Evaluation of Behaviorist Perspective

Evaluation of the Behaviorist Perspective

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Evaluation of Behaviorist Perspective

Advantages

  • It is considered highly useful. It leads to many practical applications that have been shown to improve people's lives - for example, helping develop therapies for phobias. This can be seen in Skinner's research on operant conditioning, where rewards are used to encourage good behavior - a method often seen in schools!
  • It is scientific; it usually uses controlled experimental methods. This means that cause and effect links can be established. This can be seen in Bandura's experiment, where children were matched for aggression levels and tested in standardised conditions This also means that this perspective tends to have high reliability.
  • It provides strong evidence for the nurture side of the nature / nurture debate. It adds to the scientific evidence available on this topic so that we can make better decisions with regard to education and child-rearing. This can be seen in the study by Watson & Raynor where Little Albert had no innate fear of the rat; instead he learned fear when the rat was associated with his fear of loud noises.

Disadvantages

  • It has been criticised for being reductionist. It focuses only on learning as an explanation for behaviour and ignores other causes of behaviour. This can be seen in Bandura's study, where social learning is viewed as a causal factor of aggressive behaviour.
  • It often relies on laboratory experiments. This means that much research lacks ecological validity which means that results may not be a true reflection of real life behaviour.
  • It has often been criticised as being deterministic. It ignores the possibility that people are free to choose their actions. This can be seen in Watson & Raynor's research, where Little Albert could not choose whether or not to feel fear when he saw a white rat - the fear response was created in him through conditioning.

Evaluation

The Behaviorist perspective is a highly useful, scientific approach to Psychological research. It is often high in reliability which means that it can be replicated easily. However, this is at the price of ecological validity, which means that results gained under this perspective may not be applicable to real, everyday life situations.

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