Blog Post #4: Behaviorism

2 Commentsby   |  04.02.13  |  Student Posts

Behaviorism is the psychological perspective that places its emphasis on behavior and what encourages and discourages it. In the early days of behaviorism, animals were used in experiments to determine how to increase or decrease certain actions or behavior patterns and also to see how they learn. What was learned from these experiments is that there are ways to adjust an environment to change behavior in a desired way. A modern example of how the behaviorism perspective is used today on people is with ringtones.

With our ability to select and customize ringtones on our phones, we have started to condition ourselves. To start, just hearing a phone go off that has the same ringtone triggers a response in me. Phones provide social interaction and therefore social rewards by being able to interact with someone. Interaction with others is something that we instinctively crave. People simply tend to desire social interaction and communication. With these interactions, we will have certain emotions and feelings that are consistent with the social interactions we have via our phones. We will associate certain feelings with our phone. The thing that turns this habit that has overrun high schools nationwide into an example of behaviorism is that it is triggered by a ringtone. Something as simple as a three tone noise on my iPhone, brings up thoughts in my brain that someone is trying to talk to me. A quick song clip or series of chimes tells us that a social network is trying to reach us. This association is a good example of classical conditioning. Consistent with the idea of classical conditioning, every time I hear my ringtone, I immediately think that someone has texted or is calling me. This is particularly annoying at movie theaters when they play the video that’s designed to tell its patrons to turn their phones off. In the end, I have become conditioned like Pavlovs dog to assume that the social world is reaching out to me and check my phone every time I hear a short sound byte.


  1. Kelsey Hilton
    8:48 am, 04.03.13

    It’s so true! There is a commercial on TV where someone receives a text and they use the iPhone sound. Even though I see the phone on the TV my first instinct is to turn to my phone. I think you’re right about associating certain feelings with the ringtones as well. Because we have the ability to give each person a different ringtone it is easy to ignore incoming calls from someone you don’t feel like talking to or unknown callers without even looking at the phone.

  2. Emily Bibb
    2:25 pm, 04.03.13

    I had never thought of this before, but I think you are on to something, Lincoln! I keep my phone on silent most of the time, but sometimes I think I hear a vibration or feel my phone vibrate if it is in my pocket, and immediately check to see if I have a new message on my phone. This device has become our primary source of communication with our friends and family and it truly is a reward when we receive a message after hearing that certain text tone or feeling the selected vibration pattern.

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