%, then 81% then 86%, until finally 91%. I had to complete 91% of 4
study session as well for it to be recorded as successful. Each of these increments are noted at
phases in my graph, there are a total of 5 phases.
In order for this program to be implemented long-term, an intermittent reinforcement
schedule may need to replace the continuous reinforcements given. This would guard against
satiation and also would increase successful sessions. If variable ratio was used in the
intermittent reinforcement schedule, results would be achieved quickly due to the unpredictable
nature of using a response average.

Results
The behavior modification program lasted for 25 study sessions over the course of six
weeks. When I first initially administered the behavior treatment program, I thought it would be
easy to follow. By the third session, I realized refraining from answering text messages would be
very challenging. The sessions that I didnt meet criteria were usually when I was
communicating with a friend either via text message or through Facebook. Abstaining from
socializing and making plans with friends proved to be a difficult task. However, the more I saw
how productive I was becoming, the more I wanted to stick to my schedule. Keeping track of
my progress allowed me to visually see my accomplishments along the way and helped me stay
focused. I also found that splitting the sessions into 30-60 minute increments encouraged me to

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engage in sessions more often since they seemed short enough to manage and plan for. I realized
wasnt overwhelmed by the amount of time each session required.
Choosing Facebook as my positive reinforcement was a wise choice that catered to my
social drive, however being in complete control over administering it when needed proved to be
difficult. I needed to take extra precautions so I wouldnt visit the site reflexively as I sat down
at a computer outside of a study session. I deleted shortcuts I had saved on my laptop to control
for access. Another difficulty I took precautions for occurred toward the beginning of the
program when I was frequently distracted with text messages. I ended up turning my phone on
silent and turning it over so I wouldnt see the face light up when I was contacted. An additional
difficulty I came across was the time I waited to start a study session could have been another
feature of this program. I found myself waiting a very long time to begin, and by controlling for
latency, I would have been able to address that behavior as well.
I also noticed there were sessions I completed within the time required, but didnt realize
so much time had gone by. When the timer went off, I was hesitant to reward myself with
Facebook for fear I would get out of the groove of my studying mindset. This program has
taught me how out of hand my disruptions can get if I am not paying attention, and to what
degree these occurrences really do disrupt my studying sessions.

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Increase Percentage of On-task Studying Time

References

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Hall, A. S., & Parsons, J. (2001). Internet Addiction: College Student Case Study Using Best
Practices in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Journal Of Mental Health Counseling, 23(4),
312.
Jones, S., & Pew Internet and American Life Project, W. C. (2002). The Internet Goes to
College: How Students Are Living in the Future with Today's Technology.
Macan, T. H., Shahani, C., Dipboye, R. L., & Phillips, A. P. (1990). College students' time
management: Correlations with academic performance and stress. Journal Of
Educational Psychology, 82(4), 760-768. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.82.4.760
Pempek, T. A., Yermolayeva, Y. A., & Calvert, S. L. (2009). College students' social networking
experiences on Facebook. Journal Of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30(3), 227238. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2008.12.010