Behaviourism has many different strengths and weaknesses. One strength of the approach is that is has successfully applied classical and operant condition to its theories. This is strength as it is used in different therapies such as systematic desensitization, which is a type of behaviour therapy to help overcome phobias and other anxiety disorders; it is based on classical conditioning. Another strength is that it uses scientific methods of research making it much more objective, measurable and observable as well as being able to obtain reliable results. An example of this is Banduras’ bobo doll of study of aggression.
However, there are also weaknesses to this approach. The Behaviourism approach focuses too much on the “nurture” side of nature/nurture debate and suggests that all behaviour is learned. However, research has shown that cognitive and biological elements have been proved to affect individual’s behaviour. For example, people learn behaviour by observing others getting rewarded for certain actions. Another weakness is the ethical issues raised by using animals in experiments. This is because animals cannot consent to take part and are unable to withdraw themselves from experiments, for example, Pavlov’s dog studies.
A major strength of this theory is that it is quick and affordable. As the behaviourism theory focuses on the future and what is happening now instead of the past, treatment can be quick and effective as they are not discussing past experiences which may be time consuming. However, because this theory ignores past experiences and influences, it may cause problems as individuals may need to discuss past experiences in order to sort their emotions out. Because this theory ignores them and focuses on present experiences it can cause a major problem as people may not be able to benefit from the therapy as they need to discuss their past.
* Social Learning Theory: The Social Learning theory was developed my Albert Bandura who believed that we can learn by observing others. This theory however, has different strengths and weaknesses. One of the great strengths of the social learning theory is that it combines important models of learning. This therefore makes it a good education theory. Another strength is that children are seen are easy to teach and any child can be taught. Albert believed that motivation comes largely through praise.
The praise, however, is seen indirectly, since it is the model that is praised, not the child. Once motivated, the model provides the bulk of teaching. The general concept is that children just the right environment to begin learning useful skills. Another strength is that it is an easy theory to grasp and it seems to be generally proven by actual experience. For example, when learning to play football, individuals often first watch a game on TV, which provides the inspiration and motivation to learn to play. However, there are weaknesses that question if this theory is correct. The main weakness of this theory is that is does not include the child’s cognitive development. While there are some cognitive insights in the social learning theory, they are not explained. Albert believed that a child was seen as a sponge, absorbing information through modelling.
However, the child’s contribution to how models are absorbed is processed and worked out through time and is not present to any extent in the theory. Another weakness is that is does not have any given cause. The social learning theory explains that motivation exists though praise. However, it seems that motivation is socially conditioned, and therefore relative. The social learning then takes the basic social structure as normative and standard, without judgement.
* Psychodynamic: This theory was developed by Sigmund Freud and Erik Erickson and believed that we are not always aware of all aspects of ourselves. They ignored all science theories and focused going “inside the head”. However this theory has different strengths and weaknesses. One strength of the psychodynamic theory is that is focused on the effects that childhood experiments have on the personality. This is a strength because Freud was the first psychologist to realise the importance of childhood. It also led to other psychologists including Piaget developing theories on childhood.
Another strength is that it takes both nature and nurture into account. This is a major strength as is emphasise the importance of both. For example, Freud’s assumption of childhood experiences focused on nurture whereas the ID, Ego and Super-ego focused on nature. However, a weakness of the psychodynamic approach is that it is capable of being tested. This is a weakness because the assumptions cannot be scientifically measured or proved wrong, for example, is the idea of the mind being split into three parts. This cannot be proven so therefore questions if its valid information. Another weakness is that it suggests that all behaviour is pre-determined and people do not have free will.
* Biological approach: The biological approach was developed by Arnold Gessel who explained the developmental process and stages involved from conception onwards. A strength of this theory is that it is very scientific. This is a major strength because the experiments used are measurable, objective and can be repeated to obtain reliable results. Also, the researcher has more control over the variable. Another strength of the approach is that it increases the likelihood of being able to treat people with abnormal behaviour and provides explanations about the causes of behaviour. This is a major strength as it can be used to improve people’s lives.
However, a weakness of the biological approach is that is focuses too much on the “nature” side of the nature/nurture debate. It argues that behaviour is caused by hormones, neurotransmitters and genetics. Another weakness of the biological approach is that it develops theories about disorders and generalises them to apply to everyone. It does not take into account the view that humans are unique. An example for is that general adaption syndrome assumes that everyone responds in the same way to stress but does not take into account that some people have or need more support than others.
* Cognitive: The Cognitive theory was development by Jean Piaget who believed children are born with a very basic mental structure, genetically inherited and evolved, in which all subsequent learning and knowledge is based. One strength of the cognitive approach is that is looks at thought processes which were ignored by other psychologists, especially behaviourists. It looks at processes such as memory, attention and perception which all have an effect on our behaviour. Another strength of this approach is that its theories have been applied to cognitive therapies such as rational emotive therapy which is a therapy that focuses on resolving emotional and behavioural problems and helping people to lead happier and more fulfilling lives.
This therapy has been successful in changing irrational thoughts so that behaviour improves. However, a weakness of the cognitive approach is that it reduces human behaviour down to individual processes such as memory and attention. This is a weakness because the human is a product of all the processes working together and not just individual parts. Another weaknesses is that the approach is too mechanical, it compares the human to computers and suggests they have similar though processes. This is a weakness as humans are much more complex than computers.
* Humanistic: The humanistic approach was developed by a psychologist called Abraham Maslow who observed the study of the whole person. He looked at human behaviour not only through the eyes of the observed, but through the eyes of the person doing the behaving. A strength of this theory is that is focuses on both the positive nature of humankind and the free will associated with change. Another strength is the way in which many of its aspects fit well with other approaches. Many therapies have provided a more humanistic undertone in their work with clients. Even though they may argue that the humanistic theory does not go far enough, they see the benefit in helping people change.
However, a weakness of this theory if that is appears to centre on its lack of concrete treatment on specific issues. With the basic concept behind the theory being free will, it is difficult to develop treatments and study the effectiveness of this theory. Secondly, there are those who believe that the humanistic theory does not help those with more severe personality or mental health problems. Another weakness is that this theory is still not complete as there are different questions that are still unanswered. For example, are people basically good or are their some individuals who are not capable of this? As these questions are still unanswered it questions if the theory is effective.