Behaviourists hold the view that learning is the main force that controls our behaviour. We, as humans, experience stimuli from our environment and we learn how to react or respond to it. Behaviourism is also known by several other names for this reason: a) Stimulus-response psychology
b) Learning theory. This is a very misleading name as it makes people think of ‘thoughts’. However, behaviourists largely ignore ‘internal processes’ and think of learning as permanent changes to our behaviour. To a behaviourist learning is producing new or different behaviour.
Identify the stimulus and response in these examples:
1. Someone hums a tune and suddenly you feel happy
2. An adult is terrified of dogs
3. A horse sees snow and scrapes the snow away
4. A student insists on taking a certain item to an exam
One of the simplest forms of learning is classical conditioning. Think of what happens when you smell fresh baked bread; when someone tells you they love you; or when you are attacked. Page 359 for a definition:
Classical conditioning is fundamentally the body’s involuntary reactions, or reflexes, to stimulus. Such as eye blinks, salivation, or emotions like fear, and happiness. We have no direct control over these responses – they have been conditioned into us to happen.
Classical conditioning takes place in even the simplest life forms. A flatworm has been taught to contract its body every time a 100-watt light bulb is turned on. When the light was first turned on the worm made no reaction to it. But when the light was paired with a small electrical shock (that makes flatworms contract) for a period of time (250 pairings), soon the flatworm contracted to the light bulb alone.
Find out about Watson’s experiment with Little Albert
Humans are much more complex than dogs and flatworms but we too learn through...