Behavourist Approach

The behavourist approach is concerned with studying behaviour that can be observed and measured. They identified two forms of learning - classical and operant conditioning.

Classical conditioning

This was first developed by Pavlov and involves the process of learning by association. This occurs when two stimuli are repeatedly paired together to produce a new learned response. (An unconditioned stimulus and a neutral stimulus) The neutral stimulus eventually produces the same response that was first produced by the unconditioned stimulus alone.

Pavlov discovered this through his research of dogs. He found that dogs could be conditioned to salivate to the sound of a bell if that sound was repeatedly presented with food. Gradually, the dogs associated the sound of the bell (conditioned stimulus) with the food and therefore salivation (the conditioned response). This means the dogs would salivate every time they heard the bell.

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Behavourist Approach

Operant conditioning

This refers to learning through reinforcement or punishment. In conditioning there are three types of consequences of behaviour. 

1. Positive reinforcement - This is when you recieve a reward if a certain type of behaviour is performed. E.g (Token economy, reward for good behaviour). 2. Negative reinforcement - Occurs when you avoid something unpleasent such as turning up on time to avoid a detention.3. Punishment - an unplesant consequence of behaviour.

Positive and negative reinforcements increase the likelihood that behaviour will be repeated & punishment decreases the likelihood that behaviour will be repeated.

Skinners research involved experiments conducted with rats and pigeons that were kept in specially designed boxes. Every time the rat activated a lever within the box, it would be rewarded with a food pellet ( reinforcement). From then on, the rats would continue to activate the lever to recieve food. 

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Behavourist Approach Evaluation

An advantage of conditioning is that it has been applied to real world behaviours and problems. This can be shown by operant conditioning which forms the use of the token economy. This is a reward system used in institutions which works by rewarding appropriate behaviour for tokens that can be exchanged for privileges. 

Skinners work has been criticised as it raises issues with extrapolation. This is because his experiment involves the study of animals rather than humans. Critics state that we cannot rely on rats and pigeons to tell us about human behaviour as both will behave differently therefore results may not be the same for both animals and humans. Critics have also questioned the ethics of conducting this experiment with animals as they are exposed to stressful and adverse conditions.

This approach has also been useful in explaining systematic desensatization. This is shown through operant conditioning where individuals with mental illnesses will recieve rewards for performing positive behaviours ( eating more food, showering). In addition, this is shown through classical conditioning as people with phobias can try to unlearn that phobia by associoating it with calmness and relaxation to try and help overcome their fear.

The behavourist approach sees all behaviour as determined by past experiences that have been conditioned.This ignores the posibility of free will that all humans have in chosing their behaviour. Skinner argued that free will was an illusion and what we believe are behaviours chosen through free will are actually the product of external influences that guide our daily behaviour.


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Social Learning Theory

Bandura suggested that through social learning theory people learn by observation and imitating others behaviour. This is because if the behaviour we see is rewarded, we are more likely to imitate it.

Bandura researched social learning theory by recording behaviour of young children who watched an adult behave in an aggressive way towards a doll. The aim of his study was to see if social behaviours (aggression) can be acquired by observation and imitation. In his experiment, the first group of children (aggressive group) were shown an adult who was being aggressive to a bobo doll. The second group (non-aggressive group) was shown an adult playing quietly with another toy and ignoring the bobo doll. The last group (control group) was shown neither of the models. 

In his experiment he found that children who observed the agressive adult made more agressive responses than the other groups and imitation was at its highest when the adult was the same gender as the child.

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Social Learning Theory

Social learning takes place through these steps:

Identification - When an observer adopts an attitude or behaviour because they want to be associated with a particular person or group                                                                            Imitation - A form of learning where individuals learn a particluar behaviour by observing another individual performing that behaviour.                                                                                     Modelling - The action of using someone or something as a model and copying their behaviour       Vicarious reinforcement - Learning that is not a result of direct reinforcement of behaviour but through observing someone else being reinforced for that behaviour.

The role of meditational processes in learning

 Attention - the extent to which we notice certain behaviours                                                              Retention - How well the behaviour is remembered                                                                            Reproduction - The ability of the observer to perform the behaviour                                                    Motivation - The will to perform the behaviour, which is often determined by whether the behaviour was rewarded or punished

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Social Learning Theory Evaluation

Banduras study has been critcised because his ideas were developed through observation of young childrens behaviour in lab settings which is too controlled therefore participants may respond to demand characteristics. In relation to the bobo doll, the children were simply behaving in a way they thought was expected which means the research tells us little about aggression in everyday life. 

His experiment has also been criticised as there is little reference to the impact of biological factors on social learning. From the experiment, it was found that boys were consistently more aggressive than girls. This may be explained by hormonal factors such as difference in levels of testosterone, however this influence on behaviour is not accounted for in the social learning theory. 

Banduras theory is less deterministic than the behavourist approach as it says that we are not influenced by our external environment but we exert an influence upon it through the behaviours we choose to perform. This suggests we have more free will in the way we behave

Social learning theory has the advantage of being able to explain cultural differences in behaviour. It can account for how children learn things from others around them aswell as the media. This therefore explains how cultural norms are transmitted through particluar societies. 

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Humanistic Approach

The humanistic approach was developed by Rogers and Maslow in the 1950s. It is concerned with the healthy growth of individuals and says that people should be examined holistically by looking at their own subjective experience. It also claims that humans have free will and are self determing.

As part of this approach, Maslow developed a hierachy of needs. This consists of certain needs such as our psysiological, safety, esteem and love/belonging needs. Maslow claimed that in order to reach higher psychological needs and to self actualise, our other needs must be satisfied first. In the hierachy, self actualisation refers to the desire to grow psychologically and fulfil ones potential and Maslow said this was important for personal growth and development throughout a persons life.

Rogers also proposed that healthy normal development occurs if an individuals concept of self is equal to their ideal self.If the gap between them is too big, this will cause incongruence and self actualisation will not be possible. Rogers also claims that many issues we experience in childhood is due to a lack of unconditional positive regard from parents. If a parent presents conditions of worth to a child such as 'i will only love you if ,,,' this can cause psychological problems in the future.

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Humanistic Approach evaluation

Some of the concepts associated with the humanistic approach such as individual freedom, autonomy and personal growth are associated more with Western individualistic cultures than non Western collectivist cultures. Therefore this approach may only be applicable to Western cultures and is a product of the culture it has been developed in. 

This approach has been criticised as it contains vague ideas that are difficult to test. For example, the idea of self actualisation is difficult to test. This means the approach has little emperical evidence. 

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Psychodynamic approach

This approach focuses on the mind and according to Freud our mind is split into three parts: the id (contains our unconscious awareness), the ego (our rationale and conscious thoughts) and the superego (our moral conscience). These three parts are in constant conflict which causes anxiety.

The id - operates on the pleasure principle. 

The ego - operates on the reality principle

The superego - based on the morality principle, giving us our internal sense of right and wrong. 

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