Behaviorist Theory

  • Behaviorism is a philosophy of psychology, which has a profound influence on the understanding of mental and behavioral aspects of life.
  • Behaviorist theory is based on the concept of learning which refers to a relatively permanent change in behavior or knowledge due to experience.
  • Behaviorism originated in Russia with Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849–1936).
  • Behaviorism as a discipline was founded by John Watson (1878–1958).
  • Skinner and Thondike extended the theory.
Respondent Learning/Classical Conditioning
  • This theory was formulated by a Russian psychologist called Ivan Pavlov.
  • It is based on a stimuli-response formula.
  • Pavlov presented his theory by his famous experiment, a dog learned to salivate to the sound of a bell, if the bells were rung simultaneously with the presentation of food.
Operant Conditioning
  • Developed by B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) and JB Watson.
  • "Humans were simply more complicated than animals but operated on the same principles" - Watson
  • This theory states that when learning is rewarded, behavior is perpetuated or maintained, while punished behavior is removed.
  • In the classic experiment of “Skinner Box”, a rat may receive a food reward every time he presses the bar.  He presses faster and faster.
  • Techniques in operant conditioning are:
    • Positive reinforcement - increasing a behavior by administering a reward.
    • Negative reinforcement - increasing a behavior by removing an aversive stimulus when a behavior occurs
    • Punishment - decreasing a behavior by administering an aversive stimulus
    • Extinction - decreasing a behavior by not rewarding it.
  • Several psychotherapeutic interventions have been developed based on behaviorism for conditions such as phobia, anxiety disorders and behavior problems in children.
  • These theories have been applied in educational psychology for developing and refining methods of teaching.
  • Behaviorism is a developmental theory that measures observable behaviors produced by a learner’s response to stimuli.
  • Behaviorist theory influenced the understanding of human activities-  acting, thinking, and feeling.
  1. Skinner BF ( 1974 ) About Behaviorism . Random House , NY, USA .
  2. Psychiatry, Third Edition. Edrs. Allan Tasman, Jerald Kay, Jeffrey A. Lieberman, Michael B. First and Mario Maj.John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2008.


Post a Comment