2020 was a tough year to say the least. While many of us miss our family and friends, there are those family members we can’t get away from, and I’m talking about those we live with. We are not perfect and after several months stuck a home, at this point we have all had enough of seeing the same individuals, and possibly over having the same political
arguments. Luckily, we can use science to help us overcome these issues.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) to the rescue! How do we decreased the behaviors we don’t want to see (i.e., political talk) and increase more appropriate conversations (i.e., positive small talk)? With none other than reinforcement!
One way is with the use of differential reinforcement of other behavior (DRO) where you provide reinforcement (e.g., attention or treat) when the family member is engaging in any behavior besides political conversation or talking about a hot button topic. Another way is to provide differential reinforcement of an alternative behavior (DRA) which just means that you provide reinforcement when you pick one specific behavior to reinforce, for example the individual is having a conversation about an alternative topic rather than the political one. Both of these strategies ensure that the individual is paid attention to while also redirecting the conversation to another topic. If worse comes to worse you can implement extinction wherein you don’t provide reinforcement for that individual engaging in the political conversation (i.e., ignore or walk away). Redirection to another topic may be helpful but be cautious that it doesn’t turn into an argument over difference of opinion.
Thank you for reading!