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Self-Monitoring as a Method of Behavior Change

Sometimes behavior will change during a baseline observation period, due to the measurement itself. Although old-time behaviorists never would have used this language, the likely explanation is that a person becomes more conscious of the behavior and starts to alter it when it is measured. Measurement of one's own behavior is called self-monitoring , and it can be an effective tool for behavior change. For example, many people wish to lose weight, but few people keep detailed records of their calorie intake. People who keep a record of every calorie consumed often find that they lose weight as a result. The act of recording data focuses attention on each bite of food and its consequences, and this (or the fear of having bad eating habits exposed) motivates a person to eat less.

What is self-monitoring? What sorts of problems respond well to self-monitoring?

Self-monitoring often works especially well with impulsive habits, like snacking, cigarette smoking, or TV-watching. These are all things a person may start to do "without thinking." Of course, to really work, self-monitoring must be done honestly without cheating. It forces a person to think about every occurrence of a behavior. It also draws attention to the consequences of behavior. "If I eat this, I am over my limit," or "If I start watching TV I won't get my homework done." Self-monitoring, as a behavior change procedure, lacks any specially arranged reinforcement or punishment, but it forces attention to natural reinforcements and punishments.

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