Origin of Behavior Modification

Behavior modification is based on a number of different theories and research studies. It was influenced by the conditioning principles set forth by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, theories set forth by American B. F. Skinner, and the work of psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe.

Ivan Pavlov was most famous for training dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell — a case of rewarding and shaping behavior that usually cannot be deliberately controlled. Pavlov demonstrated how such responses can be learned and also can be suppressed. This has implications for treating emotional reactions.

Skinner was a pioneer in the field of operant conditioning, which believes that behavior generally understood as conscious and intentional is modified by its consequences. Consciousness was considered to be relatively unimportant in the control of behavior. Joseph Wolpe, a pioneer in applying these results to therapy, was famous for his pioneering efforts in the areas of desensitization and assertiveness training. By the 1970s, behavior therapy was widely used in treating a variety of mental conditions, including depression, anxiety, phobias, and ADHD.


Because behavior modification is often used to treat teens with eating disorders and drug abuse, behavior modification may help your child reduce symptoms of both ADHD as well as one of these coexisting conditions. Behavior modification is most effective when used in combination with ADHD medications and psychotherapy.

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