Behaviorism and its effect on the learning process
American Intercontinental University
February 1, 2015
The theory of behaviorism is that human and animal behavior can be explained in terms of conditioning without any preconceived thought, but it can be defined by observable behavior that is researched. Behaviorism projects that individuals are products of their experiences and have become who they are because of conditioning. John Watson, who is credited with Behaviorism, made the comment that he could take “twelve healthy infants and take any one of them and mold them into any given occupation regardless of genetics, race, talents and/or abilities.”(Jenson, 2014) Watson felt that conditioning was a crucial part of behaviorism, as it was an extension of Pavlov’s discovery and his studies of stimulus-response reflexive relationships. In this paper the founding of behaviorism, the main components of the behaviorism theory, a brief description of 3 behaviorist experiments, and how behaviorism develops new behaviors will be discussed. Behaviorism and its effect on the learning process
The founder of behaviorism is credited to John B. Watson. According to Watson, behavior was a subject matter in its own right, to be studied by the observational methods common to all sciences. This field of study and learning was founded in 1912, and it was formed as a reaction to the current focus on psychology at the time. In order to form this theory, John Watson studied the research of Ivan Pavlov. Watson felt that “psychology must have an empirical, objective subject matter and that the events to be investigated as possible causes of behavior must also be described objectively and verified empirically through experimental research (Jensen, 2014).” This latter point meant that introspection would have to be abandoned, for it was unscientific. Watson presented the goals of psychology as the prediction and control of behavior rather than as the understanding of the mind and the consciousness (Jensen, 2014). In earlier forms of psychology, mental life was the appropriate subject matter for psychology, and introspection was an appropriate method to engage that subject matter (Moore, 2011). In 1913, John Watson delivered a lecture on “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It” at a meeting for the American Psychological Association at Columbia University. Upon his presentation, he was considered as brilliant for this body of work. According to Watson, behaviorism offered a “purely American solution to problems of employee selection, human adjustment, and industrial relations. It allowed businessmen to match employees to jobs; if necessary, it could show how the individual may be molded (forced to put on new habits) to fit the environment (Harris, 2010).” Behaviorism is also associated with B.F. Skinner, who made his reputation by testing Watson's theories in the laboratory. Skinner ultimately rejected Watson's almost exclusive emphasis on reflexes and conditioning. Skinner believed that people respond to their environment, but they also operate on the environment to produce certain consequences ("Behaviorism Theory Overview").
The Main Components of Behaviorism and the Experiments
Behaviorism has been determined to have two assumptions that define the theory. They are classical conditioning, and operant conditioning. Behaviorism is strongly based on stimulus and response and the learner starts of with a clean slate (also known as tabula rasa). The behavior of the learner can be shaped by positive and negative reinforcement, and positive and negative punishment. Three of the main contributors to behaviorism are: John Watson, Ivan Pavlov, and B.F. Skinner. Watson put the emphasis on external behavior of people and their reactions on given situations, rather than the internal, mental state of those people. In his opinion, the analysis of behaviors and reactions was the only...
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