Behavioral Theory (Behaviorism)We practice with human beings in their social environments, so this comment from the founding father of Behaviorism speaks volumes about the causes of human behavior and thought, as well as methods we can employ to assist them in changing those very things that challenge them:
Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select -- doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. --John Watson, 1930
Behavioral theory is based on the belief that behaviors can be measured, trained, and changed. This theory of learning is based upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. Behaviorists believe that our responses to environmental stimuli shapes our behaviors. There are two major types of conditioning that produce behavior: Operant conditioning and Classical (Pavlovian or Respondent) Conditioning.
Operant conditioning(AKA instrumental conditioning) A method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. Coined by behaviorist B.F. Skinner, he believed that internal thoughts and motivations could not be used to explain behavior. Skinner used the term operant to refer to any "active behavior that operates upon the environment to generate consequences" (1953). In other words, Skinner's theory explained how we acquire the range of learned behaviors we exhibit each and every day (Learning Theory). Examples include: children completing homework to earn a reward from a parent or teacher, or employees finishing projects to receive praise or promotions. Removal of a desirable outcome or the use of punishment can be used to decrease or prevent undesirable behaviors. For example, the loss of recess privileges or additional homework as punishment may lead to a decrease in disruptive behaviors.
Punishmenton the other hand, is the presentation of an adverse outcome that causes a decrease in the behavior it follows.
- Positive punishment, sometimes referred to as punishment by application, involves the presentation of an unfavorable event or outcome in order to weaken the response it follows, such as “time out.”.
- Negative punishment, also known as punishment by removal, occurs when an favorable event or outcome is removed after a behavior occurs, such as the denial of recess time.
Classical conditioningAlthough operant conditioning plays the largest role in discussions of behavioral mechanisms, classical conditioning (or Pavlovian conditioning or respondent conditioning) is a technique used in behavioral training in which a naturally occurring stimulus is paired with a response, then substituted with different stimulus. Eventually, the new stimulus comes to evoke the response. The two elements are then known as the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response. Pavlov's experiments, the dog was presented with a stimulus such as a light or a sound, and then food was placed in the dog's mouth. After a few repetitions of this sequence, the light or sound by itself caused the dog to salivate.
The Little Albert Experiment (Classical conditioning by Watson)
- Around the age of nine months, Watson exposed the child to a series of stimuli including a white rat, a rabbit, a monkey, masks and burning newspapers and observed the boy's reactions. The boy initially showed no fear of any of the objects he was shown.
- Neutral Stimulus: The white rat
- Unconditioned Stimulus: The loud noise
- Unconditioned Response: Fear
- Conditioned Stimulus: The white rat
- Conditioned Response: Fear
The next time Albert was exposed the rat, Watson made a loud noise by hitting a metal pipe with a hammer. Naturally, the child began to cry after hearing the loud noise. After repeatedly pairing the white rat with the loud noise, Albert began to cry simply after seeing the rat.
The Little Albert experiment presents and example of how classical conditioning can be used to condition an emotional response.