II. Approach #2 Behaviorism


Click on the buttons that are characteristic of behaviorism.

A. View of humans:

B. What should psychology be?

C. Major founders: J. B. Watson & B. F. Skinner argue for a "thoughtless" approach on for two basic reasons:

  1. the limits of science
  2. the importance of behavior
Both Watson and Skinner agree that we should study people as though they didn't have a mind, as though people's heads were empty (the "empty organism" or "black box" approach).

Analogies to illustrate how one can control behavior while acting like "insides" are empty.

Rather than focus on the mind, both Skinner and Watson wanted scientists to focus on the way people learn connections between observable events (stimuli) and behavior (responses).

However, the two emphasized different types of behavior and different types of connections.
Watson's Classical Conditioning Skinner's Operant Conditioning
Pavlov's dog Skinner's rat
involuntary physiological reactions voluntary actions
reflexive (S-R) active (R-S)

Classical conditioning involves associating a neutral stimulus with a stimulus that triggers a reflex. Eventually, the neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus that triggers a response. Almost anything can be a CS. Play around with creating your own conditioned stimulus by mixing and matching from the boxes below.

Basic principle of Skinner's operant conditioning-- the law of effect (definition)

Three simple, but effective, laws of operant behavior.

1. Reinforcement works

See example of positive reinforcement

Do an exercise to test your understanding of positive reinforcement.

See negative reinforcement in action

2. Immediate reinforcement is more effective than delayed reinforcement.

3. Punishment is not as effective at stopping behavior as reinforcement is at strengthening behavior.

Compare two ways of stopping behavior.

See how the principles of operant conditioning apply to the work world.
Quick review: Classical Conditioning vs. Operant Conditioning. Click on the buttons that are more associated with classical conditioning.

D. Problems/Common Objections:

1. Do behaviorists put too much emphasis on the environment?

(Is "S" the only thing that affects "R"?)


Behaviorists' reply:

2. Is their view too simple and narrow because it doesn't consider thoughts?

(Does "S"cause "R"?)

Evidence that thoughts are over-rated as causes of behavior:

Evidence that thoughts are important:

E. More recent developments, social-cognitive theories including

Bandura's social learning theory:

F. Applications of the behavioral approach to therapy
(Changing behavior through learning)

1. Using classical conditioning to change physiological reactions (by changing S-->R associations):

a. Systematic desensitization, also called counter-conditioning

  1. Definition

  2. Examples

b. Aversive conditioning:

  1. Definition:

  2. Examples

  3. How it differs from punishment

2. Skinner's operant [instrumental]conditioning to change your voluntary actions
(by changing R-->S associations).

1. Controlling yourself

2. Controlling others

  1. Children

  2. Criminals

3. Modeling

After this lecture you should be able to:

  1. Explain why behaviorists don't study the brain.

  2. Explain why behaviorists don't study the mind.

  3. Explain why behaviorism is (or is not) a scientific approach.

  4. Describe at least two of the behaviorists' principles regarding the use of rewards.

  5. Describe two common objections to behaviorism and explain how a behaviorist would dismiss those objections.

  6. Explain the difference between operant conditioning and classical conditioning.
    (This website might help).

  7. Explain how a behaviorist would treat fears.

  8. Explain how a behaviorist would diagnose and treat a violent individual.

In addition, you should review this concept map and you should try this applied behaviorism project.

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