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In social learning theory, behavior modeling is the precise demonstration of a desired behavior.
According to the theory, we learn not only by doing, but by watching what others do.
Behavior modeling is used effectively to treat people with a variety of mental health concerns, from anxiety disorders to post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder to eating disorders.
When compared to persuasion and observing the psychologist handle the snakes, Bandura found behavior modeling by the former patients was more effective.
Similar to another treatment for phobias known as systematic desensitization, behavior modeling exposes the phobic patient to the object or situation he fears, however, the confrontation is experienced by another person rather than by the patient himself.
When witnessing the model respond to the phobia with relaxation rather than fear, the patient has a reference framework for imitating that response.
However, behavior modeling alone is unlikely to produce long-term behavior change unless it is combined with role-play and reinforcement such as rewards.
Used together in sequence, modeling, role-play, and reinforcement improve the effectiveness of this therapy.