The Behavioural Approach - Model Essays:

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1. (a) Outline two assumptions of the behavioural approach:

All behaviour is learnt through classical and operant conditioning. We are born 'tabula rasa' (blank slate) and our personality arises as a consequence of our learning environment. Behaviour is learnt through reinforcement, reinforcement increase behaviour with positive consequences, punishment decrease behaviour with negative consequences e.g. Skinner with his study of rats, the food pellet acts as the reinforcer so the animal increases the behaviour that led to the food, a punishment is given so the animal decreases the behaviour that led to the punishment.

Behaviourists assume that classical/operant conditioning applies equally to all animals from single-celled amoeba to humans. There is no qualitative difference between the ways in wich humans and other animals learn their behaviours. Therefore, they often study animals (e.g. Pavlov's dogs) and generalise the findings to humans.

1. (b) Describe the social learning theory of aggression:

Social learning theory is based on vicarious reinforcement, in which the individual is not directly reinforced for their behaviour, but by seeing others reinforced for that behaviour. Bandura suggested that aggressive behaviour can be learnt by modelling - imitating people that we identify with i.e. role models. Models include peers, family members and the media. We imitate them so that we will receive similar rewards forr behaving that way. According to Bandura, the four processes are Attention, Retention, Reproduction and Motivation.

In a study by Bandura 1961, children aged 3-5 watched as adults 'models' played with toys, including a bobo doll. Then, the children were put into the same room and observed. Children were most likely to behave violently if they had seen the adult model being rewarded for behaving vilently towards the Bobo doll. This shows that children learn aggressive behaviour simply by observing aggressive models.

Children were least likely to behave violently if the adult had been punished for their behaviour. However, these children could imitate the aggressive behaviour if they were asked to do so. This showed that learning had taken place even though the behaviours had not been immediately imitated. Bandura called this type of learning vicarious reinforcement. This is a strong argument for those trying to stop media violence.

2. Describe how the behavioural approach has been applied to either Aversion Therapy or Systematic Desensitisation (12 marks):

The behavioural approach assumes that all behaviour is learnt. They suggest that phobias are learnt through classical conditioning because the phobic object/situation has been associated with fear, and it should be possible to unlearn phobias through counter-conditioning. According to this theory of recipricol inhibition, we can't two opposite emotions simultaneosly, so by pairing the phobic object or situation with a relaxed state, the fear response should be replaced by a state of relaxation. Therefore, the aim of systematic desensitisation is to replace fear with relaxation in response to the phobic object/situation.

Systematic desensitisation was developed by Joseph Wolpe. The therapy is typically used to treat phobias. The role of the behavioural therapist is to identify reinforcers that are causing abnormal behaviours and…


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