Why Behavior Contracts Don`t Work

  • Posted by catsys
  • On 9 września 2023
  • In

Behavior contracts are often seen as a solution to help people modify their behavior and achieve their goals. However, many experts argue that behavior contracts are ineffective in the long term. In this article, we’ll explore why behavior contracts don’t work and what alternatives can be used instead.

1. Incentives can backfire

Behavior contracts often include incentives or rewards for meeting certain goals. However, research shows that incentives can backfire and have the opposite effect on behavior. When incentives are removed, people may lose motivation to continue exhibiting the desired behavior.

2. Focus on punishment instead of positive reinforcement

Behavior contracts are often centered around what will happen if the individual doesn’t meet their goals, rather than rewarding them for success. Punishment can be motivating in the short term, but it doesn’t encourage the individual to learn and develop positive habits that will last.

3. Unrealistic expectations

Behavior contracts are often created with unrealistic expectations or goals that are too difficult to achieve. This can result in the individual feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and ultimately, unable to accomplish their goals.

4. Focus on compliance rather than intrinsic motivation

Behavior contracts focus on external motivation, rather than helping individuals find their own intrinsic motivation. This means that individuals are more likely to comply with the contract, rather than feeling personally invested in the process of behavior change.

5. Limited scope

Behavior contracts often only address the specific behavior that needs to be changed, rather than the underlying causes of the behavior. This means that the individual does not fully understand why they need to change their behavior and may not be able to maintain the change in the long term.

Alternatives to Behavior Contracts

If behavior contracts don’t work, what can be used instead? Here are some alternatives:

1. Goal setting and planning

Helping individuals set realistic goals that are achievable and creating a plan to achieve those goals can be an effective alternative to behavior contracts.

2. Positive reinforcement

Rather than focusing on punishment, positive reinforcement can be used to motivate individuals to change their behavior. This includes verbal praise, recognition, and rewards that are meaningful to the individual.

3. Education and support

Educating individuals about the reasons why their behavior needs to change and providing ongoing support can help them develop intrinsic motivation and sustain behavior change in the long term.

In conclusion, while behavior contracts may seem like a quick fix solution to help individuals modify their behavior, they have been shown to be ineffective in the long term. Instead, focusing on realistic goal setting, positive reinforcement, education, and support can be more effective alternatives to help individuals achieve lasting behavior change.

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