Behaviourists Explain Maladaptive Behaviour in Terms of the Learning Principles That Sustain and Maintain It. Discuss This Statement and Show How a Behaviourists Approach Is in Stark Contrast to a Psychoanalytic One.

Topics: Classical conditioning, Behaviorism, Operant conditioning Pages: 6 (2213 words) Published: February 5, 2013
“Behaviourists explain maladaptive behaviour in terms of the learning principles that sustain and maintain it. Discuss this statement and show how a behaviourists approach to therapy is in stark contrast to a psychoanalytic one”. Behaviourism is a school of thought in psychology based on the assumption that learning occurs through interactions with the environment. Two other assumptions of this theory are that the environment shapes behaviour and that taking internal mental states such as thoughts, feelings and emotions into consideration is useless in explaining behaviour. Behaviourists are unique among psychologists in believing that it is unnecessary to speculate about internal mental processes. The behaviourist theory believes that cultural and sub – cultural conditioning moulds and shapes behaviour and subsequently the personality. Behaviourists also believe that people are born with only a handful of innate reflexes and that all of a person’s complex behaviours are the result of learning through interaction with the environment. They also assume that the processes of learning are common to all species and so humans learn in the same way as other animals. A human being, according to the behaviourist, has his life determined for him since he is the product of the culture that causes him to be as he is. The theory therefore, is very deterministic. To the behaviourist, normal behaviour results from acceptable conditioning and abnormal behaviour results from defective conditioning. The behaviourist isn’t concerned in what developmental processes may have influenced a person’s behaviour. They believe that if the patient is taught to understand his environment and how he interacts with it, he will automatically understand himself and his behaviour. The behaviourist functions from the position that if a neurotic behaviour can be learned, then it can be unlearned. Behaviourists explain behaviour in terms of the stimuli that elicit it and the events that caused the person to learn to respond to the stimulus in that way. Behavioural therapy is particularly helpful in assisting in issues such as anxiety, depression, post – traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and drug misuse. Unlike other talking therapies, behavioural therapy focuses on the issue you have now, rather than issues from your past. It looks for practical ways you can improve your state of mind on a daily basis. Behaviourists use two processes to explain how people learn; classical conditioning and operant conditioning. In order to understand how classical conditioning works it is important to be familiar with the basic principles of the process. The Unconditioned Stimulus – is one that unconditionally, naturally, and automatically triggers a response. For example, when you smell your favourite food you might suddenly feel very hungry. In this example, the smell of the food is the unconditioned stimulus. The Unconditioned Response – is the unlearned response that occurs naturally in response to the unconditioned stimulus. In this example, the feeling of hunger in response to the smell of food is the unconditioned response. The Conditioned Stimulus – a previously neutral stimulus that, after becoming associated with the unconditioned stimulus, eventually comes to trigger a conditioned response. For example, suppose that when you smelt your favourite food, you also heard the sound of a whistle. While the whistle is unrelated to the smell of the food, if the sound of the whistle was paired multiple times with the smell, the sound would eventually trigger the conditioned response. In this case, the sound of the whistle is the conditioned stimulus. The Conditioned Response – is the learned response to the previously neutral stimulus. In this example, the conditioned response would be feeling hungry when you heard the sound of the whistle. One of the most well known examples of classical conditioning was first demonstrated by Russian physiologist Ivan...
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