Behaviourist assumptions

The behaviourist approach is only interested in studying behaviour that can be observed & measured. 

It only focuses on environmental factors ignoring factors such as biology. 

Behaviourist try to maintain more objectivity and control within their research and relied on lab studies as they do not agree with introspection b/c it invloves too many concepts that were vague. 

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Classical conditioning

CC is learning through association first demonstrated by Ivan Pavlov. Who said that dogs could be conditioned to salivate to the sound of a bell ringing if it were repeatedly paired with food. 





The unconditioned stimulus; food, causes the dog to respond with salivation; unconditioned response. The neutral stimulus, bell, produces no conditioned response from the dog. However, when paired with the UCS it produces an UCR of salivation. The NS the turns into the CS as it produces a CR of salivation. 

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Evaluation of CC

  • Strengths of CC: 

Has led to the development of treatment for reduction of anxiety with various phobias. Systematic desensitrisation is a therapy based on CC. It works by eliminating the learned anxious response (CR) that is associated with the feared obj (CS). 

Therapist aims to get rid of learned response (anxiety) & replaces with relaxation = no longer anxious. 

  • Limitations of CC:

Different species= different challenges to survive = different capabilities to learn through process of CC. Relationship between CS & UCS = more difficult to establish for some species. 

Seligman proposed preparedness, animals prepared to learn associations significant in terms of survival, unprepared to learn associations that aren't significant. 

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Operant conditioning

Skinner suggested learning is an active process where humans & animals operate  on their environment. 

  • Positive reinforcement- recieving a reward when a certain behaviour is performed. 
  • Negative reinforcement- when someone avoids something unpleasant. 
  • Punishment- an unpleasant consequence of behaviour. 

Skinners Box was created in which experiments were conducted. Rats were observed when they activated the lever they were rewarded with a food pelet. This behaviour was repeated many times after. 

Skinner also measured negative reinforcement whereby when rats pressed the lever they recieved an electrical shock, The rats then avoided this unpleasant stimulus.

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Evaulation of OC

  • Strengths of OC:

Highly controlled conditions in attempt to discover causal relationships between two or more vairables. 

By manipulating the consequence of a behaviour (IV) Skinner was able to accurately measure the effects on the rats behaviour (DV). Allowing him to establish a cause & effect relationship between the consquence of a behaviour (positive/ negative) and the future frequency of its occurance.

High internal validity.  

  • Limitations of OC:

Skinner recieved criticism b/c experiments were on animals rather than humans.  Humans have free will rather than having their behaviour determined by positive and negative reinforcement. Just b/c the rats corresponded to the environment it does not mean that humans will. Can't extrapolate findings from the rats to humans.  Skinner argued that FW was an illusion. 

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Evaluation of Behaviourism in general

  • Scientific credibility: 

It brought the language & methods of the natural sciences into psychology- by focusing on the meausrement of observable behaviour within highly controlled lab settings. Emphasising the importance of scientific processes, behaviourism was influential in the development of psychology as a science =greater credibility & status. 

  • Real life application: 

Operant conditioning is the basis of token economy systems that have been used successfully  in institutions, such as prisons. These work by rewarding appropriate behaviours with tokens that an be exchanged for priviledges. CC has been applied to the treatment of phobias, this requires less effort from a patients b/c patient doesn't have to think about their problem (they do in therapy). 

  • Environmental determinism: 

Skinner said that everything we do us the sum total of our reinforcement history. Ignoring possible influences that FW may have. 

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Social Learning Theory

  • Imitation- copying the behaviour of the role model. 
  • Identification- when a observers associates themselves with a role model and wants to be like the role model. 
  • Modelling- From the observer's perspective, modelling is imitating the behaviour of a role model. From the role models perspective, modelling is the precise demonstration of a specific behaviour that may be imitated by the observer. 
  • Vicarious Reinforcement- reinforcement which is not directly experienced but occurs through obserrving someone else being reinforced for a behaviour. Key factor in imitation. 
  • Role of Mediational processes- cognitive factors (thinking) that influence learning & comes between stimuus and response. 
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SLT: Bandura et al

  • Bandura recorded behaviour of children who watched an adult being aggressive towards the Bobo doll: hitting it with a hammer & shouting. 
  • The children were left alone and observed, those children who watched the adults be aggressive were much miore aggressive towards the doll than the children who did not watch the adults hit the Bobo doll.  
  • Attention: exetent we notice a behaviour. 
  • Retention: how well the behaviour is rememebered. 
  • Motor reproduction: ability of the observer to perform behaviour. 
  • Motivation: will to perform, determined by whether the behaviour was rewarded or punished. 
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Evaluation of SLT:

  • Strength: has useful application

Akers suggested that the probability of someone engaging in criminal behaviour increases when exposed to models & develop expectations of positive consequences. 

  • Explains cultural development in beh: 

SLT can account for how children learn from other indivduals around them, as well as through the media can explain how culutral norms are transmitted through society. 

  • Limitation: underestimates inflluence on bio factors: 

Boys were often more aggressive that girls, hormonal factors different levels of testosterone linked to increase in aggression. It is not accounted for in SLT.

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Biological influences on behaviour:

  • Influence of genes on behaviour: 
  • Genes: the mechanisms of heredity: 

Twin studies are used to determine the likelihood that certain traits have a genetic basis by comparing the concordance rates between pairs of genes. 

Monozygotic twins share 100% of each others genes whilst Dizygotic twins share 50% (same as any siblings), MZ twins have high concordance. 

  • Genotype & Phenotype: 

Genotype, is the genetic make up of a person. A set of genes that a person possesses. Phenotype, is the characteristics of an individual determined by both genes and the environment. 

  • Genetic basis of behaviour:

We all differ as each have a unique combination of genetic instructions. Heritability refers to the amount of variblility in a triat within a population. The more trait is influenced by genetic factors. 

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Biological- the influence of biological structures

  • Neurons and the nervous system: 

The central nervous sytem (CNS) the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system (PNS) semantic and autonomic NS. The NS carries messages from one part of the body to another using individual nerve cells- Neurons.  Neurons transmit nerve impluses in the form of electrical signals. 

  • The brain: 

Cerebrum makes up about 85% of the total mass. The outer surface is the Cerebrum cortex- responsible for the higher order functions such as thought and language.  Cerebrum is divided into two halves, each hemi is further split into 4 lobes

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Bio-The influence of biochemistry on behaviour:

  • Neurotransmitters:

When a nerve impulse reaches the end of a neuron, neurotransmitters are released, to travel from one neuron to the next across the synapse (the gap). Neurotransmitters that trigger nerve impulses in the recieving neuron and stimulate the brain into action= excitatory.  Those used to calm the brain =inhibitory neurotransmitters. 

  • Hormones: 

These are chemicals produced by the endocrine glands; pituitary, in response to a signal from the brain. Hormones are secreted into the blood stream. 

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Bio- evolution and behaviour:

Charles Darwin proposed the Natural selection theory. 

Any genetically determined behaviour that enhances a survival (& reproduction) will continue in future generations.

In nature this happens naturally, the selection occurs b/c ssme traits give the possesor certain advantages. The possesser is more likely to survive, reproduce and pass on their traits. 

If the traits are not passed on, they do not remain in the gene pool

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Cognitive Approach- assumptions

  • The study of internal mental processes: 

Internal mental processes: 'private' operations of the mindset as perception and attention that mediate between stimulus & response. Cognitive psychologists study them indirectly by making inferences about what is going on inside peoples minds. 

  • The role of schemas: 

Cognitive processing can be affected by a personal belief/ experience, often refered to as schemas. [packages of info developed through experience]. They allow us to process lots of info quickly and useful as a mental shortcut that prevents us from being overwhelmed.  

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Cognitive Approach- assumptions

  • The use of theoretical and computer models:

Info processing approach suggests that info flows through the cognitive system in a sequence of stages that include inputs, storage and retrieval.  Where the mind is compared to a computer by suggesting that there are sims and diffs in the way that info is processed.  Coding-turns into a useable format, 'stores' hold info = 'thinking machines' or artifical intelligence. 

  • The emergence of cognitive neuroscience:

Is the study of the influence of brain structures in mental processes.  The use of computer generated models that are designed to 'rad' the brain. Development of mind mapping techniques known as 'brain fingerprinting'. 

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Evalution of the Cognitive approach

  • Strength: scientific and objective method: 

Highly controlled in order to enable researchers to infer cognitive processes at work. Involves the use of lab experiments to produce reliable data. The emergence of cognitive neuroscience = the two fields of biology & cogntive to unite = established and credible scienctiic basis. 

  • Limitations: machine reductionism: 

Computer analogy has been criticised as it ignores the influence of human emotion & motivation on the cognitive system & how this may affect our ability to process info. Research has found that human memory can be afected by environmental factors

  • Application to everydat life:

Cog psychologist only infer mental processed from behaviour observed in research = consequece, occassionaly suffers from being too abstract & theortical in nature.  Experimental studies of mental processed are often carried out using artifical stimuli that may not represent everyday memory experience. Research on cog processes lack external validity. 

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Evaluation of the biological approach

  • Strengths: real life application, 

Increased understanding of bio processes in the brain = development of psychoactive drugs that can treat serious mental illnesses.  Drugs are effective for all patients, they have revolutionised treatments for many.  Strength b/c it means that sufferers are able to live a normal life. 

  • Scientific methods of investigation:

Makes use of precise and highly scientific methods, including scanning techniques such as fMRI, EEGs, family and twin studies & drug trials. With advances in technology, it is possible to accurately measure bio & neural processes in ways that aren't biased. It's based of reliable data.

  • Limitations: reductionist 

The belief that complex human behaviours can be explained by breaking it down into smaller components. Reductionist approach lends itself to scientific investigation, critics argue that we cannot fully understand a behaviour without also taking into account other factors that influence it.  Cognitive, emotional & cultural factors all have a sig influence on behaviour. 

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Psychodynamic Approach

  • The role of the unconscious 

The unconscious is apart of the mind that we are unaware of but continues to direct much of our behaviour. Bubbling under the surface of the conscious is the pre conscious; thoughts and ideas within this may become aware though dreams & slips of the tongue (prapraxes). 

  • The structure of the personality: 

The ID- primitive part of our personality, pleasure principle- gets what it wants. Throughout life it is selfish & demands instant gratification, 

The EGO- works on the reality principle, is the mediator between ID & Superego. it is developed around the age of 2, is role is to reduce conflicts of the demands of the ID &Superego. Employing a number of defence mechanisms. 

The Superego-formed at the end of the phallic stage, age 5. Internal sense of right & wrong, based on the morality principle

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Psychodynamic Approach

  • Defence mechanisms: Including Repression, Denail and Displacement

Repression: forcing a distressing memory out of the conscious mind.

Denial: refusing to acknowlegde some aspects of reality.

Displacement: transferring feelings from true source of distressing emotion onto a subsitute target. 

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Psychodynamic- psychosexual stages

Stage one: Oral (0-1yrs) Focus of pleasure is the mouth, mother's breats is the object of desire.  Consequences, Oral fixation- smoking, biting nails, sarcastic. 

Stage two: Anal (1-3yrs) Focus of pleasure is the anus. Child gains pleasure from withholding and epxpelling faeces. Consequence, Anal Retentive- perfectionist, obsessive. Anal expulsive- thoughtless, messy. 

Stage three: Phallic (3-5 yrs) Focus of pleasure is the genital area. Child experiences the Opedipus or Electra complex.  Consequence, Phallic personality, narcissistic, reckless, possibly homosexual. 

Stage four: Latency Earlier conflicts are repressed. 

Stage five: Genital  Sexual desires become conscious alongside the onset of puberty.  Consequence, difficulty forming hetrosexual relationships. 

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Psychodynamic Approach

Phallic stage is important for the development of gender identity. During, boys go through the Oedipus complex- developing sexual feeling for the mother. They fear that their fathers will castrate the (anxiety), eventually internalising the male gender identity. 

Girls go through the Electra complex, here they develop sexual feelings for their father but experience penis envy & ineternalise the female gender identity by internalising the mothers ideals. 

Fixation may occur, reveals itself in adulthood. 

A Freudian slip is a verbal or memory mistkae that is believed to be linked to the unconscious mind. 

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Evaluation of Psychodynamic approach

Evaluation of the Psychodynamic approach:

  •  Psychic determinism: 

Freud believed there were no such thing as 'accident' in human behaviour. Even a 'slip of the tongue' are driven by the unconscious force & has deep symbolic meaning. The psychodynamic explains all behaviour even accidents- as determined by the unconscious conflicts that are rooted in childhood. He believed that Free Will was just an illusion.This does not support the psychodynamic approach as it does not take into account environmental stimuli, behaviour is a complex human phenomena and so it is unlikely that it is due to one purpose. 

  • Case study method: 

Freud's theory was based on the intensive study of single individuals. His theories were very detailed however, criticised that it is not possible to make such a univeral claim about human nature based on studies of a small number who were psychologically abnormal. This does not show support for the psychodynamic approach as it is highly subjective and a case study method is used (idiographic) therefore it lacks population validty and scientific rigour as there isn't any hard evidence just theory as we cannot measure the unconscious.

  • Untestable concepts: 

It is argued that the psychodynamic approach does not meet the scientific criterion of falsification, in the sense that it does not open to empirical testing (possibility of being disproved). Many of Freuds concepts are said to occur at an unconscious level, making them difficult to test. (Fake science).

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Humanistic Approach

Maslow's Hierarchy of needs:

Hierarchy of needs is a 5 leveled hierarchical sequence in which basic needs must be satisified before higher psychological needs (esteem&self actualisation) can be achieved. 

  • Self-actualisation 
  • Self esteem 
  • Love and belonging 
  • Safety and security 
  • Physiological needs 

Self-actualisation: The desire to grow psychologically and fulfil ones full potential- becoimg what you are capable of.  Everyone has an innate tendancy to achieve their full potenital.  Humanistic psychology regards personal growth as essential. 

Free Will: 

The notion that humans can make choices that are not determined by biological or external forces. All approaches are deterministic but the humanistic approach, they sugget that our behaviour is entirely or partly shaped by forces which we have no control over. 

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Humanistic Approach Congruence , self & conditions

  • The self: 

The ideas & values that chracterise 'I' & 'me' & includes perception and valuing of 'what I am' and 'what I can do'. It must be equivalent to congruence with their ideal self. If the gap is too big, the person will experience incongruence and cant self actualise. To close the gap there is possible solutions of client centred therapy. 

  • Congruence: 

Aim of Rogerian therapy.  When the self concept & ideal self are seen too broadly accord or matched.

  • conditions of worth: 

When a parent places limit or boundaries on their love of their child, for instance, a parent saying to a child ' I will only love you if......'. Roger suggests dthat many of the isues we experience can be explained by unconditional positive regard from our parents. 

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Humanistic- The influence of counselling

The influence of counselling: 

These provide unconditional positive regard for clients that failed to recieve this as a child. The therapy is 'non-direct', the client is encouraged towards the discovery of their own solutions within a therapists atmosphere. 

For Rogers, an effecitve therapist should provide the client with three things: 

  • Genuiness
  • Empathy 
  • Unconditional positive regard
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Evaluaion of the Humanistic approach

  • It is not reductinist: 

Humanists rejects any attempt to break up behaviour into smaller components. The biologoical approach is bio reductionist - reducing a complex issue to a simple form, for example OCD and serotonin levels. The cognitive approach is machine reductionist as it compares humans to machines. 

  • In contrast, humanists advocate HOLISM. 

Holism refers to any approach that emphasises the whole rather than their constituent parts. Therefore humanistic can be seen as better b/c it is looking at the whole rather than little sections. However, this can be a problem as it is easier to break it down into smaller sections. 

  • Limited application 

Humanistic psychology has relatively little real-world application. Although Rogers' therapy has revolutionised counselling techinqiues and Maslow's hierarchy of needs has been usedd to explain motivation, particularly in the workplace it reamains the case that the approach has limited impact on the disicpline of psychology as a whole. It doesn't have evidence so it is unfalsifiable and seen as a loose set of abstract concepts. 

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Comparison of appaoches

Comparison of Approaches: 

  • Free Will- not all behaviour is determined: 

- Humanistic 

  • Soft determinism- to some extent some behaviour is determined and some extent free will:

- Cognitive  - Social learning theory

  • Determinism - all behaviour is determined even those by accident: 

- Behaviourist, environmentally det   - Biological, biologically det - Psychodynamic, psychic det

  • Nature - what we are born with i.e. genetics

- Biological 

  • Nature/Nurture Interactionist - between the two: 

-Psychodynamic -Cognitive -Humanistic

  • Nurture - upbringing, due to environment

- SLT -Behaviourist

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Comparison of appaoches

  •  Holism - looking at it as a whole: 

- humanistic 

  • Interactionist:



  • Reductonism - looks at specific areas: 




  • Idiographic: focus is on one person i.e case study 

- Humanistic

  • Interactionist:

- Cognitive

- Psychodynamic 

  • Nomothetic

- Behavioural 

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Comparison of appaoches


- Cognitve  - Biological - SLT

  • Unscientific

- Psychodynamic - Humanistic

  • Animal Extrapolation

- Behaviourisy

  • No animal extrapolation

- Bio - Cognitive - SLT - Humanistic - Psychodynamic  

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