Delroy Mckenzie

Behaviourist Perspective

If when you think of psychology you think of people in laboratories wearing white coats and
watching unfortunate rats try to negotiate mazes in order to get to a food reward, then you
are thinking about behavioural psychology. Behaviourism is different from most other
approaches because they view people (and animals) as controlled by their environment
and specifically that we are the result of what we have learned from our environment.
Behaviourism is concerned with two main points:

1. How environmental factors (called stimuli)
2. Affect observable behaviour (called the response).

Behaviourism believes in scientific method (e.g. controlled experiments), and that only
observable (that which can be seen) behaviour should be studied because this can be
objectively measured. The behaviourist approach put forward two main processes
whereby people learn from their environment:

1. Classical conditioning - involves learning by association. Classical Conditioning
(CC) was studied by the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov. He managed to condition
dogs to salivate to the sound of a bell through repeated association of food and the
sound of the bell. The principles of CC have been applied in many therapies. These
include systematic desensitisation for phobias (step-by-step exposed to feared
stimulus at once) and aversion therapy.
2. Operant conditioning - involves learning from the consequences of behaviour. B.F.
Skinner investigated operant conditioning of voluntary and involuntary behaviour.
Skinner felt that some behaviours could be explained by the person's motive.
Therefore behaviour occurs for a reason, and the three main behaviour shaping
techniques are positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and punishment.

Behaviourism rejects the idea that people have free will, and believes that the environment
determines all behaviour and that behaviour can be reduced to learned...