The habit I attempted to change is my unhealthy habit of nail biting. Nail biting is a recurring habit that I have dealt with for more than half of my life. There are two triggers to my nail biting habit. One is when my mind wanders to tasks and chores I need to do in the near future and I unconsciously start fiddling with my fingers and begin picking at my nails. The second is when I am at a track meet competing and my adrenaline is rushing, and anxiety is rising. In that situation, the nail biting is a release and keeps my mind off the task at hand. I wanted to change this behavior is because I want healthy and strong nails as well as stopping the passing of disease causing bacteria from nails to mouth. I executed operant conditioning and implementing punishment in order to stop the habit from recurring. My reasoning of using operant conditioning is that the use of punishment “decreases the probability of a response” (Kalat, 2014) by effectively stopping my nail biting from occurring over time.
Before performing the study I had some concerns whether I would be able to execute the experiments under situations where the need of nail biting is triggered the most. Another concern was whether or not the study was long enough to fully extract nail biting from my life. I executed this experiment by painting my nails a bright color as a warning flag that represented DO NOT BITE. A reason I painted them this bright color was to catch my attention making me aware that this region is off limits. In result I hoped this would help my unconscious mind to stop myself before I proceeded in biting my nails. I painted my nails with a gel finish to avoid cracks, scratches, and chips. Painting them is also helpful for when I unconsciously picked and bit my nails because it showed when destruction has occurred to a nail which made it easier for me to track in my data. Secondly, I attached two elastic rubber bands to each wrist, in the event of nail biting, and would punish myself by snapping the band inflicting pain. The goal of this plan was to abstain from biting my nails, decreasing this behavior and over time decreasing punishment. Thorndike’s Law states that “connections become strengthened with practice and weakened when practice is discontinued” (Gade, 2015) and the more I persistently followed the course of the experiment, the better results I would receive in the near future. As a positive reinforcement I made a deal with myself that for every day during the three days of conditioning that I abstained from nail biting, I would buy myself three new nail polishes at the end of the experiment. I recorded the data by keeping a photo log with notes on each day of the experiment. With pictures I was able to visually access my daily progress of nail growth as well as nail biting. In my notes, I was able to record how many times I had to inflict pain with punishment. During the day, to keep track of how many times I bite my nails, I would keep a small notepad and tally each time I would bite or pick at a nail.
The baseline data I recorded for this experiment is that nail biting is a part of my everyday life. It is a habit that occurs numerous times a day unconsciously and consciously. I have found that anxiety triggers my nail biting. When under pressure the desire for relief is through biting of nails. The nail biting begins in the morning at practice when my coach is describing the week at a glance. Hearing the workout of the day causes some tension leading me to bite my nails. From my data this time of the day is when unconscious nail biting occurs the most. I have tallied eight times between the hours of nine to eleven in the morning. The next tallies came from classroom discussions when I am forced to think on my feet and come up with answers that the teacher asks. In this time period I tend to unconsciously bite my nails four to five times. For the remainder of the day I am