Behaviourist Approach

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  • Behaviourist Approach
    • Assumptions
      • Psychologists should focus on observable behaviour, not minds, if it is to be considered a scientific discipline
      • All behaviour is learnt, or determined by, interactions and experiences in our environment
      • Operant conditioning is concerned with the use of consequences or reinforcements to modify or shape behaviour
      • Classical conditioning demonstrates how a new association can be made between a neutral stimulus and an already existing response
      • There are many practical applications of the behaviourist approach e.g. the modification of speech in autistic children
    • Psychologists
      • John Locke
        • Believed we are born a 'blank slate'
        • All our behaviour is learnt and depends completely on our interactions and experiences
      • Watson and Thorndike
        • Completely disagreed with the psychodynamic approach
        • Psychology should focus on the observable
        • Behaviour = Environment
        • Law of Effect
          • Good = Behaviour stamped
          • Bad = Behaviour not repeated
      • Burrhus Frederick Skinner (operant)
        • Should focus on using scientific methods to make observations of behaviour and its consequences
        • All behaviour is learnt as a result of consequences - operant conditioning
        • Skinner Box
          • Hungry rat in box - 1 leaver = food, rat pressed leaver over and over
    • Little Albert
      • Watson and Reyner
        • Wanted to investigate whether an emotional response such as fear could be conditioned into a human being
        • Whenever Albert reached for the rat, Watson would strike a metal bar directly behind Albert
          • Watson would continue this until Albert associated the fear with the white rat
            • Watson also found that Albert's fear of white rats also moved onto other white objects e.g. white rabbits
    • Reinforcement
      • Positive
        • Feeling of satisfaction
        • Increases likelihood of desired response
          • e.g. teacher giving praise for an excellent piece of work
      • Negative
        • Removing an unpleasant experience to increase the likelihood of a desired behaviour
          • e.g. smacking a child when they're naughty
      • Where can this be applied?
        • Education, Prisons, Psychiatric Institutes and can also be used to modify speech in autistic children
    • Classic Conditioning - Ivan Pavlov
    • Strengths and Weaknesses
      • Strengths
        • Provided a number of practical applications and techniques to shape behaviour
        • Provides strong arguments for the nurture side of the nature-nurture debate
        • Behaviourist's use of rigorous, experimental methods of research enhances the credibility of psychology as a scientific discipline
      • Weaknesses
        • Ignores the mental processors that are involved in learning, unlike the cognitive approach which views these processors as important
        • View humans as passive learners at the mercy of the environment unlike the humanistic approach
        • The principles of operant condition do not account for spontaneous behaviour
        • Rejects possible role of biological approach
        • The use of animals in applying laws of learning to humans has been criticised


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