The Behaviorist Approach If your layperson's idea of psychology has always been about people in laboratories wearing white coats and watching hapless rats try to negotiate mazes in order to get to their dinner, then you are probably thinking about behavioral psychology. Behaviorism 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. Behaviorism is concerned with how environmental factors (called stimuli) affect observable behavior (called the response). The behaviorist approach proposes two main processes whereby people learn from their environment: namely classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning involves learning by association, and operant conditioning involves learning from the consequences of behavior. Classical conditioning (CC) was studied by the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov. Though looking into natural reflexes and neutral stimuli he managed to condition dogs to salivate to the sound of a bell through repeated associated with the sound of the bell and food. The principles of CC have been applied in many therapies. These include systematic desensitization for phobias (step-by-step exposed to a feared stimulus at once) and aversion therapy. B.F. Skinner investigated operant conditioning of voluntary and involuntary behavior. Skinner felt that some behavior could be explained by the person's motive. Therefore behavior occurs for a reason, and the three main behavior shaping techniques are positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and punishment. Behaviorism also believes in scientific methodology (e.g. controlled experiments), and that only observable behavior should be studied because this can be objectively measured. Behaviorism rejects the idea that people have free will, and believes that the environment determines all behavior. Behaviorism is the scientific study of
observable behavior working on the basis that behavior can be reduced to learned S-R (Stimulus-Response) units. Behaviorism has been criticized in the way it under-estimates the complexity of human behavior. Many studies used animals which are hard to generalize to humans and it cannot explain, for example the speed in which we pick up language. There must be biological factors involved. Classical Conditioning Video - What is Classical Conditioning? You are driving down a dark and curvy road when you narrowly miss a collision with a large truck that has edged over into your lane. You experience a rapid pulse, sweating palms, and your stomach begins to churn. After this near miss, you continue driving down the road. A few days later, as you approach the same curve, you begin to experience the same reactions (your heart beats faster, your palms begin to sweat) but there are no other vehicles around. What happened to you in this scenario?