Psychological Investigations


What is the perspective of the 'Behaviorist Approa

The behaviourist perspective assumes the majority of behaviour is learned from the enviroment after birth.

That the individual is born with no free will and that their behaviour is based on the sum of their experiences - it presumes that all behaviour, however complex, is due to a response to an external stimuli. 

This also allows psychologists to investigates the effect of the enviroment on behaviour and it provides a strong counter-arguement to the nature side of the nature-nuture debate. 

Behaviourists focus on the influence of the enviroment. They choose not to be concerned with the internal mechanisms which occur inside the organism. Behaviourists believe that human beings are shaped through constand interactions with the enviroment.

Simplified, learning and experience determine the kind of person you become. 

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The Behaviorist Approach and Psychological Functio

The behaviourist appraoch to psychological functioning is rooted in the work of associationists, Ivan Pavlov and Edward Thorndike, and the early behaviourists, John Watson and Clark Hull, all of who studied learning in the form of conditioning. 

Pavlov studied the conditioning of reflex responses, or classical conditioning, whilst Thorndike's work focused on the conditioning of voluntary behaviour (which is now referred to as operant conditioning and was later researched by B.F Skinner.)

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B.F Skinner and Operant Conditioning

Behaviourism has had a profound influence on the course of psychology during the first half of the twentieth century. Still influential today is the work of B.F Skinner on operant conditioning. 

Skinner included the stimuli which elicit behavioural responses, the rewards and punishments that influence these responses and the changes in behaviour were brought about by manipulating patterns of rewards and punishments.This approach does not concern itself with mental processes which occur between the stimulus and the response. 

Skinner experimented with rats and later pigeons. For instance, he conditioned rats to press a bar in the 'Skinner Box' in return for a reward of food. He was able to measure learning accurately under closely controlled conditions, varying the frequency of reward, or reinforcement, and sometimes applying irrelevant stimuli. 

Though he started his research with animals, Skinner worked towards a theory of conditiong which could include humans. 

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The Influence of the Behaviorist Approach

The influence of the behaviourist approach with its emphasis on the manipulation of behaviour through patterns of reinforcement and punishment, can be seen in many practical situations.

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How the Behaviorist Approach has been applied in P

Theraputic techniques based on conditioning processes are usually reffered to as either behaviour modification or behaviour therapy. 

Techniques based on operant conditioning are usually referred to as behaviour modification and techniques which rely upon the principles of classical conditioning are usually known as behavioural therapy.

Behaviour modification is a technique which is used to change or remove unwanted behaviour. Its central principle, taken from operant conditioning, is that behaviour which has favourable consequences, that is, which is positively reinforced, is likedly to be repeated and behaviour which is ignored is likely to die out. The desired behaviour is broken down into a sequence of small steps. Each step achieved is immediately rewarded, but gradually more and more of the required behaviour is demanded before the reward is given. This process is known as beahviour shaping through successive approximations. 

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Token Economy Systems and the Behaviorist Approach

Token economy systems are based on the principle of secondary reinforcement. Tokens are given in exchange for desirable or acceptable behaviours. These can then be exchanged for primary (or direct) reinforcements, such as sweets or extra outings.

There is evidence that well-organised token economy systems do promote desirable behaviour, particularly in an institutional setting. However, doubts have been raised regarding the long term effectiveness of such programmes and about whether the effects are due to reinforcement or to other variables. 

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Behavior Therapy

Behaviour therapy is a term usually applied to techniques based on classical conditioning which deal with involuntary or reflec behaviour. It aims to remove maladaptive (problem) behavioyursand substitue desireable ones. 

One example of such a technique is a systematic desensitisation, which is mainly used to remove phobias. For example, a patient who had an irrational fear would first be taught how to relax. Gradually, the feared object would be introdunced to the patients in a step-bystep process until the patient could tolerate actual contact with the object without anxiety. 

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Criticisms of the Behaviorist Approach

The behaviourist approach has had a major influence in psychology and has contributed a great deal to our understanding of psychological functioning and had provided a number of techniques for changing unwanted behaviour. Its use of rigorous empirical methods has enhanced the credibility of psychology as a science. Critisms to the approach include:

1. Its mechanistic view tends to overlook the realm of consciousness and subjective human experiences and it does not address the possible role of biological factors in human behaviour.

2. Individuals are seen as passive beings who are at the mercy of their enviroments. This emphasis on enviromental determinism leaves no room for the notion of free will in an individual. 

3. Its theories of classical and operant conditioning cannot account for the production of spontaneous, novel or creative behaviour.

4. Its basis in animal research has been questioned.

5. Clinical psychologists who adopt behaviourally-orinted therapies have been critisied for treating the proobable symptoms of mental disorders whislt often ignoring possible underlying causes. 

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Disadvantages of the Behaviorist Approach

1. It exculdes the role of cognitive factors (with the exception of social learning theory).

2. It denies any innate (inborn genetic) factors.

3. It is mechanistic (machine-like) persepctive, which ignores consciousness, subjective experience and emotions. We are the products of our past experience. 

4. A main strength of the behaviourist perspective has been the development of useful applications. Behaviourism offers very practical ways of changing behaviour from for example therapies where new modified behaviours are learned through to advertising. However at the same time, this does raise and ethical issues as if the behaviourist perspective is able to control behaviour who decides which behaviour should be controlled or changed. 

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Advantages of the Behaviorist Approach

1. The behaviourist perspective have been the development of useful applications. Behaviourism offers very practicle ways of changing behaviour from example therapies where new modified behaviours are learned through to advertising. 

2. A further inportant contribution of the behaviourist perspective has been the emphsis on objective and scientific ways of studying behaviour. However, this does raise the issues of generalisation as it is difficult to generalise finding from laboratory studies and especially so when generalising from non human animals to humans. However findings have been consistent, so behavourism suggestes strong reliablility. 

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