Behavioral and Social/Cognitive Approaches to Forming Habits


Personalities characterizing a particular person depend on such factors as biological and environmental conditions. These factors combined with humanistic factors are quite crucial in the formation and development of particular character traits in a person.

People are fond of looking at particular influential figure in the society and try to emulate the person’s specific personality that contributes to their achievement. Ranging from Maslow’s theories to specialized cognitive approaches, personalities have been discussed in many ways that aim at intensively elucidating this topic for the purpose of easier comprehension.

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Whenever one emulates a particular habit that has not been biologically acquired, he may find it quite difficult to break off just like some other genetic habits. It is imperative for this person to control the humanistic factors that influence the formation of these habits. Change of habit may also be necessary especially if it causes a negative effect to the person’s lifestyle. It is important for a person to analyze their habits and recognize where they belong, that is, either in the cognitive or behavioral theoretical ideologies.

Analysis of One of My Habits

I started smoking tobacco when I was 12 years for the reason that I was living with my uncle who was a heavy smoker. The other reason why I developed this habit was due to the fact that my uncle was a successful businessman in the transport industry and had many friends who were smokers. He owned several trucks which he hired out for the transportation of petroleum products.

My uncle often took me to one of the pubs where he met his friends for leisure and fun. At one instance, one of his friends offered me with $200 only if I finished a whole packet of cigarette.

My uncle could not go against it. I took the offer with haste and within an hour I had devoured the entire packet. I was offered the reward of 200 dollars, an amount that I had never owned before. From there onwards, I began smoking so that I would not suffer challenges whenever I was faced with similar kind of offers. Thus my uncle, the people around him, and the availability of cigarettes together with the rewards influenced my smoking habit.

I have attempted to stop this habit in vain. A year ago, I tried enrolling in a rehab facility where I ended up quitting after two weeks. Frustrating as it seems, I have visited well known counselors though my peers keep controlling my decisions. All my friends smoke, how do I leave this habit and at the same time continue to befriend them? It is pretty difficult.

The behavioral personality theory tries to explain how a person can develop a particular habit as a result of partial reinforcement. For my case, I developed smoking because I was given a substantial reward after smoking a whole packet.

When I joined my friends, I found out that they were involved in lottery games in which someone would win given amount of money after successfully finishing several sticks of cigarettes. The deal involved cards whereby the winner of the game would be offered a whole pack of cigarettes after which he was offered a specified sum of money after winning.

According to the social cognitive theory, one can learn the consequences of a particular habit from another person (Tetreault, 2010: 2). The way a habit forms largely depends on external and internal factors; that is why we have the field dependent individuals and the field independent individuals (Friedman & Schustack, 2009: 222). Field independent individuals will disregard any external factors that influence their decisions.

Field dependent individuals (like me) are usually influenced by external factors. Learning from other people’s mistakes is quite crucial here; I should be able to analyze the effects of tobacco addiction on other people and stop this habit. This habit formed because I was rewarded for having puffed a whole packet of cigarettes. The side effects however are more threatening than I thought.

A good plan to counter this habit of smoking is to use a method that applies operant conditioning. Rewards and punishment would help a lot in realizing this goal. Thus, controlling the reinforcement would be an attractive alternative to solving this problem (Friedman & Schustack, 2009:200).

Controlling the reinforcement that make a person continue with such habits like smoking will control their behavioral patterns thereby acting as an inhibiting factor to this habit. For my case, reducing the time I spend with my friends at the joints will act as an inhibiting factor that will prevent me from smoking. I am more inclined to the behavioral theory because I learned the habit of smoking and developed it due to the partial reinforcements.


It has been discussed that behavioral theory is pretty crucial in the formation of a habit. Thus, a particular habit can be formed due to partial reinforcement. Other factors responsible for the growth and development of particular habit are conditioning and extinction. It is worth noting that control of these habits is necessary because particular factors may result in growth of a negative habit that may cause problems to a person.

Such problems caused by these habits include addiction. Although addiction can be countered in rehabilitation facilities, the process is quite long and onerous. It is thus imperative for one to prevent particular habits rather than be faced with the difficulties present in rehab programs. Recognition of cognitive and behavioral theoretical aspects of a particular habit developing in a person is also important as it can help the person deal with that habit accordingly.

Reference List

Friedman, H., & Schustack, M. (2009). Personality: Classic Theories and Modern Research, Ed. 4. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Tetreault, S. (2010). Social Cognitive Theory Components. Retrieved from


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