Forming Habits

A habit is a pattern of behavior that is acquired and is followed regularly until it gets to a point where it becomes almost involuntary. Learning where and how these habits come is a puzzle that many people are not sure until they start to think about it. The habits of many people come from either their parents or their roommates.

Behavior is anything done by a person involving response to stimulation and action (Baum, 2004). In life, habits are usually formed and intertwined with one’s behavior. Therefore, habit formation is the process whereby new behaviors happen automatically.

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My Habit

One of my habits that I will examine in this paper is smoking. I began smoking cigarettes in August of 2007, exactly one month after I broke up with my boyfriend. I have a strong believe that I developed the habit because my roommate at the time was a very heavy smoker.

She claimed that it helped her handle stress. After I broke up with my boyfriend, I found myself stressed quite often. I decided that cigarettes were not that harmful since my father was okay and he smoked cigarettes throughout my entire childhood. I did not feel the effect of cigarettes the first time I smoked one, so I continued until I developed the habit.I know that smoking is not a good habit but I continue smoking because I am an addict.

Cigarettes cause cancer among many other different diseases (Balfour, 2004). They also cause shortness of breath and can turn one’s teeth yellow, but it is still difficult to quit. I once had decided to quit. So I came up with the decision that I would not buy cigarettes any more. I got into an argument with my mum, and, once I left the house, the first thing that came to my mind was to go to the store and buy a cigarette pack; that was when I realized that I was addicted. My role model for the smoking habit was my father and my boyfriend.

Social/Cognitive Theory’s Explanation of My Habit

This theory incorporates two main types of learning that are already idntified in laboratories for behavior: learning by consequences and learning by association (Schwartz and Lacey, 2002). In the model for learning by consequences, some behaviors are made strong by the consequences that come after their use. If the use of substances makes one feel comfortable in social areas or makes one sexually aroused, then the chances of stopping their use are slim. This indicates that the substance is giving the user positive reinforcement (Baum, 2004). If the use of a substance reduces stress, tension and anxiety, again, the possibility of future use is very high.

This time it indicates that the substance is giving the user negative reinforcement.In the other model, learning by association, stimuli that are initially neutral can become triggers for substance use due to repeated interactions between those stimuli and substance use. Triggers can be external to the person, such as certain people (the people that one regularly uses with) or environment (settings and locations), or events that are internal like emotions and thoughts (Schwartz ; Lacey, 2002). The first model is the one that agreeably explains my habit since I started smoking in order to reduce the stress.

Behaviorism Explanation of My Habit

The behavioral personality theory is any personality model that emphasizes behavior that is observable, the relationship between stimuli, the impact of learning and responses (Schwartz and Lacey, 1982). Behavioral theories propose that personality comes because of the relationship that an individual has with the environment.

The position of the behaviorist is that personality is just a compilation of behavior patterns that are learned. Personality is acquired through operant conditioning, reinforcement, discrimination, extinction, observation learning, and generalization (Baum, 2004). According to this theory, the response I had to the impact of learning about cigarettes is what led me to smoking. I learned about smoking by seeing my father smoke when I was little, and the response I had is that I started smoking.

Using Operant Conditioning to Change My Habit

Operant conditioning is a term used to describe the outcome of the consequences of a certain behavior (Baum, 1994). Through operant conditioning, relationship is made between a particular behavior and a consequence associated with that behavior.

Operant conditioning consists of four types: punishment, extinction, negative reinforcement, and positive reinforcement. Punishment and extinction are meant to weaken the behavior while negative reinforcement and positive reinforcement are strengthening factors (Schartz ; Lacey, 2002). The type of operant conditioning that can help in changing my habit is the use of punishment. In punishment, a habit is weakened by the result of one experiencing a negative condition. In this case, I can create a negative condition (For example no use of internet) for myself so that if I smoke, this condition will happen to me.

Best Fitting Theory

Although both theories try to explain the formation of my habit, the one that best explains my habit is the behavioral personality theory.

This is because, according to this theory, once I saw my father smoking when I was little, the response I had is that later on in life I started smoking. Though it is difficult to distinguish between which of the two theories best explains my habit, the behavioral personality theory is the one that clearly points out where I picked the habit and why the habit persisted.


Smoking is considered a learned behavior that is acquired through the process of operant conditioning (Balfour, 2004). Many people who smoke know the consequences of smoking, yet, they still smoke. This continued smoking can be due to their environment and the belief that they are achieving something when they smoke. According to all this theories, I can conclude that a habit is formed mostly through observation and learning.

Although it might not be easy to break a habit, the use of operant conditioning can assist an individual when planning to stop a habit.