Behavior Modification vs. Social Cognitivism

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Running head: BEHAVIORISM VERSES COGNITIVISM

Behavior Modification versus Social Cognitivism

by
Diane Blozis
EDD 8124 CRN 50015
Theories of Learning

Nova Southeastern University
October 19, 2012

Abstract
Social Cognitive theory is a subset of cognitive theory. Primarily focused on the ways in which we learn to model the behavior of others, social cognitive theory can be seen in advertising campaigns and peer pressure situations. It is also useful in the treatment of psychological disorders including phobias. Behaviorism emphasizes on the learning of facts and skills. Teachers often use this method to lead instruction, according to Overskeid (2008). Behavior modification is a process of learning that avoids any intervening variables and focuses on descriptions of relationships between behavior and the environment, according to a Cooper (1993). This paper will compare and contrast behavior modification with social cognitive theory in schools when trying to get students to change a certain behaviors or learn a new skill. Social Cognitivism

Overskeid (2008) states that although Cognitivism has been in the forefront of psychology for decades, its position has weakened in recent times. Psychologists and neuroscientists who were cognitivists are now rediscovering that understanding behavior is necessary. Cognitivism is an unobservable mental phenomenon according to Overskeid (2008). B. F. Skinner’s example (e.g. 1977, 1990) of behaviorism rejected the cognitivists due the fact that by not seeing the reinforcement process, cognitive psychologists could not gain the understanding of the consequences that either strengthen or weaken a behavior. Cognitivism focuses on the mind and the study of the brain. The thinking process is the major idea looked at with this theory. Critical thinking, problem solving, decision-making and creative thinking are all part of this process (Williams, 1999). Social Cognitivism and behavior modification can be over lapping in some situations. Students react differently to situations and to understand why the reaction is what it is one would need to understand the students thinking or interpretation of the situation. The cognitive processes are contributors to behaviors. Ones perception is ones reality, which can’t be seen or understood without knowing the thoughts of the person. This thought process then can determine the behavior the behavior.

This theory has several principles, such as, people learn by observing others. It differs from behaviorism since not everyone applies the behavior they have learned. It is more individual choice according to cognitive theorists. Another guiding principle is that people are more likely to follow the behaviors modeled by someone they can identify with and finally the degree of self-efficacy that a learner possesses directly affects his or her ability to learn (Fritscher, 2009). In the school setting peer pressure is a big influence where social Cognitivism plays a role. Students want to belong and fit in. Changing one’s behavior in order to accomplish this goal of fitting in with a group he or she can identify with is common.

There is another issue that social cognitive theory is a factor in, however on opposite ends. According to Fritscher (2009) social cognitive theory may explain the development of certain phobias. Influences from family members or other role models can lead to a learned phobia. On the other hand social cognitive theory can also be used to treat the phobia. Modeling and observation of others can help with diminishing phobias. Behavior Modification

In the elementary school setting teachers use a combination of methods or theories to promote on-task behavior and improved student performance. These strategies were programmed instruction from B. F. Skinner, 1954, behavioral objectives from Mager, 1962, along with direct instruction and reinforcements (Williams, 1999). These strategies are very successful in the education...
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