Behavioral and Social/Cognitive Approaches to Forming Habits

Posted: October 17th, 2013

Behavioral and Social/Cognitive Approaches to Smoking Habits






Behavioral and Social/Cognitive Approaches to Smoking Habits


Behavioral approach is based on the concept of explaining one’s behaviors through observation. The idea behind this approach is that the environment is the one that contributes to the different behaviors of individuals. Behaviorists assume that one can understand other people’s behaviors through observing. It can be observed in terms of responses to particular stimuli. The behavioral approach contrasts with the cognitive or social approach. The cognitive approach focuses on the way one can explain the disorders and behaviors through the cognitive processes. It explores the internal mental processes and the way people perceive, memorize, believe and solve problems. Cognitive is psychology that is relative to human behaviors that focuses on the way people think and such thought process that affect their way of behaviors.


            One of my habits is smoking, and I developed this habit due to influence from my peer group at the college. The role models for the smoking habit were some of my friends who used to smoke cigarettes. When I joined the college, I used not to smoke. However, when I joined a group of friends who used to drink and smoke, I found myself smoking too, and it became a daily habit. Some of the people who influenced me to adopt this habit are my roommates. This is because they used to smoke daily when we have left the lecture room going to sleep. They encourage me and I started smoking slowly, but it became a habit. From the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2006), a habit is acquired behavior pattern being developed through constant repetition. Therefore, I kept smoking every day, and the smoking behavior became automatic.

I now continue smoking because I am addicted to it. This is because smoking has caused some changes in my body and the way I act to them thus continuing to smoke. The changes in the ways I act have now developed over time, and these changes have become my smoking habit. Moreover, when I am stressed up, I use cigarettes as an outlet for my frustrations. I am used to a smoking environment where my friends keep on smoking thus making me continue smoking. There has been a time I attempted to break this habit, to no avail. Kleinman and Messina-Kleinman (2000) argue that ignorance is one of the causes that contribute to persistent smoking. The government has tried to raise awareness on smoking, but the tobacco companies have increased advertisement of tobacco. Thus, it is difficult for people to break the habit of smoking. Moreover, tobacco has nicotine that makes one addicted thus making it hard for one to break the smoking habit.

Using behavioral personality, I now have the smoking habit. According to Duka, Crombag and Stephens 2011), the environment is the one that contributes to the different behaviors of individuals. This is because one develops certain behaviors though observing from friends. Moreover, peer pressure can make smoking a nightmare for everyone being involved. This is because most young people want to be part of the group or they do not want to lose their friends thus join them in smoking. Some cultural traits are some of the behavioral personalities that encourage one to engage in smoking. This is because smoking to some traditions it is a form of worshiping. Thus, it is impossible to separate people from such an environment because the result is challenging in most occasions.

The social/cognitive theory explains why the smoking habit is formed. The cognitive theory explains the behaviors that lead to smoking. It analyses what drives the smokers to behave in certain ways. The thought and learning process may affect people’s ways of behaviors thus; they would end up becoming smokers. The cognitive theory is based on the notion that people learn through activities as well as behaviors of others. That is the reason why many become smokers because they learn from others thus may want to experience and finally they start smoking. This becomes a habit hence they find it difficult to stop. Learning is not only the process of cognitive but also a mental process. A cognitive process is what makes people contract their own view of reality as well as the way the cope up within the environment (Fox, 2008).

The plan that applies to operant conditioning to change the smoking habit can take varied steps. These steps should be followed well because quitting smoking is not an easy task thus it is vital to create a plan that focuses on successive habit elimination. The first step is to identify the habit change that one wishes to alter. The second step is selecting a target behavior. The problem may include the specific problem one may want to address while having a clear objective. The third step is collecting baseline data for instance; one should know the number of cigarettes he/she smokes in a day and then keep track of the occurrence. The fourth step is to plan the program by controlling discriminative stimuli and achieving one’s goals. Another step is executing the program and making necessary adjustments on smoking habit. The last step is terminating the program thus moving to a new behavior.

Between behavioral and cognitive/social theories, cognitive/social theory is the one, which I found best that explains my personality. This is because I behave differently when in a different environments. Moreover, through the learning process of what other do, it is easier to join them. Having mental processes contributes to adopting certain behaviors. Thus, I found myself smoking because I wanted to experience the reason behind smoking. I became curious of smoking when I learnt that my friends relieve their stress through smoking. Eventually, I started smoking because I wanted to experience what my friends did and thus it became a habit.


In conclusion, there are certain behaviors such as cognitive and behavioral that drives someone to smoking. Peer group influence may influence one to start smoking. One may continue smoking due to addiction. Moreover, through behavioral personality, one becomes a smoker. The cognitive theory explains the learning and mental process that makes one start smoking. Thus, varied steps can be taken in order to change the behavior of smoking. Lastly, the cognitive theory is one of the theories that I discovered that drives people to the smoking habit.




Duka, T., Crombag, H., & Stephens, D. (January 01, 2011). Experimental medicine in drug

addiction: towards behavioral, cognitive and neurobiological biomarkers. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 25, 9, 1235-1255.

Fox, E. (2008). Emotion science: Cognitive and neuroscientific approaches to understanding

human emotions. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kleinman, L., & Messina-Kleinman, D. (2000). The complete idiot’s guide to quitting smoking.

Indianapolis, Ind: Macmillan USA.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2006). Tobacco addiction. Bethesda, Md.: National Institute

on Drug Abuse.




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