Outline Two Advantages and Two Disadvantages of the Behaviourist Approach (12)
One of the strengths of the behaviourist approach is that it only focuses on behaviour and behaviours that can be observed and manipulated. Consequently this approach has proved itself to be useful in experiments where behaviour can be observed and manipulated for desired effects such as the experiment Burrhus Frederic Skinner conducted on rats, manipulating them to press buttons and levers until they are given food and the experiment Ivan Petrovich Pavlov conducted on dogs where he manipulated them to salivate to the ringing of a bell, rather than to food.
The behaviourist approach also concentrates on ‘here and now’ and what can be seen, rather than exploring a person’s past like the psychodynamic approach does. This is an advantage because it is not concerned with what cannot be seen and what happened in the past and many people do not know and believe that their past causes behaviour and personalities in their later life, and many people the think removing the undesirable behaviour is more important than understanding the causes of the behaviour.
On the other hand, a disadvantage of the behaviourist approach is that the theories are too deterministic as behaviourists believe that our behaviour is determined only by environmental effects such as classical conditioning and operant conditioning which is a disadvantage as behaviour can be indeterministic and there can be no causes for it. It also undermines the amount of free will a person has and doesn’t consider that ever human can make choices about their behaviours and have moral responsibility for their behaviour which is a deficiency in the approach as a person can choose to change their behaviour and personality at any given moment and the environment doesn’t have to effect their decision.
Also, the behaviourist approach emphasises too much on nurture. It focuses only on the environment effects on a person, so it completely ignores effects nature can have on a purpose and disregards genetics as an explanation of behaviour which is a disadvantage as behaviour can be altered and modified by nature every day in different ways like where a person lives, where they visit, even what bus route they take etc. Furthermore, a question often put to behaviourists is ‘If learning is the only factor that makes us who we are, then we should all be capable of becoming whatever we want to be’ and many behaviourists cannot justify this question properly, the bottom line is that there are many different factors affecting our abilities other than learning.
In addition, the theories of behaviourism have been mainly tested on animals so the findings may not completely apply to human behaviour, which is much more a lot more complex.