We need to tackle bullying using science. But not just any field of study – behavioral psychology!
What is science? It’s a systematic way to gain objective knowledge. Scientists design experiments to rule out possible explanations so they can isolate what is really objectively true from all the assumptions we all have about just about everything.
Because science, as a methodology, is about learning what is real and what isn’t, it’s an incredibly useful problem solving tool. Want to actually solve a problem – try using science based approaches instead of gut instinct and hunches. Seriously, this works.
What about science as applied to bullying. There are a lot of different scientific disciplines that have studied bullying. Most of them are psychological or sociological. Those are helpful and finding out why individuals are bullying or how they are responding to bullying or how our brains act when bullying or being bullied or what the social dynamic is that plays out. All of this is very interesting, but none of it has really given us information on how to make it stop.
Which is why I believe we need to take a behavioral approach. Bullying is a behavior and behavioral psychology is all about how behaviors are learned and more importantly – unlearned. The good news is behavioral psychologists have 7 decades of research on how to stop unwanted behaviors and they all show the exact same thing. Doesn’t matter what the behavior is, or what animal is displaying the behavior, there is one technique that works to stop it.
The behavioral modification tool is called “extinguishing a behavior.” It’s astonishingly simple to explain. Stop rewarding the behavior you don’t want. That’s it.
It turns out punishment tends to strengthen the behavior you don’t want because, it turns out, “negative” reinforcement is still reinforcement. (This is why spanking kids is no longer acceptable btw).
If you want to stop unwanted behavior, you have to stop rewarding it. The challenge is – how exactly do we do that with a bully who may have a variety of reinforcements all of which have very little to do with the target of their behavior.
The best way to do this is to understand the behavioral principles at play – which is why I created this website and wrote my book and created all the online videos etc. To teach this. So get the book, join the website and start learning!