Approaches - the behaviourist approach

summary of the assumptions, research, applications and evaluations of the behaviourist approach for the synoptic topic, approaches. Information based on the a2 psychology exam for the AQA exam board, unit 4

Credit where credit is due: none of this would be possible without my amazing psychology teachers, thank you both so much!

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  • Created by: Cara
  • Created on: 05-03-12 19:07

Assumptions and applications of the behaviourist a

  • Behaviour is learned from experience of the environment after birth. Therefore psychology should investigate the laws of learning i.e. classical conditioning and operant conditioning
  • Behaviour depends on consequences
  • Psychology shoul be scientific and objective (empiricism)
  • Animal research can be generalised to humans (extrapolation)
  • Applications: behaviour modification and therapies such as systematic desensitisation, flooding, implosion therapy and aversion therapy. Can be used to treat abnormal or atypical behaviour, forensic or criminal behaviour and health behaviours such as phobias and anxiety disorders using both classical and operant conditioning
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Possible research for the behaviourist approach

  • Williams - attempted to extinguish tantrum behaviour in a 21-month-old infant using the principles of operant conditioning
  • Watson and Raynor - conducted a study to demonstrate how classical conditioning could result in a young infant developing a fear of white rats
  • Swann et al. - conducted a study to show that depressed people choose to be with others who view them negatively
  • Seligman - used a classical conditioning technique to show how learned helplessness develops in dogs
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Strengths of the behaviourist approach

  • Scientific: highly controlled scientific methods
  • Practical application: behaviour therapies such as systematic desentisation (based on classical conditioning) and behaviour modification techniques (based on operant conditioning)
  • Counter argument: i.e. provides a strong counter argument to the nature side of the nature v. nurture debate
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Limitations of the behaviourist approach

  • Biology/cognition: behaviourism ignores important mental processes (cognitive) in learning and innate predispositions (biological) that are likely to influence behaviour
  • all learning?: e.g. insight learning and observational learning (Social Learning Theory) can't be explained by classical and operant conditioning
  • Reductionist: reduces all learning to a few simple principles - this would seem an oversimplification
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behaviourism is on the nurture side of the nature vs. nurture debate.


yeah, it's saying that behaviourism provides an alternative argument to counter the nature side of the nature vs. nurture debate

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