Behavioral Modification

Behavioral Modification Overview

Social Cognitive theory

(behavioral and environmental factors)

Social cognitive theory is based on the theory that behavioral modification is based on a personal sense of control (Luszczynska & Schwarzer, 2005). Social Cognitive Theory provides that if people perceive that they can take a specific action to affect the outcome of an event, they will be more inclined to take the action and feel more committed to their decision.



Self-Determination Theory is based on a person’s “inherent growth tendencies and innate psychological needs” being their primary determinants of solf-motivations and personality integration (Ryan & Deci, 2000). The theory identifies that there is a need for competence, relatedness, and autonomy to facilitate optimal functioning and a natural desire for growth and integration, as well as for social development and a personal well-being (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

The elaboration likelihood model

(information processing)

The elaboration likelihood model is a theory regarding the processes involved in attitude changes, how variables affect these processes, and the “strength of the judgments resulting from these processes” (Petty et al., 2004). The elaboration likelihood model provides that a single variable can affect a person’s attitude in a number of different ways, as opposed to the idea that each variable has only a single effect on persuasion.

Behavioral Inoculation

(resistance to temptation)

The use of behavioral inoculation is based on the idea of using “selective exposure” to prepare a person to defend themselves against persuasion by exposing them to counterarguments or temptations in a controlled setting (McGuire, 1961).

Maintenance Theories

(long-term behavior change)

This theory presents that for a person to adopt a new behavior is based on the perceived costs and benefits related to the action that must be taken (Rothman, 2000). In order for a person to maintain the new behavior, they must measure their “perceived satisfaction” with the outcomes. In essence, a person must first commit to modifying an existing behavior based on the costs and benefits, and then they must compare the outcome of the behavior modification with their level of satisfaction (Rothman, 2000).


Luszczynska, A., & Schwarzer, R. (2005). Social Cognitive Theory. Predicting Health Behavior, 2, 127-169. Retrieved January 31, 2016.

McGuire, W. J. (1961). Resistance to Persuasion Conferred by Active and Passive Prior Refutation of the Same and Alternative Counterarguments. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63(2), 326-332. Retrieved January 1, 2016.

Petty, R. E., Rucker, D. D., Bizer, G. Y., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2004). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In J. Seiter & R. Gass (Eds.), Perspectives on persuasion, social influence, and compliance-gaining (pp. 65-89). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Rothman, A. J. (2000). Toward a Theory-Based Analysis of Behavioral Maintenance. Health Psychology, 19(1), 64-69. Retrieved January 31, 2016.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.

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