ED209 Exam Revision B1-Ch2


The four ‘grand theories’ attempt to provide holistic explanations of development – not just specific aspects. (Note – other grand theories exist).  

1. Behaviourism (Learning Theory) [Skinner]  

Psychology as an objective science. Does not speculate on cognition. Learning (conditioning) defined as ‘any relatively permanent change in behaviour produced by environmental conditions’.  

Pavlov – Classical conditioning (animal expt)  

Before: Unconditioned Stimulus -> Unconditioned Response Neutral Stimulus -> ?  

Process: Associate NS with US (e.g. ring bell and present food repeatedly). Eventually, NS becomes a CS, provoking a CR.  

After: Unconditioned Stimulus -> Unconditioned Response Conditioned Stimulus -> Conditioned Response  

Can be weakened if CS often presented w/out the US.  

Example – Watson -  ‘Little Albert’ (human expt)  

Skinner – Operant Conditioning – ‘Skinner Box’ (animal expt).  

Use of punishment to decrease a particular behaviour.  Positive punishment – aversive stimulus presented; Time-out – Isolation from reinforcer Response Cost – e.g. token removed  

Reinforcement (positive and negative) to increase a particular behaviour.  

Positive reinforcement – pleasant stimulus presented; Negative reinforcement – aversive stimulus removed.  

Extinction – occurs when the behaviour is no longer reinforced – usually after an extinction burst – when a previously reinforced behaviour no longer attracts reinforcement.  

Schedule of reinforcement is also important – e.g. gold stars occasionally given work better than giving one every time – as if a star is not given then de- motivation sets in.  

For punishment to be effective it has to be contingent (immediate), severe and consistently applied (Klein). Skinner also found that punishment only suppresses behaviours temporarily. Can stimulate aggressive behaviour or suppress it – long term effects are often not what was wanted (Huesmann et al). Many negative short and long term consequences (Gershoff). Time-out is effective in controlling tantrums (Klein).  

Punishment only teaches what responses should not be made. Contemporary techniques – such as Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) do not use punishment. Selects appropriate behaviours as teaching targets; positive reinforcement provided in such a way that is positive for the individual. Amount of reinforcement reduced over time. Keenan et al found evidence it can help autistic children be successful in mainstream schooling – but the stigma associated with behaviourist ideas means that take-up has been low. ABA does not ignore child’s beliefs.  

Positives: Useful where a child cannot speak; decades of research done; ABA demonstrates how operant conditioning principles can be applied. Criticisms: Classic behaviourism ignores child’s beliefs – if a child understands why they are treated in a particular way development is more likely (Huesmann et al). Oversimplification to suggest learning only occurs through direct experience – what about language, cognition and social behaviour? Children learn more from experience of punishment than simply its relationship to their behaviour – adults may be modelling / signalling it is ok to use indiscriminately. 

2. Social Learning Theory [Bandura]  

Bandura – children learn by observing the behaviour of others. They form an idea of how


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