Behaviourist and Social Learning

Topics: Behaviorism, Operant conditioning, Behavior Pages: 7 (2459 words) Published: April 4, 2012
With reference to chosen theory of learning (behaviourist, social learning) discuss its application to patient education in context of general nursing. It may be said; why is psychology significant in nursing care and why do we use learning theories to assist in patient care? Well according to Walker et al (2007), in the caring profession nurses, spend most, if not all of their working lives interacting with other people. A key part of a nurse’s job is to promote healthful behaviour. When a patient is admitted to hospital it is often their physical illness that can cause a lot of emotional distress. This means gaining a better understanding of how people cope with illnesses whether acute or chronic. Understanding health psychology will enable health care professionals to instigate healthful behaviours or ease stressful behaviours in patients. There are many evidence based behaviours that healthcare professionals can use to alleviate certain situations. Learning theory is a coherent framework of integrated constructs and principles that describe explain or predict how people learn. In this assignment the author will endeavour to discuss how behaviours and social learning theories are noteworthy in caring for people in hospital. Bastable (2003) suggest behaviourism is concerned with learning. According to Brennan (2003) a person’s behaviour, including their personality, is learnt. As children we are tabula rasa, which means we do not have any innate behaviour, we learn these as a result of conditioning. Watson’s famous but highly unethical “little Albert experiment” highlights the influence of conditioning. Driscoll (2000) suggests that behaviourism offers a particular perspective on how learning occurs and how teaching impacts that process. Green et al (2000) propose that only evident, measurable behaviour is the appropriate object for psychology. Bandura posits that people learn from one another by habituation, association and reward but also by observing others behaviour and imitating it. Another form of learning is social learning; this learning builds on previous experience and also acknowledges a cognitive element to learning. Bandura suggests humans are a product of learning. We are what we are because of the way we have been taught. There are many things that influence our ability to learn; our biological make up, physical entity social status and one major influence is our cognitive ability. This cognitive ability is one which distinguishes behaviourists from cognitive theorists. Our physical entity and environment reciprocally influence each other and make us what we are.

In this assignment the author will discuss the principles of behaviour; habituation, classical and operant conditioning and lastly social learning in regards to patient education. Walker et al (2007) suggest that there are four types of learning identified by the behaviourists. Each of these theories is highly relevant to healthcare particularly nursing not only for the development of the nurses but also for the people with whom they work. All these theories are built on the principle that all behaviour is learnt. The four types of learning are:

Habituation or habitual behaviour is when people do not think long and hard about something for example like brushing their teeth. Unfortunately as well as good habitual behaviours we can also acquire bad habits such as smoking or snacking on chocolate. These behaviours often become so automatic that it is hard to recognise that we are doing them. It can be concluded as suggested by Richard et al (2007) that habituation is the acknowledgement that people can “get used to” or accept elements in their environment. Payne et al (2000) posit that the most important assumption is that behaviours are based upon a process of reasoning. Pg 33. Classical conditioning according to Richard et al (2007) is training the reflexes such as pain by association. Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) first recorded and...
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