The Behaviourist Approach

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For this section of the course, you need to know:

Topic                              Detail
Classical Conditioning      Pavlov's research
Operant Conditioning        Types of reinforcement and Skinner's research

The behaviourist approach emerged at the beginning of the 20th century and became the dominant approach in psychology for half of that century. It is also credited as being the driving force in the development of psychology as a scientific discipline. 

Key terms:

Behaviourist approach - a way of explaining behaviour in terms of what is observable and in terms of learning.

Classical conditioning - learning by association. A neutral stimulus, when paired with a second stimulus can, by association, elicit the same response as the second stimulus could by itself. E.g. a dog salivates in response to seeing food. A ringing bell could become associated with food through repeated presentation of both simultaneously, such that eventually the bell alone could produce salivation.

Operant conditioning - a form of learning in which behaviour is shaped and maintained by its consequences. Possible consequences include positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and punishment. 

Reinforcement - a consequence of behaviour that increases the likelihood of that behaviour being repeated.

Assumptions of the behaviourist approach - 

1) The behaviourist approach is only interested in studying behaviour that can be observed and measured. It is not concerned with investigating mental processes. Behaviourists rejected introspection as it involved too many vague and immeasureable concepts. As a result, behaviourists tried to maintain more control and objectivity within their research relying on lab experiments as a way of achieving this. 

2) We are born 'blank slates' and all behaviour is learned from the experiences a person has, including reinforcements and punishments. 

3) Behaviourists suggested that the basic processes that govern learning are the same in all species. This meant that in behavioural research, animals could replace humans as experimental subjects. Behaviourists identified two important forms of learning; classical and operant conditioning. 

Classical conditioning is 'learning through…




Really good revision, thanks!

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