The Behaviouist Approach

  • Created by: Gaynor
  • Created on: 14-10-18 12:29


  • Only interested in behaviour that can be observed or measured - ignores mental processes
  • Basic processes that govern learning are the same in all species
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Classical Conditioning

  • Learning by association - demostrated by Pavlov

Before conditioning: 

  • food  -------> salivation 
  • UCS -------> UCR
  • bell ------> no salivation
  • NS -------> NCR

During conditioning:

  • bell + food -----> salivation
  • NS + UCS -----> UCR

After conditioning:

  • bell -----> salivation
  • CS -----> CR
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Operant Conditioning

  • Learning is shaped and maintained by its consequences - developed by Skinner

Positive reinforcement:

  • recieving a reward when a certain behaviour is performed

Negative reinforcement:

  • avoiding something unpleasant


  • an unpleasant consequence of a behaviour

Skinner Box:

  • a rat was placed in a box with a lever and a floor that provided an electric shock
  • when the rat pulled the lever it recieved a food pellet - after several repetitions the rat repeated the behaviour
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  • Scientific credibility - evidence through experiments - easily replicated
  • Real-life applications - token economy system in prisons - treatment of phobias
  • Mechanistic view of behaviour - animals (including humans) are seen as passive machine-like responders to their environment - ignoring any cognitive factors
  • Environmental determinism - behaviour is determined by past experiences that have been conditioned - ignores any possibility of free-will
  • Ethical issues in animal experiments - animals were exposed to stressful and highly aversive situations
  • Lacks ecological validity - generalises findings from non-human animals to humans
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