3 Methods for Breaking Bad Habits – Guthrie’s Contiguity Theory

breaking bad habits
Breaking bad habits

There are many behaviors and bad habits that we all make into habits and that we want to give up but cannot give up. Although some of them rarely affect us, others are always after us and these bad habits negatively affect our quality of life. That’s why breaking bad habits we have is of great importance to improve our quality of life and advance our personal development.

Examples of such habits include a young person who cannot stop his craving for junk food, a child who does not eat cheese despite all his mother’s insistence and effort, a woman who cannot overcome his dog phobia, a man who cannot give up his bad habits, and a student who is afraid of school.

In this article, we will talk about what it takes to break old habits and how to gain new habits, have a pleasant reading…

The psychologist who developed his theory by being influenced by the behavioral psychology movement; Edwin Ray Guthrie (1886-1959) explained his views on learning with the “Contiguity Theory“, and then explained the ways we can choose to destroy habits in a way that supports his theory.

The basic rule in destroying and  breaking bad habits is always the same. The stimulus that causes the unwanted and desired response is found, and in the presence of this stimulus, another response is provided. In this way, the new association established between the stimulus and the undesired response is destroyed, and an association is established between the stimulus and new and desired responses.

Guthrie, suggested three different methods for breaking bad habits.

Three (3) Methods For Breaking Bad Habits

fear of public speaking - breaking bad habits
Fear of public speaking – Breaking bad habits

1- Threshold Method

It is gradually moving away from a behavior we are used to, or gradually approaching the behavior we want to get used to. The purpose of this method, which is also used by modern psychotherapists; It is to ensure that the organism gets used to the stimulus by gradually increasing the stimulus that causes the undesired response by giving it at a very low level.

This method is also used to overcome fears and phobias and is called systematic desensitization in this field.

Her mother, who wanted to accustom the little boy who hates to eat cheese, to eat cheese, put cheese varieties in his small meals and cakes and fed him to his child. Then, by gradually increasing the size of the cheese, he was finally able to feed the cheese directly.

The psychological counselor of the person who is afraid to speak in public, avoids expressing himself, but will make the thesis presentation soon, followed the following processes:

The person first made a speech in front of his family members, next to 5-6 close friends in the following weeks, and in a larger group of friends in the following weeks, and finally felt that he was able to make the expected speech in front of the group he wanted.

2-Exhaustion Method

The person is exposed to the stimulus until they are tired of giving the undesirable response. As the person will get tired of showing this reaction over time, he gives up showing this unwanted reaction against the same stimulus.

According to the last principle, the response to a stimulus is the last response to that stimulus. In this case, since the last reaction to the stimulus in question is not an undesired reaction, this reaction will not be given the next time to this stimulus.

Guthrie stated that the method of boredom can also be used to eliminate the reaction of trying to throw the saddle placed on the back of a wild horse. The saddle is placed on the horse’s back and the rider jumps on the horse and stays on the horse until the horse gets tired of being kicked. After a while, the horse will not stomp even though it has a saddle on its back.

3- Counter-Response Method

Fear of dogs - Breaking Bad Habits
Fear of dogs – Breaking Bad Habits

The stimulus that causes the undesired response and the stimulus that can compete with this stimulus and produce a desired response (opposite response) are presented together.

The person who does not like to memorize words, but loves to sing, can create lyrics with words while studying in English and memorize more easily in this way,

Ensuring that the child, who is afraid of dogs, interacts with the dog while he is safe in his mother’s lap, and the feeling of trust given by the mother is not overpowered and the fear response is not given,

After the child, who does not like going to school, has a group of friends with whom he likes to spend time, the reaction of “not liking school” decreases and disappears…

While creating these methods, Guthrie has taken into account the principle of replacing the response given to a certain stimulus with a new reaction, that is, forgetting the previous response. So actually;

The child, who starts to eat cheese with the threshold method, forgets to spit out the cheese and take it out of his mouth.

The horse, accustomed to the saddle on its back with the boredom method, forgets to stomp.

The child, who starts to approach the dog with the opposite reaction method, forgets the behavior of escaping from him.

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