The Historical and Cultural Influences That Gave Rise to the Learning Perspective

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Learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior due to experience. Learning is cumulative: what we learn at any time is influenced by our previous learning. This study has been dominated by behaviorism. Behaviorism developed simultaneously in Russia and in the United States, becoming a major force in psychology in the first part of the 20th century. Traditional behaviorists believed all learning can be explained by the process of classical and operant conditioning, and that such processes can be applied to all organisms. The first influence on behaviorism was America's no-nonsense culture. That is, it took a very concrete view of life and focused on events that were directly observable. America was found by risk-taking immigrants who took a chance. American behaviorists were a reflection of that thought – this was perhaps evidenced best by Watson's famous quote: "Give me a dozen healthy infants…." American Behaviorists cared about concrete ways of controlling and predicting behavior rather than about the subconscious.

The second influence was science and technology. The economic boom of the 1920s in America brought about that "science can do anything." Watson was one of them who was anxious to explain his "science of behavior," especially on the subject of child rearing. His timing couldn't have been more perfect because as he sought to do this, there was a huge surge in the science and technology of mass media, especially with the invention of radio. Watson took advantage of this with his radio talk show, impacting the public with his insights. His first major contribution to the Learning Perspective was his paper, Psychology as the Behaviorist Views (Watson, 1913). Watson's standpoint as a behaviorist was that the study of psychology should have nothing to do with introspection or the mind and should, instead, focus on observable behavior only. He believed that only those things that could be objectively studied were worthy or valid subjects of...
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