Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.
– John Watson, Behaviorism, 1930
Behavioral psychology, also known as behaviorism, is a theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. According to behaviorism, behavior can be studied in a systematic and observable manner with no consideration of internal mental states.
There are two major types of conditioning:
1. Classical conditioning is a technique used in behavioral training in which a naturally occurring stimulus is paired with a response. Next, a previously neutral stimulus is paired with the naturally occurring stimulus. Eventually, the previously neutral stimulus comes to evoke the response without the presence of the naturally occurring stimulus. The two elements are then known as the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response.
2. Operant conditioning Operant conditioning (sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning) is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior.
Major Thinkers in Behaviorism
- Ivan Pavlov
- B.F. Skinner
- Edward Thorndike
- John B. Watson
- Clark Hull
Criticisms of Behaviorism
- Many critics argue that behaviorism is a one-dimensional approach to understanding human behavior and that behavioral theories do not account for free will and internal influences such as moods, thoughts and feelings.
- Behaviorism does not account for other types of learning, especially learning that occurs without the use of reinforcement and punishment.
- People and animals are able to adapt their behavior when new information is introduced, even if a previous behavior pattern has been established through reinforcement.
Strengths of Behaviorism
- Behaviorism is based upon observable behaviors, so it is easier to quantify and collect data and information when conducting research.
- Effective therapeutic techniques such as intensive behavioral intervention, behavior analysis, token economies are all rooted in behaviorism. These approaches are often very useful in changing maladaptive or harmful behaviors in both children and adults.
While behaviorism is not as dominant today as it was during the middle of the 20th-century, it still remains an influential force in psychology. Outside of psychology, animal trainers, parents, teachers and many others make use of basic behavioral principles to help teach new behaviors and discourage unwanted ones.
What is Learning?
Learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior that is the result of experience. During the first half of the twentieth century, the school of thought known as behaviorism rose to dominate psychology and sought to explain the learning process. The three major types of learning described by behavioral psychology are classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning.
1. Classical Conditioning
Classical conditioning is a learning process in which an association is made between a previously neutral stimulus and a stimulus that naturally evokes a response. For example, in Pavlov’s classic experiment, the smell of food was the naturally occurring stimulus that was paired with the previously neutral ringing of the bell. Once an association had been made between the two, the sound of the bell alone could lead to a response.
2. Operant Conditioning
Operant conditioning is a learning process in which the probability of response occurring is increased or decreased due to reinforcement or punishment. First studied by Edward Thorndike and later by B.F. Skinner, the underlying idea behind operant conditioning is that the consequences of our actions shape voluntary behavior.
3. Observational Learning
Observational learning is a process in which learning occurs through observing and imitating others. As demonstrated in Albert Bandura’s classic “Bobo Doll” experiments, people will imitate the actions of others without direct reinforcement. Four important elements are essential for effective observational learning: attention, motor skills, motivation and memory.
4. The Little Albert Experiment
The “Little Albert” experiment was a famous psychology experiment conducted by behaviorist John B. Watson and graduate student Rosalie Raynor. Previously, Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov had conducted experiments demonstrating the conditioning process in dogs. Watson was interested in taking Pavlov’s research further to show that emotional reactions could be classically conditioned in people.
The participant in the experiment was a child that Watson and Raynor called “Albert B.”, but is known popularly today as Little Albert. Around the age of nine months, Watson and Raynor exposed the child to a series of stimuli including a white rat, a rabbit, a monkey, masks and burning newspapers and observed the boy’s reactions. The boy initially showed no fear of any of the objects he was shown.
The next time Albert was exposed the rat, Watson made a loud noise by hitting a metal pipe with a hammer. Naturally, the child began to cry after hearing the loud noise. After repeatedly pairing the white rat with the loud noise, Albert began to cry simply after seeing the rat.
Watson and Raynor wrote:
“The instant the rat was shown, the baby began to cry. Almost instantly he turned sharply to the left, fell over on [his] left side, raised himself on all fours and began to crawl away so rapidly that he was caught with difficulty before reaching the edge of the table”.
Elements of Classical Conditioning in the Little Albert Experiment
The Little Albert experiment presents and example of how classical conditioning can be used to condition an emotional response.
Bobo Doll experiment
For the experiment, each child was exposed to the scenario individually, so as not to be influenced or distracted by classmates. The first part of the experiment involved bringing a child and the adult model into a playroom. In the playroom, the child was seated in one corner filled with highly appealing activities such as stickers and stamps. The adult model was seated in another corner containing a toy set, a mallet, and an inflatable Bobo doll. Before leaving the room, the experimenter explained to the child that the toys in the adult corner were only for the adult to play with.
During the aggressive model scenario, the adult would begin by playing with the toys for approximately one minute. After this time the adult begins to show aggression towards the Bobo doll. Examples of this include hitting the Bobo doll and using the toy mallet to hit the Bobo doll in the face. After a period of about 10 minutes, the experimenter came back into the room, and took the child into another playroom. The non-aggressive adult model simply played with the small toys for the entire 10 minute-period. In this situation, the Bobo doll was completely ignored by the model then the child was taken out of the room.
The next stage placed the child and experimenter into another room filled with interesting toys: a truck, dolls. There, the child was invited to play with the toys. After about 2 minutes the experimenter decides that the child is no longer allowed to play with the toys. This was done to build up frustration. The experimenter says that the child may play with the toys in the experimental room including both aggressive and non-aggressive toys. In the experimental room the child was allowed to play for the duration of 20 minutes while the experimenter evaluated the child’s play.
The first measure recorded was based on physical aggression. This included punching or kicking the Bobo doll, sitting on the Bobo doll, hitting it with a mallet, and tossing it around the room. Verbal aggression was the second measure recorded. The judges counted each time the children imitated the aggressive adult model and recorded their results. The third measure was the amount of times the mallet was used to display other forms of aggression than hitting the doll. The final measure includes modes of aggression shown by the child that were not direct imitation of the role-model’s behavior.
1. Say which of these statements are true or false
Operant conditioning is a learning process in which the probability of response occurring is increased or decreased due to reinforcement or punishment.
Major thinkers in behaviorism are Ivan Pavlov, Jung, Freud, Watson.
Behaviorism does not account for other types of learning, especially learning that occurs without the use of reinforcement and punishment.
People and animals are not able to adapt their behavior.
Learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior that is the result of experience.
Behaviorism is based upon observable behaviors, so it is easier to quantify and collect data and information when conducting research.
The three major types of learning described by behavioral psychology are classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning.
Behavioral approaches are useless in changing maladaptive or harmful behaviors in both children and adults.
Observational learning is a process in which learning occurs through observing and imitating others.
2. Match the terms with their definitions
A type of behavior that inhibits a person’s ability to adjust to particular situations.
a consequence that will strengthen an organism’s future behavior whenever that behavior is preceded by a specific antecedent stimulus.
something that stimulates or acts as an incentive
a temporary state of mind or temper
the learning process by which the behavior of an organism becomes dependent on an event occurring in its environment
any relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a direct result of experience
possession of the qualities required to do something; necessary skill, competence, or power
a movement in psychology and philosophy that emphasized the outward behavioral aspects of thought and dismissed the inward experiential, and sometimes the inner procedural, aspects as well
any aversive stimulus administered to an organism as part of training
a type of psychotherapy in which the inmates of an institution are rewarded for good behavior with tokens that can be exchanged for privileges
3. Put the verbs in brackets in passive form
The three major types of learning which (describe) by behavioral psychology are classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning.
Classical conditioning is a learning process in which an association (make) between a previously neutral stimulus and a stimulus that naturally evokes a response.
Behavioral psychology is a theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors (acquire) through conditioning.
The two elements (know) as the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response.