The behaviourism perspective of human behaviour focuses on a stimulus-to-response basis deducing that the environment directly determines behaviour. Its main features centre on behaviours adopted by operant conditioning, classical conditioning and social learning. Behaviourists use quantitative data from experiments and observation as research methods, because they believe that psychology should be scientific and behaviour must be measurable.
Classical conditioning is a behavioural theory developed by Ivan Pavlov in the 1930’s theorising that we learn behaviour by association, he observed a natural response to a stimuli and then paired that existing response to a new stimuli.
An example of classical conditioning is a case study by Watson and Rayner (1920) of a boy they named “Little Albert”. “Little Albert” became fearful of white rats as a result of someone making a loud banging sound every time he saw the rat, he learned to become afraid because he eventually associated rats with his fear of loud bangs.
Watson’s view on behaviour was that we are a “blank slate” when we enter this world, he was famously quoted stating “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” (Jon B .
Watson 1919). Operant conditioning was an approach established by B. F Skinner influenced by behaviourist psychologist Edward Thawndike theorising that behaviour is a result of reinforcements, “behaviour is shaped and maintained by its consequences”(B.
F. Skinner). Skinner theorised that any behaviour we have will either be repeated due to positive or negative reinforcement or extinguished due to undesirable effects such as punishment as a result of the behaviour. Skinner studied rats in what is known as the “Skinner Box” Operant conditioning would explain Ann’s aggressive behaviour when the last carton of milk was taken as a result of her having been positively reinforced by getting what she wants when she becomes aggressive.
The Social learning theory explains human behaviour as a result of observational learning and vicarious learning of a behaviour that an individual might be motivated to imitate. Unlike the operant and classical conditioning, the social learning does to a certain degree take into account the thought process that individuals may have. According to Albert Bandura’s theory and subsequent case study on social learning called the “Bobo Dolls” experiment, it is suggested that in order to replicate behaviour such as aggression one must consider the mediating factors.
The mediating factors include the observer paying attention to the behaviour, how effectively they encode it, whether or not they are able to replicate it and how motivated they are to do so with the consideration of vicarious punishment and reinforcement by their “model”. Behaviourism reduces human behaviour to a mechanical process and disregards individual thought process. The approach considers humans as products of their environment regardless of physiological differences.
With the use of addiction as an example, behaviourism would explain it as a consequence of reinforcement. If for example vicarious learning initiated gambling because an individual frequently saw advertisements on TV showing casino winners, they could become addicted because of the positive reinforcement of winning and the irregular positive reinforcement strengthening the behaviour. Physiological
The physiological approach to explaining behaviour has three main viewpoints and these include the functions of the different areas of the brain, the nervous system consisting of neurotransmitters sending messages to the brain and behaviours determined by hormones. The structure and function of the brain is used by physiological psychologist to explain behaviour by outlineing the connection between the function of cerebral hemispheres. “Roger Sperry” discovered that separating the hemispheres connected communicating with each other by corpus collasum which are continuoly communicating with each other, case studies show that
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