Describe and evaluate behaviourism including 2 behavioural therapies The OED defines behaviourism as “the theory that human and animal behaviour can be explained in terms of conditioning, without appeal to thoughts or feelings, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behaviour patterns. ” The behaviourist approach has roots in the philosophy of empiricism which is the view that all concepts originate in experience, i. e. all concepts are about or applicable to things that can be experienced.
This school of thought is that all humans are 'tabula rosa' at birth (i. . the mind is a blank slate) and that personality is shaped through the experiences of the individual. Early behavioural psychologists believed that psychology should be scientific and objective and should be based on observable behaviour. Up until early part of the 20th century, introspection was a popular approach but behaviourists criticised it as unscientific because it was entirely subjective and not observable. (Watson, 1913), Watson was interested in observable behaviour and the connections between an event in the environment, a stimulus and the resulting behaviour.
This became known as stimulus-response psychology. (Malim T, Birch A. 1998) Behaviourism emphasises the roles of a person’s learning and the environment. It assumes that behaviour is learned through early experience.
It also assumes that genetic factors have no influence over behaviour. The learning process occurs through different types of conditioning of which there are two main types: classical, as described by Pavlov and Watson, and operant conditioning, as described by Skinner and Thorndike. Reward and punishment, or consequences, are important in an individuals learning.Behaviourists believe that all behaviour is a learned response to the changing environment around, and can be used to treat specific, maladaptive and dysfunctional behaviours displayed by individuals. (Cardwell M, et al, 2002) Classical conditioning explains how behaviour is learned through stimulus – response associations. Pavlov, I (1927) experimented on dogs and through a series of experiments discovered that he could influence dogs to respond in a certain way to a stimulus.
He audibly stimulated his subject and then provided food to induce salivation.Eventually, he was able to achieve autonomous salivation from the audible stimulus. This is known as the conditioned reflex. This showed that the event, stimulus, resulted in a psychological response within the subject to produce the reaction, response.
(Malim T, Birch A. 1998). He also discovered that repeating the conditioned stimulus but not presenting the reward would reduce or extinguish the conditioned response. He also showed that following extinction, the conditioned response might reappear when the conditioned stimulus is presented, although this would be much weaker. This is known as spontaneous recovery.Pavlov also showed that the dog would respond in a general way by reacting to similar audible stimulus to the conditioned stimulus, but would also discriminate if two distinct tones were used but the unconditioned stimulus was present for only one tone, the dog would ignore the other tone.
(Pavlov, I 1927) Watson and Raynor (1920) also conducted a similar experiment, using an infant as their subject. Their experiment used a rat and a subsequent loud noise to instil fear of the rat into the child, “Little Albert”. They even continued using substitute stimuli such as fluffy toys.This provided further evidence that conditioning can affect responses, even to similar stimuli.
(Cardwell M, et al, 2002) “Operant conditioning is the conditioning of voluntary behaviour through the processes of reinforcement and punishment” (Malim T, Birch A. 1998) It is concerned with voluntary as opposed to reflex behaviour. It is based on Thorndike's research that stated behaviour which results in pleasant consequences is more likely to be replicated in the same circumstances, whereas that which has no such pleasant consequences dies away (Thorndike E, 1913).Thorndike's experiments with cats established that his subjects were able to learn to escape from confinement. His experiments showed that the learning took time, however the cat was able to escape in increasingly shorter times. He termed this Trail and Error Learning.
(Malim T, Birch A. 1998) This lead onto Skinner's research into the behaviour of rats. (Skinner, B 1935) He showed that rats were able to learn by reinforcement. When the animal pressed a lever, it received food, and it became to associate pressing the lever with reward, or behaviour shaping.
(Malim T, Birch A. 998) Desirable behaviour is termed operant. The reward is the reinforcer, and the process of receiving a reward for positive behaviour is known as positive reinforcement. Skinner has repeatedly shown that the techniques of operant conditioning induces complex behaviours in animals.
(Bailey, J et al 2009) Skinner's research, and of many others has shown that the learning can be affected by the schedules of conditioning. Continuous reinforcement is where a reward is given at every incidence of the desired behaviour, and partial reinforcement is where the reward is received only occasionally.Four different partial reinforcement schedules are regularly used: Fixed interval, variable interval reinforcement, fixed ratio reinforcement, and variable ratio reinforcement. The experiments show that continuous reinforcement leads to the quickest learning, while partial reinforcement produces learning that is longer term in the absence of reinforcement.
(Bailey, J et al 2009) Skinner also demonstrated that behaviour is dependant on consequences. It is easy to learn if the rewards are positive, or pleasant. However, consequences may be negative reinforcement and punishment.Negative reinforcement is where something unpleasant is removed or avoided. This showed an animal's ability to learn desired behaviour to avoid unpleasant situations.
This is escape learning. Punishment demonstrated it is possible to weaken undesirable behaviour and reduce occurrences. (Cardwell M, et al, 2002) These experiments have shown that behaviourism is highly testable in laboratory conditions therefore it is scientific in it's study. This has had a lasting impact on all areas of psychology to use scientific methods in experiments and to focus on objective methods.
It is also highly observational , providing a mass of data.Such experiments have lead to treatment applications that are useful in treating phobias and anxiety illnesses. Indeed some treatments are highly effective and worthwhile. Behaviourist techniques are also useful in understanding childhood learning. Positive reinforcement is regularly used in parenting such as praise and hugs rewarding desired behaviour, and consequences or punishment resulting from poor or undesirable behaviour.
However, much of the experiments reported by behaviourists have been performed with animal subjects and conclusions ignore the complexity of the human mind.It explains complex behaviours in simple and basic manners. It is therefore reductionist and mechanistic. The assumption that all learning is a result of the individual's environment has been challenged by social learning theorists who have demonstrated that animals and people also learn through observing the behaviour of others, and also learn through insight. Kholer (1925) showed that chimpanzees studied a presented situation before exhibiting the desired behaviour. This was termed insight learning.
Tolman and Honzik (1935) experiments with rats in mazes showed that animals also use latent learning to solve puzzles. (Bailey, J et al. 2009) Behaviourism and conditioning is also unable to fully explain learning through imitation and observation. Bandura (1973) showed that a child learns through observation and then copying behaviour demonstrated by others. (Cardwell M, et al, 2002) Many more radical behaviourists did not feel that this was a proper area for extended scientific study. Behaviourism supports nurture, in that behaviour is learned and natural influences have no bearing.
This fails to account for genetics and dismisses inherited characteristics such as intelligence or personality. However, these environmental and nurture ideas have influenced education as achievement in education could be as simple as creating the right environment for learning. Behavioural therapies that have developed from comprehensive research include: aversion therapy; systematic desensitisation; and flooding. These are based on classical conditioning. Operant conditioning research has lead to: behaviour shaping; selective positive reinforcement; and token economy programmes.
Aversion therapy developed from animal studies pairing a neutral stimulus with an unpleasant one to produce a negative reaction. (Cardwell M, et al, 2002) Aversion therapy has proved useful and effective in treating addictions, particularly alcohol and nicotine addictions. A drug is administered that induces nausea if paired with alcohol, making the patient vomit. The patient eventually pairs the taste of alcohol with vomiting, and the desire for the addictive substance is greatly reduced. It has also been used, with varying degrees of success to 'treat' homosexuality.Indeed, homosexuality was not removed from the DSM until 1974.
(American Psychiatric Association; 1968) Token economy programmes “This is a behaviour modification programme based on Skinner's (1953) principle of behaviour shaping through positive reinforcement. In exchange for desirable behaviour, the person will receive rewards in the form of tokens, which can be exchanged for goods, outings or privileges” (Cardwell M, et al, 2002) The tokens are secondary reinforcers and are cashed in for primary reinforcement rewards later in time. Token programmes are successful within an institutional setting.Ayllon and Azrin were instrumental in this form of behaviour management within a long term clinical setting “An attempt was made to strengthen behaviors of psychotics by applying operant reinforcement principles in a mental hospital ward. The behaviors studied were necessary and/or useful for the patient to function in the hospital environment. Reinforcement consisted of the opportunity to engage in activities that had a high level of occurrence when freely allowed.
Tokens were used as conditioned reinforcers to bridge the delay between behavior and reinforcement.Emphasis was placed on objective definition and quantification of the responses and reinforcers and upon programming and recording procedures. Standardizing the objective criteria permitted ward attendants to administer the program. The procedures were found to be effective in maintaining the desired adaptive behaviors for as long as the procedures were in effect.
In a series of six experiments, reinforced behaviors were considerably reduced when the reinforcement procedure was discontinued; the adaptive behaviors increased immediately when the reinforcement procedure was re-introduced. (Ayllon, T and Azrin, N; 1968) Both types of behavioural therapy have positives, in that they have been proved effective and are based on relevant replicable scientific research, Indeed, many schools employ a watered down form of token economy programmes to encourage positive behaviours within the class room. (Miltenberger 2008). The drug Anatabuse has been developed to treat chronic alcoholism “Antabuse (disulfiram) interferes with the metabolism of alcohol resulting in unpleasant effects when alcohol is consumed. (http://www.
drugs. com/antabuse. html) and has proved successful. However, in both cases, it is suggested that successful outcomes will be maintained once the specific treatment has been discontinued. They are also basic therapies, and ignore complexities of people's mind that are capable of analysing their own behaviour.
It is likely, with support through specific packages of modern therapies tailored individual needs, and delivered by multiple agencies, are able to change their own complex behaviours.