Behaviourist Approach

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  • Created by: Sam
  • Created on: 10-04-14 21:37

Behaviourist Approach - Social Learning Theory

Main Points: 

- Behaviour can importantly be learned indirectly by observation as well as directly through experiences. - Observational Learning. 

- Role models are observed and their behaviours are imitated, through process of modelling. 

- Vacarious reinforcement- consequences of behaviours can be learnt by watching people be punished for a certain behaviour, 

- Banduras Bobo Doll Experiment-

  • 1961- 2 groups of children, aged 3-5. 
  • One group watched adults act aggresively towards the bobo doll, e.g hittting with mallet, saying POW! 
  • One group watched adults play non voilently with the doll. 
  • The group who observed agressive behhaviour by adults, also showed signs of aggresive behaviour, group who saw non voilent adults, also acted non voilently. 
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Behaviourist Approach - Systematic Desensitisation

  • Aim: To remove a fear response from a phobia and substitute a relaxation repsonse. 
  • Used for treatments of phobias. Example of counter conditioning
  • Slowly introduces patient to object of fear in several stages, each stage getting closer to the fear. E.G.: Fear of heights, step 1 climbing the stairs ............ step 10 going on a airoplane. 
  • Uses classical conditioning and operant conditioning. 
  • Pairs a feeling of relaxtion with object of fear. Relaxation outweights anxiety- Reciprical Inhibition. 

Links to Assuptions: 

  • - That mental disorders are learned, like any other behaviour.
  • - New stimulus responses are made using classical conditioning, in order for the undesirable behaviour to be suppressed. 
  • Varaitions: 
  • In vitro sensitisation- feared object is imagined using pictures or thought. 
  • In vivo sensitisation - fears are directly confronted. - more successful - Menzies and Clarke
  • Modelling- watching someone else deal with feared object, while practsing relaxation.
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Behaviourist Approach - Strengths and Weaknesses.

2 Strengths: 

- A scientific approcah - uses lab experiments, control over extraneous variables.- cause and effect can be clearly established.

- Successfull applications is psychology in real world - used to treat phobias- sytematic desensitisation. 

2 Weaknesses: 

- The comparison of animals and humans- research may be more relevent to animals, can't be generalised to humans- Pavlove classical condtioing- Skinner -operant conditioning. 

- Determinist approach-( behaviour shaped be external or internal forces rather than the individual's choice) ignores the factors of free will of an individual- E.G Behaviourists say that a peros would not steal or murder, because of the punishments associated, not because the person may think it is morally wrong. 

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Behaviourist Approach- Methodology


  • Links to assumptions: approach seeks to use scientific approach to understand behaviour. 
  • Operationalisation: Approach involves the manipulation of operationaised variables. 
  • Cause and Effect: Can be established how the IV affects the DV 


  • Control- Extraneous variables can easily be controlled e.g. Bandura's experiment was well controlled. 
  • Replication- Bandura carefully recoreded the method- other researchers can replicate experiment. 


  • Ecolgoical validity- Bandura's study was in a lab setting- lacks mundane realism. 
  • Demand characteristics - In Bandura's study some children thought Bobo doll was for hitting. 
  • Experimenter Bias- Resracher may accident;y give particiapnts cuses on how they should be behaving. 
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Behaviourist Approach - Methodology

2. Use of Animals in Research

How it Links to the Approach: That behaviour of all animals are built on the same building blocks (e.g. stimulus and respnse)  - Can link animal behaviour to human behaviour. E.g. Pavlov's dogs.


  • Real life applications - principles of operant and classical conditioning- started as animal research (e.g. therapies for mental disorders)
  • Easier- Easier to do conditioning animals with animals- fewer ethical issues, no demand characteristics.


  • Generalsiability- some behaviours (e.g. aggression) may be the same, but human behaviour is also governed by thought- animal research cannot be fully generalised.
  • Ethical Issues- Animals cannot give informed consent- moral debate.
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