A learning approach to human sexuality
Main themes of the paper
Human sexuality plays a major role in everyone's life. Regardless, whether we are young or old, man or woman, South African or American, it is an integral part of what we do and who we are. There has been much done by way of research and scholarly writing examining human sexuality. The point here is that human sexuality, like us, is multi-dimensional and one can only begin to get a sense of what it is by the inclusion of many perspectives and ideas. To what extent does adult sexual behavior reflect what was learnt in our childhood? Would you hold the same sexual attitudes and behaviors if you had been reared in another culture? Even within the same society, family and personal experiences can shape unique sexual attitudes and behaviors. Learning theory focuses on environmental factors that shape behavior. Within this context, learning theory examines the environmental factors that shape sexual behavior (McConaghy, 1987). How are the ideas explored? Methodology/evidence of the argument How is human behavior learned? Professor Nathaniel McConaghy’s explores the different positions that suggest that sexual behavior learned in childhood plays a major role in the development of adult sexual behavior. In his examination of the theories developed in the studies of learning (humans and animals) Prof McConaghy looks at their position in relation to: * Is the aim of theory to explain the development of learning or control human behavior? * Is CNS and its properties important and is it involved in how learning occurs and in what is learned? * Do people/animals learn through individual responses to different stimuli or is it as a result of a global internalized representation of reality? * Can learning be established and continue/persist/endure without reinforcement? * Are there critical periods in childhood during which behavior once learned is unusually difficult to alter later in life? * Is behavior completely determined by environmental factors; is there no natural character differences between people; and can findings by generalized to others? * Are people simply passive reactors in their environments or do they have the ability to change his/her environment to suit his or her needs and aspirations especially if this is incongruent to the model of his/her environment One of the best known and distinctive qualities of nature is its capacity to be modified by experience. If an individual or an animal is placed in a situation, it may not have a direct response to the stimuli; but in the next encounter with a similar stimuli the individual or animal may react very differently than it did on the first occasion. Thus an individual’s reaction to an immediate stimulus is also a reaction in reflection of the memories of its previous experience. This is known as learning and conditioning. The concept of classical conditioning is studied by every psychology student. Ivan Pavlov was a noted Russian physiologist who while studying digestion in dogs noted an interesting occurrence – his dogs would begin to salivate whenever an assistant entered the room. The dogs were responding to the sight of the research assistants' white lab coats, which the animals had come to associate with the presentation of food. He then conducted a series of experiments to find out how these conditioned responses were learned. After several conditioning trials, the dogs would begin to salivate at the sound of a bell. So the previously neutral stimulus (the bell) became a conditioned stimulus that then provoked a conditioned response (salivation). Learning was thus as a result of paired stimulation. After many similar experiments Pavlov concluded that learned associations never disappeared. Food
Bell/sound (conditional stimulus)
Salivation (Conditional response)
Food (unconditional stimulus)
Pavlov also investigated the changes in conditional responses to different types...
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