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Precision Teaching, Psychology and “Inner Behavior”

Thoughts and feelings (a.k.a. "inner behavior") can be measured, charted, and changed. These fifteen articles from Precision Teachers show the way to reduce negative thoughts related to depression, anxiety, self-injurous and self-destructive behavior, and more. Read the abstracts, and fill out the form to download for FREE.

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1. Calkin, A. B. (1981). One minute timing improves inners. Journal of Precision Teaching, 2(3), 9-21.

This article discusses a project the author did on herself. The project consisted of 7 pinpoints: positive feelings about herself, negative feelings about herself, skipped opportunities to have a feeling about herself, negative thoughts about herself, her husband, or her marriage, and positive thoughts about herself — plus total positive feelings and thoughts about herself, and positive feelings about herself. 

In her project, she charts her thoughts and feelings. She completes one-minute timed practices to deal with negative thoughts. By the end, Calkin is able to approach an accurate measurement of emotions and thoughts, their interrelations, and the effects of eternal events on them. 

2. Calkin, A. B. (1992). The inner eye: improving self-esteem. Journal of Precision Teaching, 10(1), 42-52.

This article reports the results of the thirty-five people who used the one-minute timing to shape positive thoughts and pleasant feelings about oneself, and in some cases, to extinguish the negative thoughts and unpleasant feelings.

3. Calkin, A. B. (2002). Inner Behavior: Empirical Investigations of Private Events. The Behavior Analyst, 25, 255-259.

This article cites 19 data-based articles and two doctoral dissertations involving measurement of what Precision Teachers term inner behavior—thoughts, feelings, and urges. OF the estimated 1.2 million Standard Celeration Charts, at least 1,6000 are inner behavior charts. These extensive data indicated that people can and do count and chart their inner behavior. This response discusses findings on inner behavior and its frequency, celeration (growth), variability, and improvement using antecedent and consequent events. 

4. Calkin, A. B. (2009). An examination of inner (private) and outer (public) behaviors. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 10, 61-75.

If we accept that private and public events are behaviors, and as radical behaviorists we do, our next step is to classify them and then create a taxonomy in order to codify and count them. Focusing on inner behaviors, or as Skinner called them, private events, the taxonomy presented here consists of thoughts, feelings, and urges. Thoughts and feelings clearly fall within the operant realm, but urges most probably begin as respondent behavior. e paper presents the unique definitions of a thought, a feeling, and an urge. 

It also states the kinds of data used to show the possibility of counting and analyzing these three parts of inner behavior. Data analyses include the analysis of frequency, celeration, i.e., the rate of learning and changing, bounce or variability, and their relationship to an outer behavior. These analyses allow the comparison of individual performance and learning across different kinds of pinpoints and inner behavior projects, between behavers, and the relationship of inner to outer behaviors. In the final analysis, we see that inner behaviors function in the same way as outer behaviors do. Based on Skinner’s premise that inner behavior is not different in kind from outer behavior, and the research of Lindsley and others using the standard celeration chart, the science of human behavior can rest assured that inner and outer behavior share much in common. In summary, the observation, counting, and analyses of inner and outer behaviors show no functional difference.  

5. Clore, J., & Gaynor, S. (2006). Self-Statement Modification Techniques for Distressed College Students with Low Self-Esteem and Depressive Symptoms. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 2, 314-331.

Thirty students (73% female, M = 21 years) reporting significant distress, low self-esteem, and depressive symptoms were randomly assigned to three sessions of either: (a) restructuring of negative self-thoughts (via training and daily practice using the Thought Record) or (b) enhancement of positive self-statements (via fluency training and daily flashcard rehearsal). Both methods were associated with clinically significant improvement that persisted at follow-up. Using existing studies as benchmarks, this improvement met or exceeded that of related treatment conditions and clearly exceeded that of control conditions. Results suggest both disputation of negative and enhancement of positive self-thoughts can be beneficial.

6. Cobane, E. F., & Keenan, M. (2002). A senior citizen’s self-management of positive and An Examination of Inner (Private) and Outer (Public) Behaviors negative inner behaviours. Journal of Precision Teaching and Celeration, 18(2), 30-36.

This investigation evaluated a senior citizen’s self-management of positive and negative inner behaviours, namely thoughts and feelings. Throughout the course of the study every instance of positive and negative inners per day was counted, recorded and charted on a Standard Celeration Chart…. The main finding was that response-prompt procedures, particularly the personalised response-prompt worksheet, proved most effective in increasing the frequency of positive inners, both during daily 1-minute counting periods and throughout the day, whilst reducing the frequency of recorded negative inners. The implications of these findings in relation to future research and applications are discussed.  


7. Cooper, J. O. (1991). Can this marriage be saved? Self-management of destructive inners. Journal of Precision Teaching, 8(2), 44-46.

A case history is described in which the author uses Precision Teaching to replace his destructive inner thoughts and feelings with more positive ones. Maintenance was assessed four months after the intervention with positive inners remaining high and destructive ones, low.

8. Conser, L. (1981). Charting: The quick picker upper. Journal of Precision Teaching, 2(3), 27-29. 

A recent college graduate feels depression and bitterness, and experiences images and visions. The student counts negative and positive thoughts and feelings, and charts important events that occurred during the counting period.

9. Duncan, A. D. (1971). The view for the inner eye: Personal management of inner and outer behaviors. Teaching Exceptional Children, 3, 152-154.

“We have moved along in our scientific endeavors to describe functionally and demonstrate empirically the personal management of a person’s inner world,” the article states. “For the first time a behavioral approach has developed tools which permit sharing information about the thoughts, feelings and inner urges of mankind striving to know itself.” The article begins with a short history, then shows the charted data of two children who counted their inner behaviors and attempted a change.

10. Judy, M., Malanga, P. R., Seevers, R. L., & Cooper, J. O. (1997). A self-experimentation on the detection of forgets using encouraging think/say and hear/tally statements. Journal of Precision Teaching and Celeration, 14(2), 37-46.

This self-experiment investigated the effects of daily encouraging self-statements said orally within a one-minute counting period on the frequency of detected forgets in the absence of the intended treatment of encouraging self-statements. We observed an immediate change in frequency of detected forgets following the initiation of the encouraging self-statements. As the frequency of encouraging self-statements accelerated, the frequency of detected forgets improved to a total frequency spread of no occurrences to 1 occurrence per counting period during the final five weeks of intervention. The frequency of detected forgets remained low for the four weeks without the counting periods for the daily self-statements.

11. Kostewicz, D., Kubina, R. M., & Cooper, J. O. (2000). Managing aggressive thoughts and feelings with daily counts of non-aggressive thoughts: A self-experiment. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 31(3-4), 177-187.

This article describes a self-experiment with a participant managing aggressive thoughts and feelings. The participant counted occurrences of aggressive thoughts and feelings per 24 h, and displayed these data on Standard Celeration Charts. Our experimental questions addressed the e!ects of daily 1-minute counts of non-aggressive thoughts and feelings, and daily distributed series of six 10-second counts of non-aggressive thoughts and feelings on the occurrences of aggressive thoughts and feelings. We used an A1-B1-C1-B2-C2-A2 experimental design to analyze data from the 1-minute counts and the six 10-second distributed counts as these conditions alternated around two baseline conditions. Compared to the baseline, less aggressive thoughts and feelings occurred during both independent variable conditions. The six 10-second distributed counts produced lower frequencies of aggressive thoughts and feelings than the 1-minute counts. At the end of the second six 10-second counting procedure and during the second baseline, the participant most frequently had 0 aggressive thoughts and feelings per day. 

12. Kubina, R. M., Haertel, M. W., & Cooper, J. O. (1994). Reducing negative inner behavior of senior citizens: The one-minute counting procedure. Journal of Precision Teaching, 11(2), 28-35.

This study assessed the effects of a one-minute counting procedure on reducing negative inner behaviors of two female senior citizens, aged 88 and 83. Both participants showed a relationship between the one-minute counting procedure and a jump-down in frequency of negative inner behavior, and they believed our procedures were easy to use and time efficient.

13. McCrudden, T. (1990). Precision teaching: Feeling fixer. Journal of Precision Teaching7(1), 19-20.

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that, by counting your inner feelings (i.e., positive and negative), you can become more aware of events with affect these feeling,s discover things about yourself, and develop strategies to help change them.

14. Patterson, K., & McDowell, C. (2009). Using precision teaching strategies to promote self-management of inner behaviours and measuring effects on the symptoms of depression. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 10, 283-295.

This study examined the use of precision teaching strategies to promote self-management of inner behaviours and measured the effect of these strategies on the symptoms of depression. Nine people in total participated in the study, three had minimal symptoms of depression, three had mild symptoms of depression and three had moderate symptoms of depression. Participants in the treatment group completed a BDI-II questionnaire, counted positive and negative thoughts throughout the day, participated in individualised interventions, before completing the BDI-II again and completing a social validity questionnaire. Participants in the control group 1 completed a BDI-II questionnaire, counted positive and negative thoughts throughout the day, completed the BDI-II again and completed a social validity questionnaire. Participants in the control group 2 completed a BDI-II questionnaire at the beginning and end of study and carried out a social validity questionnaire. The findings of this study demonstrate that the see/read fluency intervention was successful for all participants within the treatment group in increasing the frequency of positive thoughts whilst reducing the frequency of negative thoughts across the day. All participants within the treatment group had a reduction in their scores on the BDI-II from the beginning to the end of this study. Therefore an increase in the frequency of positive inner behaviours and a decrease in negative inner behaviours did correlate with a reduction in symptoms of depression for all participants within the treatment group.

15. Stromberg, G. (1974). Pinpointing helps teens end self-destructive feelings. Special Education in Canada, 48(3), 19.

The author works with a depressed teen to pinpoint depressed feelings. Together, they identified pairs of behaviors to count, decelerating depression and accelerating positive thoughts.

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