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‘Old Habits Die Hard’

Habits, work subconsciously, so to form new habits one has to expunge the past habits entirely, which at times seems next to impossible-- given the past habits are deep rooted and engraved profoundly

Post by on Sunday, April 10, 2022

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It has always been said and found that forming new habits are the most difficult task one could imagine-- that too when old habits have taken the place in the psyche of a person. Habits, work subconsciously, so to form new habits one has to expunge the past habits entirely, which at times seems next to impossible-- given the past habits are deep rooted and engraved profoundly; so getting away from them would be a most challenging job to perform.  One forms habits at the early years of one’s life; once they are formed they are long lasting and fixed like a mountain. One can never ruminate of breaking them; as one becomes reliant on them utterly; moreover, they do frustrate a person to larger extent besides causing restlessness if one goes against them. One can easily compare habits with computer operating system; since habits operate the way they have been programmed to operate. So breaking and forming new habits turn out to be not only tough or difficult mission to handle but, rather an exasperating that needs a new operating system with a new up gradation.

Reading the above section, one can figure and make an opinion that forming new habits are not only hard but truly impossible. But, there are persons residing in the ecosphere who believe the word impossible doesn’t exist in their life. Those persons are called self-believers. They operate their mind-set the way they wish to, they make it their slave. Folks with such character and attitude are constantly ahead of those who are sensitive and emotional; furthermore, it has been observed they progress and achieve more in life than the rest. Although, people who are sensitive, emotional or believe in serving humanity and mankind have no place for the above people, they call them useless and use the term ‘Robots’, while making an argument that these people have no feelings and are narcissists who are always occupied in themselves, they believe they are egoistic and selfish who can trample over humanity for their cause and want and   self interests above all the priorities.  

Analyzing either paragraphs, one goes doldrums to deduce what to do. Should one be fine with old habits? Or should one be like above mortals who are called Robots but are high achievers; since man is selfish by nature and craves to achieve more and more but at the same time he desires to be respected so in that case serving humanity becomes necessity as after all a person is social being who can't live individually; as sociology says society is one of his identities.  But, one has to keep in mind change is necessary and is the law of nature. So priority should be to bring that change which shall not only help the person but also whole humanity.

The two psychologists, B.F Skinner and Edward Thorndike, who have studied behaviourism and have given their theories related to behaviour that become not only relevant here but are also studied in different courses as a syllabus or discipline to get into the behaviour of a person or how to shape the behavior from bad to good; especially for those students who some or the other have inculcated bad habits. 

Skinner, who was an American psychologist best-known for his influence on behaviourism. Skinner referred to his own philosophy as 'radical behaviourism' and suggested that the concept of free will was simply an illusion. All human action, he instead believed, was the direct result of conditioning, which he discussed at large and in detail in his two theories-- Operative conditioning and classical conditioning. The other psychological theorist, Edward Thorndike and his learning theory of Thorndike represents the original S-R framework of behavioural psychology: Learning is the result of associations forming between stimuli and responses. Such associations or “habits” become strengthened or weakened by the nature and frequency of the S-R pairings. The paradigm for S-R theory was trial and error learning in which certain responses come to dominate others due to rewards. The hallmark of connectionism (like all behavioural theory) was that learning could be adequately explained without referring to any unobservable internal states.

Thorndike’s theory consists of three primary laws: (1) law of effect – responses to a situation which are followed by a rewarding state of affairs will be strengthened and become habitual responses to that situation, (2) law of readiness – a series of responses can be chained together to satisfy some goal which will result in annoyance if blocked, and (3) law of exercise – connections become strengthened with practice and weakened when practice is discontinued. A corollary of the law of effect was that responses that reduce the likelihood of achieving a rewarding state (i.e., punishments, failures) will decrease in strength. The theory suggests that transfer of learning depends upon the presence of identical elements in the original and new learning situations; i.e., transfer is always specific, never general. In later versions of the theory, the concept of “belongingness” was introduced; connections are more readily established if the person perceives that stimuli or responses go together (Another concept introduced was “polarity” which specifies that connections occur more easily in the direction in which they were originally formed than the opposite. Thorndike also introduced the “spread of effect” idea, i.e., rewards affect not only the connection that produced them but temporally adjacent connections as well.

Reading the above theories of either psychologist, it becomes crystal clear that a change is always conditioned, and for changing habits it becomes necessary that one must change the atmosphere and surroundings. If a person who has been a chain smoker and wants to leave smoking will never be appreciated to do so by his friends who are smokers as discussed by Thorndike. So for changing habits, one must ferret and figure, why he wants that change and while figuring them one has to put himself in that condition where one can find the stimulus for the change he desires then the change shall occur automatically.


(The Author is weekly columnist and writes Sunday's Special for Rising Kashmir. Feedback at mufti.jameel97@gmail.com)

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