Topics: Classical conditioning, Behaviorism, Operant conditioning Pages: 5 (1959 words) Published: November 21, 2013
Describe the behaviourist approach in psychology and evaluate the research methods used by behaviourist psychologists. The behaviourist approach in psychology states that all behaviour is learnt from experience and from the environment we are in. John Locke (1690) a psychologist described the mind as ‘Tabula Rasa’, believing when we are born our minds are completely blank slates, and that all of our behaviour is dependent upon our interactions and experiences with the environment. Behaviourists believe all our behaviour is determined by stimulus response links - the idea that behaviour depends upon consequences. It is believed that internal mental processes cannot be studied scientifically and that psychology should be only scientific and objective. A lot of the testing and research in the behaviourist approach is taken out on animals as according to the approach, animals and humans both learn in the same way. Therefore the results we get from animals we can apply to humans. The behaviourist approach is a strong support of the nurture side of the nature-nurture debate in psychology. Therefore the approach is very much an opposite to the biological approach with few similarities between them both. Both do in fact believe that psychology should be scientific and highly controlled, meaning their results are more reliable and replicable. Both approaches also focus on being objective rather than subjective. Both also use animals in their research. The differences however are the behaviour approach focuses on everything being influenced by environment where as biological focuses on everything being influenced by genetics. Therefore strongly supporting the Nature side rather than behaviour which supports the Nurture side. One of the biggest psychologists involved with the behaviourist who really established the behaviourist approach is John Broadus Watson (1878-1985). He stated that consciousness could not be seen of meaningfully defined therefore shouldn’t be studied. He felt that psychology should be the objective study of observable behaviour and response. He said that human behaviour is determined by environment and that behaviour could be shaped or manipulated, and supported the idea that the laws of learning in animals could be applied to humans. Another psychologist heavily involved in establishing behaviourism is Edward Thorndike (1874-1949). He came up with the ‘Law of Effect’. He states that the tendency of an organism to produce certain behaviours depends of the effect the behaviour has on the environment. For example rewarding an organism’s behaviour makes that behaviour more likely to be reproduced; the more times the behaviour is reward, the more likely it is too be ‘stamped into’ the organism. However punishing the organisms behaviour makes that behaviour unlikely to be reproduced. Examples of this are everywhere; in schools for example there are reward systems, where good behaviour is rewarded with a positive reinforcement. This can be either primary or secondary. Primary being an instant reward such as a sweet, or secondary being something that is exchangeable – the object itself is meaningless but what the object amounts to is the reward; such as a certain amount of merits adding up to a larger prize at the end of the term. On the other hand there can also be sanction systems, which are examples of negative reinforcement, where in which the person is less likely to carry out a behaviour in order to avoid a consequence. In schools this would be things such as detentions or extra work. However for these systems to work the person has to identify with the reward or even the punishment, otherwise it would be completely pointless. This technique has helped largely in the real world with things such as helping people with mental disorders. An example of a study to show the effect consequences have on behaviour is Skinners rat study. This is an example of Operant Conditioning. Operant conditioning is a method of...
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