Reasons for the Rise of Behaviourism in Psychology

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Roots of Cognitive-behavioural approaches

Cognitive-behavioural approaches are based on empirical work. They believe that we can use animal behaviour, to learn more about human behaviour.

Pavlov initiated experiments on dogs in which a bell would be rung and then the food is provided. As this behaviour has been repeated several times, the dog started to salivate at the moment the bell was rung before the food arrived. This feature was given the name of Classical Conditioning.

Of course, we need to mention in this respect, the elements of Unconditioned Stimulus which is the food and Unconditioned Response which is the salivation when the food arrives; this is a biological feature that the dog was born with, and it is not a behaviour that he learnt.

The conditioning occurred when the dog learnt the connection between the food and the bell, so sound of the bell became the stimulus (Conditioned Stimulus) and salivation became the response (Conditioned Response).

Pavlov initiated another experiment where he stopped giving the dog food when the bell was rungs; the result was elimination of the conditioned response.

These kinds of experiments carried on being pursued by Russian investigators, but this time they concentrated on emotional responses such fear. Again, these investigations relied on animal response.

One experiment was an electric shock which the animal experiences that leads to unconditioned response such increased heart beats (An emotional response). Normally, red light is not an unconditioned stimulus, but it could be when it is associated with electric shocks; when it is, the animal starts showing conditioned fear. To illustrate this: when an animal receives an electric shock, the response is fear (Unconditioned response), but when the red light becomes associated with electric shocks (Conditioned stimulus) as food is in the case of the dog, then fear response happens before the electric shock occurs.

Experiments of American researchers such Thorndike and Tolman, showed that when a specific behaviour leads to positive results, this behaviour is likely to happen again; this conclusion became to be known as Law of Effect'. On the other hand, behaviour which leads to unpleasant results, this behaviour is likely not to happen again or at least, not so often.

Skinner carried on with these laws, and used terms such reinforces' and operant conditioning' to further explain human behaviour. He claimed that these reinforces are not in terms of pleasurable or non pleasurable only but also in terms of frequent behaviour as a result of a specific event; when this happens, this behaviour is seemed to be reinforced. This is a case of operant conditioning'.

We should distinguish between positive and negative reinforcements. Positive reinforcement are cases where a specific behaviour leads to good consequences so the person who experiences them is encouraged to carry on with it, while negative reinforcements are cases where behaviour of a person increases because he wants to prevent an anticipated unpleasant event.

So we should look at the term, reinforcement', as events where behaviour increases whether such in strength or frequency.

We should also consider other kinds of consequences which decrease frequency of behaviour, such Punishment' and Frustrative non-reward'. Punishment' deals with cases where behaviour decreases because of its repelling result, while Frustrative non-reward' deals with cases where behaviour decreases because of possible cancellation of an anticipated reward.

More about this author: Pierre Khazen

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