Every single day, my wrestling coach sits my team for the first half hour of practice and gives a speech. He says that we are a championship team, but we shouldn’t dog our practices and pretend to be half alive. This could be easily remedied if our team pushed each other to their wit’s end. However, seeing as though we are all Bronx Science students, we’ve succumbed to loss of sleep, piles of homework, lack of motivation, and laziness. In my own opinion, I find that it is a legitimate excuse that many students are exhausted and do not attempt to try their hardest at practice. I myself have done this many times, as I am often up past midnight finishing my homework from my various AP classes. Although I do feel exhausted from all the work I receive, I feel bad because our coach stays just as long as us in order to help us practice and be amazing wrestlers.
Before mat practice, our coach has the team jog and sprint for a half hour. While I run, I feel exhausted and distressed. Why do I push myself to do something that feels so bad? But after we stop and begin mat practice, our coach tells us how proud he is and how proud we should be in ourselves. It is at that moment when I feel a warm sense of pride. I am part of an amazing team and I should push myself to become a better wrestler. I am constantly reminded of my desire to get better, and that the only way that would happen would be through practice. However, it is extremely easy to forget about the goals I’ve set in practice. For example, once the weekend starts, I would wake up around noon and I wouldn’t exercise for however long school was out for. I wanted to stop falling into the same rut every weekend. When Christmas break came around, I decided that I would modify the time I spent running every day during break.
According to the baseline data, the amount of time I spent running per day consisted only of the time I ran at practice. This is a problem because if I did not maintain my physical activities outside of school, then my overall endurance would decrease. My failure to run and maintain my stamina outside of school would result in a decrease in fitness level during practice. Rather than focusing on the moves I have to practice more on, I have to focus on how not to fall behind when I experience shortness of breath and muscle cramps. I feel as if I essentially waste my time at practice because I feel as if I am unprepared to combat the physical exhaustion I face after twenty minutes of jogging. This experiment would be an attempt to remedy my undesirable behavior.
My goal for this experiment was to jog for 30 to 40 minutes a day during Christmas break, in comparison to the 20 minutes I ran at practice. While the time is longer than the time I run at practice, I would not be increasing my speed while I ran and would therefore push myself to increase my endurance without too much physical exertion. I also allotted a time range so that my goal of 40 minutes would be reached by the end of the week, but I would feel content in knowing I ran a little less. By the end of the week, I would have ran for about 280 minutes.
Materials and Methods
I collected my baseline data for seven days. As said initially in the Introduction, my negative behavior was identified to be my failure to exercise outside of practice which resulted in an overall loss of fitness and my lack of motivation to attempt at running. A behavior modification program was created using these baseline results in order to achieve the goal of this experiment. I had a friend jog with me who tracked my progress and administered a token economy system, one where stars were rewarded to me after every 10 minutes of jogging, depending on the length I jogged for. My friend would then come over after I ran and help me mark my progress on my star chart. I had created a chart that recorded the amount of stars I won and hung it on my bulletin board on my wall. I specifically hung it there so that when I woke up in the morning, I would be reminded of my goal and be motivated to pursue and complete it.
After the 7 day period had finished, the star chart was evaluated. I had received 24 stars by the end of the week. For every 6 stars achieved I would reward myself by buying a doughnut from Doughnut Plant. In this experiment, the schedule of reinforcement set up is identified as a fixed ration schedule: it provides reinforcement after a set number of responses. In this experiment a star was given after every 10 minutes of jogging. The stars were secondary reinforces because the reward system of stars directly correlated to the reward system of receiving doughnuts.
According to my results, I had ran for a total time of 240 minutes and had been rewarded 24 stars at the end of the week. Comparing my results from Data Tables 1 and 2, it is evident that positive reinforcement had shaped my behavior so that I was more inclined to run every day. During the collection of my baseline data, I had not been rewarded for the amount of time I had ran. Therefore, it can be concluded that I felt less inclined to continue running when I didn’t have practice because I did not set up a system of gratification. However, once I started my experiment, I ran for at least 30 minutes a day and made sure I continued to pursue my goal by bringing a friend to jog with me. The experiment was indeed a success in that it helped improve my endurance and shaped my behavior of exercising outside of school.
Results (Data Tables and Graph)
Table 1: Baseline Data. Amount of Time Spent Running per Day
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
20 min 20 min 20 min 20 min 20 min
Table 2: Experimental Data. Amount of Time Spent Running per Day including Rewards
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
Time Spent Running (Total Practice) 30 min 30 min 30 min 30 min 40 min 40 min 40 min
Stars Earned 3 3 3 3 4 4 4
Total Stars Since Day 1 3 6 9 12 16 20 24
Figure 1: Graph Depicting Number of Stars Earned Over Time
As mentioned previously in my Results, I had achieved my goal of running for around 280 minutes. I had ran for a total of 240 minutes at the end of the week. In Figure 1, it depicts the relationship between the number of stars I had earned and the amount of time I had ran. I had stayed on track with how much time I spent running over the break. Since I had allotted a reward of a doughnut purchase after every 6 stars, I had gone to purchase it every other day. This form of positive reinforcement helped to shape my behavior because it provided a form of instant gratification.
Ultimately, the self-shaping project had indeed been a success because the allotment of positive reinforcement through the purchase of doughnuts had motivated me to continue my behavior frequently over a longer period of time. The promise of a reward every other day, however, made me realize that I seemed motivated to practice simply because I wanted to satisfy my sweet tooth. I had believed that the promise of a doughnut caused me to feel more excited about jogging every day. But I later realized that even though I had set up a method of instant gratification, I truly enjoyed running because as I continued to wake up and run every morning, I found that my shortness of breath had decreased and I felt less fatigued afterwards. I had begun to experience less muscle cramps and my body slowly adjusted to physically exerting myself every day. I cannot say that the exchange of stars for doughnuts did not help fuel my progress though. The star chart I had placed on my wall was a constant reminder of my progress and the goal I tried to fulfill. Overall, the token economy set in place for the retrieval of stars in exchange for doughnuts had positively shaped my behavior.
At the end of the experiment, I had realized that it is often easier to make up excuses not to do something than it is to take action and pursue a goal. Often times, the goal itself is very overwhelming and someone could get discouraged very easily. However, though the installment of positive reinforcement, a person could positively shape his behavior and feel satisfied with the effort, progress, and improvement that helped to shape their behavior.
Although the experiment did help shape my behavior over the break, the only way it could be effective would be if I had constantly ran every day. In order to maintain this schedule, I would have to continue to make time and run for 30 to 40 minutes every day, until the behavior had been integrated into my daily routine. At that point, I would no longer need the reward of a doughnut because I would have gotten used to jogging every day and the behavior would have become second nature for me.
In the future, if I do not continue with my intended behavior and it became extinguished in the future, I could redo this experiment. This would trigger spontaneous recovery as I would force my body to pick up a behavior it had forgotten or extinguished previously. However, the installment of a new form of positive reinforcement would have to be set in place because the same form of reward might not work the second time around. In the future, I could set in place a different form of gratification. For example, I could treat myself to dinner in a cuisine I have never tried before.