Psychology: The Behavioural Approach

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The Behavioural/Learning Approach

= we are the product of our environment


All behaviours (normal and abnormal) are learned. Learned responses from environmental stimuli. Study observational behaviour = empirical.

JB Watson (1878-1958) - Father of Behaviourism. Can be taught to be anything, due to environment.


For example, the behavioural approach focuses on what is observable and measureable. This is positive because it allows concepts such as classical conditioning to be demonstrated scientifically- allowing for empirical support for the theory.


  • Classical Conditioning- Learning by association
  • Operant Learning- Learning by reinforcement
  • Social Learning- Learning by watching others being rewarded

Classical Conditioning

Creating a new response to a stimulus


Stimulus - response relationships

Classical conditioning - Little Albert

US (Loud Noise) ---> UR (Fear)

US (Loud Noise) + NS (Rat) ---> UR (Fear)

                               CS (Rat) ---> CR (Fear)

Operant Learning

Learning by reinforcement

Reward = encourages certain behaviours (increases chances of them being repeated)

Punishment = Discourages certain behaviours (decreases certain behaviours (decreases chances of them being repeated)

B.F Skinner- rats/pigeons in boxes. Behaviour can be learnt through a series of rewards and punishments. e.g. Skinner taught pigeons to play ping pong.

Skinner (1974)

Demonstrated that…


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