The Behaviourist Approach

  • Created by: ernily
  • Created on: 03-05-15 17:48


  • Behaviour Can Be Explained Through The Role Of The Environment:
    • We are all born as a 'tabula rasa' (blank slate) and the environment shapes us.
    • Newborns are born neutral, and can only experience basic responses like crying, pain, and hunger. The environment moulds them.
    • Our personalities and behaviour are determined by our environment; people have no free will over their own behaviour, we are shaped by the environment and our experiences.
  • Behaviour Can Be Explained Through Operant Conditioning:
    • Operant conditioning involves learning though consequence.
    • The idea is that when people behave in a particular way and are rewarded for it, they will repeat it. If they are punished, they will stop doing it.
      • Reinforcement increases behaviour.
      • Punishment decreases behaviour.
      • Positive is where something is given.
      • Negative is where something is taken away.
    • Skinner (1938) used rats and pigeons to demonstrate this assumption. He used food as the reinforcer
    • He gave the animals food in order to make them repeat a certain behaviour.
1 of 8

Social Learning Theory Of Aggression

  • Bandura believed that aggression is learnt by observing others.
  • Children learn aggression by imitating role models, and observe and learn consequences by seeing others being punished (vicarious reinforcement).
  • Bandura (1977) found there are four processes involved in social learning:
    • Attention: They model must be observed, rather than just present.
    • Retention: The observer must retain what they have seen.
    • Reproduction: The observer must be capable of repeating the behaviour they have seen.
    • Motivation: The observer must have a reason to perform.
  • Models are likely to be the same gender, same age or older, of high status, and likeable.
  • Bandura et al (1961) - Bobo Doll Study (Original)
    • Young children, aged 3-5, watched an adult (both same and opposite sex) playing with toys, including a Bobo Doll.
    • Half of the children observed the adult being aggressive, the other half observed the adult being nice.
    • Children who observed the aggression reproduced this behaviour on the toys and Bobo Doll, whereas the other children did not.
    • This supports the SLToA because the children are imitating the behaviour of the model. It goes through ARR, but not M.
2 of 8

Social Learning Theory Of Aggression

  • Bandura & Walters (1963) - Bobo Doll Study #2:
  • Children were split into 3 groups:
    • Group 1: Role model was rewarded for aggression.
    • Group 2: Role model was punished for aggression.
    • Group 3 (Control): There was no reaction to the aggression.
  • Group 1 showed a high level of aggression.
  • Group 2 showed a low level of aggression.
  • Group 3 showed a medium level of aggression.
  • Vicarious Learning: Children learned about likely consequences and adjusted their behaviour accordingly.
3 of 8

Systematic Desensitisation

  • The aim of the therapy is to extinguish a phobia by eradicating an undesirable behaviour and replacing it with a more desirable one.
    • Step 1: The patient is taught deep muscle relaxation techniques.
    • Step 2: The therapist and the patient construct an anxiety hierarchy.
    • Step 3: The patient works through the hierarchy by gradual exposure, beginning with the least feared stimulus and working through to the most feared stimulus.
    • Step 4: The patient eventually masters the feared situation.
  • For example, if the patient is scared of dogs, they might start by thinking about dogs, then seeing the word dog, seeing a picture of a dog, and so on. 
  • This is known as counter conditioning, as the patient is taught a new association for the feared stimulus.
  • There are two subtypes of systematic desensitisation:
    • In Vivo: When the client has to relax while directly experiencing the feared stimuli.
    • In Vitro: When the client has to visualise the feared stimuli.
  • McGrath et al (1990) found that 75% of people with phobias responded positively to systematic desensitisation.
  • Capafons (1998) treated 20 people with aerophobia using systematic desensitisation.
  • Aerophobics who received SD reported lower levels of fear.
  • However, two people didn't recover at all; shows that SD isn't 100% effective.
4 of 8

Evaluating The Behaviourist Approach


  • Deterministic:
    • It assumes all behaviour is a product of cause and effect; it is effected by forces beyond our control.
    • It allow us to find the cause of things; if psychology aims to be a science, then determinism is vital.
  • Useful:
    • It has many practical applications, especially in therapies. 
    • Principles of classical conditioning have been used in systematic desensitisation to help people overcome phobias.
    • It is a strength because this therapy has been shown to be effective in helping people overcome phobias of snakes and also flying.
5 of 8

Evaluating The Behaviourist Approach


  • Reductionist:
    • This approach only focuses on how the environment shapes our behaviours; the role of external forces is exaggerated.
    • How genetic material influences us is ignored, as well as our thoughts and feeling.
    • It oversimplifies our behaviours.
  • Deterministic:
    • Implies that we don't have any control over our behaviour; we are all controlled by external factors.
    • Suggests we have no free will, so we can't be held responsible for our actions.
    • This raises ethical issues - can you really arrest somebody if they aren't responsible for what they do?
6 of 8

Methodology - Lab Experiments On Humans

  • This approach believes that only observable behaviour is worth studying.
  • Scientific methods should be used to study behaviour if psychology is to be considered a science.
    • They can establish cause and effect relationships because extraneous variables are controlled due to the artificial environment.
    • Standardised procedures are used, so the experiment can be replicated to demonstrate validity.
    • Quantitative data is collected, so it can be easily analysed.
    • Artificial environments are used, so they lack ecological validity.
    • The participants may act unnaturally and try to guess the aim of the experiment, which leads to demand characteristics.
    • The experimenter could, unknowingly, influence the participants, which leads to experimenter bias.
7 of 8

Methodology - Lab Experiments On Animals

  • Behaviourists believe that there are only quantitative differences between humans and animals, so animal experiments are okay (e.g. Pavlov's dog).
    • Animal learning has been successfully applied to humans, for example; classical conditioning has been applied to systematic desensitisation.
    • There is less emotional involvement with animals, so there is less chance of experimenter bias.
    • Animals can't guess the aim of the study, so they aren't subject to demand characteristics.
    • Humans and animals are different, human behaviour is more complex. This means that there is an issue of generalisability.
    • There are many ethical issues; animals can't give informed consent, and they have no right to withdraw. They also aren't given protection from harm.
8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Approaches resources »