Behaviourists Explain Maladaptive Bbevaviour in Terms of the Leaarningprinciples

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ESSAY TITLE: “ BEHAVIOURISTS EXPLAIN MALADAPTIVE BEHAVIOUR IN TERMS OF THE LEARNING PRINCIPLES THAT SUSTAIN AND MAINTAIN IT. DISCUSS THIS STATEMENT AND SHOW HOW A BEHAVIOURIST’S APPROACCH TO THERAPY IS IN STARK CONTRAST TO A PSYCHOANALYTIC ONE” Behaviourism is a movement within psychology that works on the principle that all behaviour is “learned” , that we were all born with a “blank slate”. Behavioural approaches use strict experimental measures to study observable behaviour ( or responses ) in relation to the environment, thus resulting in the maladaptive behavioural approaches that we employ to deal with our learning. Behaviourism was first developed in the early 20th century by an American psychologist John B Watson, who at the time was working in the field of animal psychology. He believed that all behaviour was observable and therefore scientific, and worked on the principle and study of the association between a stimulus and response. ( Watson did not deny the existence of inner experiences, but insisted that they could not be studied because they were not observable ) Watson’s stimulus and response theory of psychology claimed that all complex forms of behaviour – emotions, habits etc – are seen as composed of simple muscular and glandular elements that can be observed and measured, and that emotional reactions are learned in much the same way. Watson aimed to prove his beliefs with laboratory experiments, and one of these experiments was known as “ The Little Albert Experiment”. Little Albert was a small young boy of about 18 months of age , Young Albert would sit happily on the floor and play with a white rat. Young Albert did not like loud noises, and on the presentation of the rat, scientists would clang two metal rods together behind Young Albert’s head, which resulted in screaming from young Albert. The result of this “ conditioning” experiment was that Albert came to associate the rat with fear, and on following presentations of the rat, young Albert displayed considerable fear. Around the turn of the 20th century, another American psychologist Edward Lee Thorndike, investigated how animals learn, in one experiment he placed a cat in a “puzzle box” and measured the time it took to escape. Over a number of trials, the time taken to escape decreased, and from this observation he developed the “law of (positive) effect”, which states that any behaviour leading to a positive outcome will tend to be repeated in similar circumstances. If we like the consequences of our actions then the actions are likely to be repeated, this type of learning was known as operant conditioning . Thorndike’s work was developed by such behaviourist’s such as B.F. Skinner. Skinner approach to psychology was scientific, his views came from Darwin’s theories of evolution. Skinner focused on the environment as a cause for human behaviour, he did not think that people acted for moral reasons, believing they reacted in response to their environment. For example: a person might do a good thing not for moral reasons, but for the rewards received for the act. Skinner believed that the mental process was irrelevant. To prove his theories skinner invented what is now referred to as the “ skinner box”. This was a small box with a lever mechanism inside that dispensed a food pellet when pressed. Many experiments were done using this box system, and in one of these experiments a rat was rewarded with a food pellet on every press of a lever ( condition A). In another condition ( condition B ) the rat was only rewarded with a food pellet only sometimes when pressing the lever. They found that rat B pressed the lever much more! Why was this? Because the lever pressing was only occasionally rewarded, it took longer to figure out that in no longer worked. Skinner believed that reinforcement is a key concept in behaviourism, that it increases the likelihood that an action will be repeated in the future, however, punishment on the other hand, will...
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