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Rules are a good way to communicate to the student some of the contingencies that exist in an environment like a classroom, lunchroom, bus, hallway, or athletic field. The behavior of others is another feature of school environments that communicates contingencies. What we do and how we are rewarded or punished for what we do demonstrates to anyone who cares to observe that they too may experience similar consequences for engaging in a behavior.

Think of this as the, "Gee that looks like FUN!" phenomenon. We see others enjoying a game or toy and it makes us want to play. This goes for food, clothes, cars, drugs, films, cosmetics, and millions of other products, as advertisers well know. The next time you watch T.V. notice how many commercials depict attractive, cool "peer models" engaged in using a product for sale. The advertisers want to convince us that if we too engage in the behavior demonstrated (i.e., using their product) that the consequences shown will happen to us. Unfortunately, this may not always be true.

We will probably never look like Cindy Crawford, no matter what lipstick we use and we will probably not turn the heads of attractive women by driving a particular car.

However, in the classroom students see everyday what behavior is reinforced and what is not. They copy their peers and their teachers, largely depending on what happens to the model's behavior (the contingencies in effect in the environment).

 
(C) 2001 J. Tyler Fovel, All Rights Reserved