The Premack Principle Can Make Lockdown More Bearable

The Premack principle can help make our daily lives more bearable during this confinement. Read on to learn more!
The Premack Principle Can Make Lockdown More Bearable
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

The Premack principle can make confinement more bearable for several reasons. Firstly, because it’s an ideal psychological tool to improve productivity and establish better behavior patterns. Secondly, because it can be applied to countless areas of your life.

In this exceptional situation, many people are making an effort to do many different things each day. On social media, you’re probably seeing friends, acquaintances, and influencers exercising, cooking, or studying, among many other activities.

It’s clear that each one of us is handling confinement differently. Everyone uses their time as they see fit. It’s just as permissible to nap as it is to redecorate your house five days a week.

But during this confinement, Premack’s principle is both interesting and beneficial. Keep reading to discover why!

The Premack principle.

The Premack Principle can make confinement more bearable

Before delving deeper into the reasons why the Premack principle can make confinement more bearable, we need to clarify what this theory is all about and where it stemmed from. This approach was inspired by psychologist B. F Skinner’s operant or instrumental conditioning.

Its ideas are based on a simple premise: people and animals do things or stop doing them based on a psychological dimension that either motivates them or makes that behavior disappear.

Here’s an example. “I stopped studying German because it bored me. Now I spend more and more time on certain streaming platforms because I love TV series.”

Well, one thing that Premack’s principle seeks to do is make our motivated behaviors act as an impulse so that we can make less interesting things happen. In other words, I could use my love of series as a reward mechanism for studying German every day. This technique is often used to modify behaviors and even to treat addictions or phobias.

Below, you’ll discover the ways in which the Premack principle can make confinement more bearable.

Premack’s principle for organizing time and creating routines

One of the recommendations for managing confinement is the need to establish routines. You should try to organize your time to make sure you have enough for both your obligations and leisure activities.

  • The Premack principle can make confinement more bearable if you organize your schedule by interspersing motivating and positive tasks with others that you don’t like as much.
  • For example, you may feel apathetic when you wake up one day. When this happens, you may not want to do chores.
  • In this case, according to Premack’s theory, the ideal thing would be to actually start with the activity you don’t feel like doing with the knowledge that, if you spend an hour and a half on that task, you’ll be able to watch the next season of the TV series you’re hooked on.

The same thing goes if you’re working at home. Although you’ll have to start the day working, you can promise yourself that you’ll take a short break in a couple of hours and do something more pleasant.

The Premack principle and eating

During confinement, it’s more likely that you’ll start snacking on unhealthy food and won’t watch what you’re eating. You’ll start to eat unhealthy snacks that help relieve your anxiety.

The Premack principle can make confinement more bearable and can be very beneficial in your eating habits. Here’s an example:

  • Every time you feel hungry or want a snack, do the following. Take an apple and also the snack you really wanted to eat (a brownie, for example).
  • First of all, eat the less appetizing one (the apple) and then the other. In this case, and taking into account that apples are quite filling, it’s very likely that you’ll no longer feel like eating the other snack.
Some apples and a banana.

The Premack principle can make confinement with children more bearable

The Premack principle can make confinement with our children more bearable because it’ll help them achieve more with their schoolwork. Here’s how:

  • Children have an attention span of about 40 to 45 minutes.
  • The ideal thing is to start the day with the tasks they hate the most or those that they find most difficult (math, for example). However, they can do it knowing that, after 45 minutes, they’ll be able to take a break and do something fun for a few minutes. The best thing is to focus on academic activities in the morning and leisure activities in the afternoon.

However, in between those morning schoolwork hours, you can allow them to do short activities they like.

As you’ve seen, this strategy is based on the use of positive reinforcers. During confinement, this could be exactly what we need. Try it out today!

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.