When psychologists were first acknowledged they began studying behaviors and biological processes. There are numerous recognized psychologists that have contributed to the seven major perspectives of today’s modern psychology. These theories include: Evolutionary theory, sociocultural theory, biopsychological theory, psychoanalytic theory, cognitivism, humanistic theory and behaviorism. The three theories that I would like to describe, analyze and reflect upon are the behaviorism, cognitivism and psychoanalytic.
The term “behaviorism” developed from the renowned behavioral psychologist named John B. Watson (Molm, 2005). Many influential theorists became associated with behaviorism including: Ivan Pavlov, Edward Throndike, William James and B.F Skinner. Ivan Pavlov studied behaviorism through learning which scientifically was called conditioning (Younger, Vanson, & Huffman, 2010). Edward Throndike “determined that the frequency of a behavior is modified by its consequences” (Younger, Vanson, & Huffman, 2010, p.157.) William James expanded and broadened psychology by incorporating animal behaviors along with human behaviors into his studies. B.F Skinner became interested in the behavioristic approach and ended up being one of behaviourisms biggest advocate (The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2001). His version of behavioral psychology is one the most influential theories developed in the twentieth century (Robinson, 2004).
“Scientific psychology has four basic goals: to describe, explain, predict, and change behaviour or mental processes through scientific methods” (Younger et al., 2010, p.7). In Pavlov’s case he used scientific experiments to describe learning. Using classical conditioning he showed a connection between how different stimulus’s can create a learned (conditioned) response. His experiment included “a neural stimulus which becomes associated with an unconditioned response to elicit a conditioned response” (Younger, Vanson, & Huffman, 2010, p.175). Skinners most well known experiment was a cage with a rat in it, with a bar inside and every time the rat pressed down on the bar they received food. This explained that behavior was the result of either positive or negative reinforcement (The Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2001).This has significant value when dealing with several emotional and mental disorders psychologists have been able to use behaviour therapy to change maladaptive behaviors through classical conditioning techniques (Younger et al., 2010). “Behavior theorists define learning as nothing more than acquisition of new behavior based on environmental conditions” (Molm, 2005, p.45). Not surprisingly because I’ve grown up with behaviorism all my life being raised in a family that rewarded me for when I did housework, received good grades or for good behavior. An example of a behavior change in myself resulting in an observable response would be when I hear the sound of a child crying. I’ve learned that hearing the sound of crying (makes me instantly think if my daughters ok). The neutral stimulus (crying) paired with physically having my daughter in my presence (unconditioned stimulus) over time became the conditioned stimulus resulting in my conditioned response of being worried an anxious when I hear crying. If you understand the behaviorist theory it can be a very useful tool in everyday life. As a nurse I may find many different ways to use different types of reinforcements to strengthen a specific response of a patient. This is called operant conditioning (Younger et al., 2010). The behaviorist theory is one that I find easy to understand and very useful and applicable to real-life situations. Whether it is as simple as teaching your dog a new trick or as complex as raising children; the behaviorist theory is one that we can all learn from and easily apply in everyday life or in the health care field.