Psychology - Behaviourist approach - Strengths and Weaknesses

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  • Created by: jkav
  • Created on: 09-05-15 15:18

Strengths and Weaknesses


Scientific approach

Behaviourism was first introduced by John B. Watson at the beginning of the 20th century. He rrecognised that Pavlov's work on conditioned reflexes could be used to create a really objective and therefore scientific psychology. Behaviourism continues to embody the truely scientific appraoch, seeking to study behaviour that is observable and directly measureable. Intangible concepts such as feelings and thoughts are operationalised in terms of stimulus and response behaviours. Behaviourists believe that, through the use of scientific method, we can analyse, quantify and compare behaviour.

Such a scientific approach is adventageous because it enables us to distinguish mere beliefs from real facts. For example, people may believe that wearing a gold token around your neck will ward off eveil spirits, but how would we know this to be true without conducting experiments? When it comes to treatments for mental disorders, people want evidence to show that such treatments have been successful rather than just being asked to believe that they work. Therefore the scientific approach is desirable.

Successful applications

Behaviourist principles have been successfully applied in the real world, most notably in the treatment of mental disorders and in education. For example, classical conditioning principles are applied in aversion therapy to help people with addictions, and they have also been apllied in systematic desensitisation to help people suffering from phobias.

In education, operant conditioning underlines successful teaching strategies. Positive reinforcement and punishment have helped shape behaviour in the classroom, as well as in the school environment in general.

B.F. Skinner specifically applied the principles of operant conditioning to teaching, designing a mechnical programmed instruction device. Skinner believed that classroom teaching was often ineffective because different students…


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