The Behavioral Perspective
    This perspective views behavior (except for genetically determined behavior) as the result of environmental experience! Environmental experience (also called learning) is the sum total of all life experiences that the individual has been subjected to in the past and to the new experiences that will impinge on his or her behavior.

    For the behavioral perspective the emphasis is on factors in the environment that influence behavior.

   I will have you do some Internet work, for most of the text material is information you should be familiar with from general psychology. These ten pages should be review for you. We will investigate some of the men associated with the beginnings of the behavioral perspective, as well as some of the behavioral approaches used in therapy!

Lecture Outline
The Background of Behaviorism
The Assumptions of Behavioral Psychology
The Basic Mechanisms of Learning
Other Mechanisms Associated with Learning
Abnormal Behavior as a Product of Learning
The Behavioral Approach to Therapy
Evaluating Behaviorism


The Background of Behaviorism

Remember the word "introspection?" This term represented, the study of the mind by analysis of one's own thought processes. The behaviorists objected to this process strongly. They felt it was too subjective. The behaviorists are interested in what is observable and measurable. Their view states, that the causes of behavior were not in the depths of the mind but in the environment.
        Learning is the key word here; the process whereby behavior changes in response to the environment. At the beginning of the 20th century, scientists began to uncover the actual mechanisms of learning. The contributions of the following four men had a tremendous impact of behaviorism:

bulletIvan Pavlov      (1849-1936)           The Conditioned Reflex                    
bulletJ.B. Watson    (1878-1958)           The Founding of Behaviorism          
bulletThorndike        (1874-1949)           The Law of Effect                                
bulletB.F.Skinner     (1904-1990)           Radical behaviorism                          

I will include some excerpts about their work.

Ivan Pavlov
    Pavlov discovered a basic mechanism of learning, the conditioned reflex.
    The implication of his discovery was revolutionary. Up to this time it was always believed that human beings' reactions to their environment were the result of complicated subjective processes.
    *** Our loves and hates, our tastes and distaste's might be the consequences  of a conditioning process.

    He is credited with founding the behavioral movement.
    Famous article of 1913, "Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It." The article states clearly, "Psychology is a purely objective, experimental branch of natural science which needs introspection as little as do sciences of chemistry and physics."
   The province of psychology was behavior --- observable and measurable responses to specific stimuli. And the goal of psychology was the prediction and control of behavior.

Edward Lee Thorndike
    His experiments with animals had a decisive influence on learning theory.
    He formulated what he called "The Law of Effect", which states that responses that lead to "satisfying" consequences are strengthened and therefore, are more likely to be repeated, whereas responses that lead to "unsatisfying" consequences are weakened and therefore, are unlikely to be repeated.
    Thorndike's law of effect had laid down another fundamental principle of learning: the importance of reward.

    He created a version of behaviorism that was revolutionary in its implications and applicable to everyday life. He is the name associated with "Behaviorism" for the 20th century!
    He called his approach to psychology "radical behaviorism,"   where everything a person does, says, and feels constitutes behavior. Even if the behavior is unobservable it can be subjected to experimental analysis.
    Skinner demonstrated that our social environment is filled with reinforcing and punishing consequences that shape our behavior. i.e. Our friends and family influence us with their approval and or disapproval. How many of you are still trying to be the "perfect child" for your parents?

The Assumptions of Behavioral Psychology
    Basic assumptions

bulletThe task of psychology is the study of behavior. The study of responses!
bulletThis basic assumption relates to methodology. Both stimuli and responses are objective, empirical events that can be observed and measured and that must be observed and measured as scientific evidence.
bulletThe goal of psychology is the prediction and control of behavior.
    Working in a laboratory is one thing, but the task of studying human beings and especially of changing their behavior, would challenge even the most well-trained behaviorists.
bulletContemporary behaviorism would stress the importance of looking outside the individual for the real causes of behavior.


The Basic Mechanisms of Learning

    Remember the "learning chapter" in general psychology. This is usually where most students had difficulty with the language. Read carefully your text and it will serve to refresh your memory. It is stated that practically all learned behavior is learned through Respondent Conditioning (Classical conditioning) or Operant Conditioning (also called Instrumental conditioning).

Terminology you are familiar with....

bulletbehavior therapy
bulletbehavioral perspective
bulletconditioned reflex
bulletconditioned reinforcers
bulletconditioned response
bulletconditioned stimulus
bulletlaw of effect
bulletnegative reinforcement
bulletoperant conditioning
bulletpositive reinforcement
bulletprimary reinforcer
bulletunconditioned response
bulletunconditioned stimulus

Other Mechanisms Associated with Learning

The Mechanisms of Learning chart on page 82... this should be of value to you!

Abnormal Behavior as a Product of Learning

    In the behavioral view, personality development is the result of the interaction between our genetic endowment and the types of experiences we are exposed to in living our daily lives. This holds true for abnormal development as well as normal development.
    Behaviorists avoid terms such as normal and abnormal, because these words imply an absolute distinction between something healthy and something sick. That is why behaviorists prefer to speak of "maladaptive" rather than "abnormal" behavior.

Do you remember the name of the psychiatrist who believed there was no such thing as abnormal behavior?

Click here to see my answer!

    The behaviorist chooses not to put diagnostic labels on people but simply to specify as clearly as possible what the maladaptive behavior is, what contingencies may be setting the stage for and maintaining this behavior, and how these contingencies may be rearranged in order to change the behavior.

The Behavioral Approach to Therapy

    Behavioral therapy attempts to change abnormal behavior by making use of the same processes that seem to operate to produce normal  behavior. Key words and concepts here are: reinforcement, punishment, extinction, discrimination, generalization, rules, etc.

bulletClassical conditioning (respondent conditioning) techniques are aimed at changing how we feel--- the degree to which we like or dislike or fear certain aspects of our environment!

  In the past I had students get more information on any of the four men I presented at the beginning of the lecture: Ivan Pavlov, J.B.Watson, Edward Lee Thorndike or B.F.Skinner. You may want to look them up to get a greater understanding of their contributions.

I had another assignment for you about getting information on Systematic Desensitization, Exposure or Flooding, all  techniques used in the behavioral approach to therapy. I have found it is frustrating trying to find sites by putting in words such as flooding ( you get reports of flood victims or on real floods etc) & systematic desensitization is not always easy to find. So I have located a few sites that should help further your understanding of these procedures. I'll ask you to read them for an understanding.  They are referred to in your text starting on page 84-85.
Reducing Unwanted Emotions read down to the additional readings .. if  further intrigued you may go and read the info below but it is not necessary!
Systematic Desensitization after doing that procedure "click below" and go to Covert Desensitization!
Systematic Desensitization explained simply and nicely.

Approaches: Systematic Desensitization, Exposure, Flooding, Guided Imagery, Relaxation

bulletOperant Conditioning
Clearly stated, "this is learning via the consequences."
Operant behavior is STIMULUS-RESPONSE-THE CONSEQUENCES and behavior therapists have found that by altering any of these (stimulus-response-consequence) they can change maladaptive behavior.
bulletMulticomponent Treatment
Most forms of behavior therapy are administered as part of multicomponent treatment. A psychological disorder typically has many facets and thereby requires more than one kind of treatment!
bulletBehavior Therapy: Pros and Cons
        It is superficial since it does not focus on the patient's past or have insight as a goal.
It looks at patient's symptoms and ignores underlying causes.
It denies individual freedom---that behavior therapists move in and take control of the patient's behavior.

It has shown to be effective in treating a wide variety of problems: anxiety and phobias, insomnia, obesity, alcohol and drug dependence, depression, marital problems, personality disorders, conduct disorders, autism, etc.
It tends to be faster and less expensive than other therapies.
Its techniques can be taught to paraprofessionals and nonprofessionals, so therapy can go beyond the consulting room to hospital wards, classrooms and homes.
It is precise in its goals and techniques and therefore it can be reported, discussed and evaluated with precision.

Evaluating Behaviorism
    I will pull from the text some of the statements the "behaviorists" and B.F.Skinner, feel strongly about.

bulletEarlier behaviorists discounted "introspection." However, "radical behaviorists" (later behaviorists) view thinking and feeling are as important as overt action, and they are explainable in the same way.
bulletIt is not free will, but life experience that determines what we do with our lives.
    According to Skinner, whatever we do --- whether we treat people kindly or brutally --- we do these things because our evolutionary and learning histories have taught us to do them.
bulletThe term "control " for the behaviorist does not mean coercion. It means predictability and adherence to scientific laws.
bulletIt should be noted that Skinner's belief in the power of the environment, exclusive of mental processes, has been a subject of endless controversy.
bulletThe behaviorists recognize a broad range of responses as legitimate and are very sensitive to the adverse effects of labeling people as "abnormal."


STCC Foundation Press, 2014!       Content by Carol A. Roberts