Attitudes and labeling biases toward behavior modification: The effects of labels, content, and jargon

Alan E. Kazdin, Pamela M. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Previous research has suggested that the label "behavior modification" results in negative evaluations of treatment. Three experiments were conducted to separate the impact of the label, content, and manner of presenting treatment on evaluations of behavior modification. In each experiment, undergraduate students rated treatments designed to alter classroom behavior. Experiment 1 examined the effects of labels (behavior modification, humanistic education, and a new teaching method) and content (behavioral, humanistic, and neutral conditions). Experiment 2 evaluated the effects of content (behavioral versus neutral methods) and the manner in which they were described (in scientific jargon versus ordinary language). Experiment 3 examined the impact of labels (behavior modification versus no label) and the manner in which behavioral methods were presented (jargon versus ordinary language). Content of the method consistently contributed to negative evaluations. Behavior modification was evaluated less favorably than were humanistic or neutral procedures. Labeling of treatment as "behavior modification" failed to contribute to the evaluations of the procedures. Interestingly, presenting behavioral treatments in jargon rather than in ordinary language was associated with more positive evaluations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-68
Number of pages13
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1981

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology


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