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1. Exam Essentials <br />The Behaviourist Approach.<br />Q1 a) State two assumptions of the behaviourist approach<br />The behaviourists believe that…
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  • 1. Exam Essentials <br />The Behaviourist Approach.<br />Q1 a) State two assumptions of the behaviourist approach<br />The behaviourists believe that all behaviour comes from learning as a result of interactions in the environment.<br />One assumption of the behaviourist approach is that behaviour is affected by operant conditioning or learning by consequence. This means that if a person engages in a particular behaviour and is then rewarded (positively reinforced) in some way (the consequence is a good one or a pleasant one) then it is likely it will be repeated. Continuing to positively reinforce it will make it more permanent and it becomes learned. Punishment or negative reinforcement is likely to make behaviour less likely to be repeated and so it will not be continued. There are many examples of this in real life. For example giving house points or stars or sweets to a pupil who completes their m homework means they will be more likely to complete their homework because they are being rewarded for doing it.<br />Another assumption of the behaviourist approach is that behaviour is learned through social modelling or imitation. This means that people learn how to behave in particular ways by observing and copying the behaviour of others. They particularly copy the behaviour of people who they admire (eg pop stars or footballers) or people who are close to them (brothers, sisters and parents). An example of this is small children copying their parents when learning to use a knife and fork or shouting at others when they see their parents shout.<br />Q1 b) Describe Social Learning Theory from the behaviourist approach<br />Social Learning Theory (SLT) is a theory from the behaviourist approach which is based on the behaviourist assumption that all behaviour is learned and that behaviour can be learned by copying or imitation. SLT argues that we learn to behave in particular ways by copying the behaviour of others. We are more likely to copy behaviour of people close to us such as parents or brothers and sisters or copy the behaviour of people we admire such as celebrities.<br />The name is associated with Albert Bandura who demonstrated how small children can learn aggression by observing and copying adult role models. Bandura conducted a series of experiments on small children in from a nursery attached to Stamford University. His experiments varied but they all followed a pattern. He got children to observe adults playing with a giant inflatable doll called a “Bobo Doll” In some instances children were exposed to the adult playing with the doll kindly or normally and in others playing with the doll aggressively. (eg kicking it and striking it with a toy hammer and being verbally aggressive shouting “pow” . The children were then taken to a room where there was a Bobo doll amongst other toys. The children were then observed to see how they played with the Bobo doll. <br />Bandura’s results showed that children who had observed the Bobo doll being played with aggressively imitated the behaviour ( and similarly children who had seem a non aggressive model copied that) and he thus argued that children learned aggression by copying. He termed this social modelling theory of learning. <br />In other experiments he found children more likely to imitate if the role model was the same gender as themselves, if they saw the role model being given sweets for their behaviour (operantly rewarded) > He also noted that boys were more aggressive than girls in their likelihood to copy. <br />Q2 Describe how the behaviourist approach has been applied to either Aversion Therapy or Systematic Desensitization. <br />A therapy from the behaviourist approach is systematic desensitisation. It is usually used to treat phobias. It is based on the behaviourist assumption that phobias are learned by association of events in the environment (classical conditioning) which lead to fear. An example of this is when Masserman developed a phobia in cats by giving them electric shocks every time they were put into a box. Thereafter the cats displayed extreme anxiety when put in the box. If they were fed in the box then the anxiety disappeared. This showed that the fear response can be unlearned. Wolpe continued this work introducing the food more gradually and at a distance from the box, moving the food closer until it enticed the cat into the box. From this he developed the therapy of systematic desensitisation. The process uses a method called reciprocal inhibition. This means that a feared object is counter posed with a state of deep relaxation. Fear and relaxation cannot share the same space psychologically so relaxation replaces fear and extinguishes the phobia.<br />The method has four stages.<br />In stage 1 the patient is taught how to relax completely as a relaxed state is incompatible with anxiety. In stage 2 the patient and therapist together build a series of imagined scenes causing fear. These are put into a hierarchy from least fearful to most fearful. This is a desensitisation hierarchy. In stage 3 the patient gradually starts to work through the lower rungs of the desensitisation hierarchy visualising the feared object event whilst employing the relaxation technique. In stage 4 the patient moves up the hierarchy each time mastering a step (ie remaining relaxed and anxiety free whilst imagining the phobic object. event) until they eventually master the feared situation itself. They should now be cured of their phobia.<br />Systematic desensitisation is a very effective therapy, having a 98% success rate. However, like all behavioural therapies it is very specific in the kinds of things it can treat. <br />Q3 Evaluate two strengths of the behaviourist approach.<br /> Evaluate two weaknesses of the behaviourist approach<br />One strength of the behaviourist approach is that it is scientific. This is strength because it means that theories and therapies can be supported by experimental evidence from laboratory investigations on learning. Experiments are an accurate and well controlled way of obtaining cause and effect. It is also reliable in that it can be repeated to check the results. The use of experiments on animals also makes it possible to carry out experiments that would otherwise be impossible to do on humans due to ethical issues. For example Skinner conducted many experiments in operant conditioning using rats. Masserman demonstrated how cats could be made phobic by putting them into a box giving them electric shocks in a laboratory. <br />A second strength of the behaviourist approach is that it is useful. This is strength because many of the things discovered and established by experimental studies have led to applications in everyday life. For example the development of systematic desensitisation as a treatment for phobias has led to the successful treatment of many people with acute phobias. <br />One weakness of the behaviourist approach is that it is determinist. This is a weakness because it argues that all behaviour is pre decided. In the case of the behaviourist approach it says that behaviour is pre decided or determined by nurture (eg all behaviour is a result of learning and association of events in the environment) and does not allow any account of behaviour having a genetic or physiological basis. <br />Another weakness of the behaviourist approach is that it is reductionist. This is a weakness because it tries to over simplify the causes of behaviour by explaining it as being the result of a few mechanisms of learning such as classical and operant conditioning and social modelling theory. It does not recognise the complexity of behaviour or the complex cause of behaviour or individual differences. <br />Q5 Describe and evaluate the methodology of the behaviourist approach<br />Two methods used by the behaviourist approach are laboratory experiments and animal experiments. They are based on the behaviourist assumptions that all behaviour is learned and that there are mechanisms of learning which can be identified and demonstrated in a scientific way.<br />One method the behaviourist approach uses to investigate scientifically is that of laboratory experiments. Laboratory experiments are based on the behaviourist assumption that it is possible to do experiments which can demonstrate how different learning mechanisms work.<br /> For example Skinner demonstrated different frameworks of operant conditioning and how different kinds of reinforcement affected speed of learning in rats (and people) in boxes in his laboratory. Masserman showed how you could induce anxiety in cats by placing them in a box in a laboratory experiment. In a different kind of experiment, Bandura showed how children could learn aggression by imitation in social learning theory.<br />The advantages of laboratory experiments are that they are controlled, repeatable and can establish cause and effect. A main advantage is control. In experiments it is possible to control and manipulate variables so that it is possible to measure the effect of one variable which is being manipulated (the IV) upon another which is being measured (the DV). The method also allows experimenters to obtain accurate results and quantitative data which is easy to analyse and provides good proof for theories. However, a weakness of laboratory experiments is lack ecological validity. A laboratory does not represent real life conditions and it is possible that reactions in laboratory experiments might not be the same as in the real environment. Another weakness demand characteristics and experimenter bias where an experimenter may set up an experiment in a way that shows what he wants it to show. This may not be deliberate. <br />Another method is the use of animal experiments. The behaviourists believe that animals and humans share mechanisms of learning and information gained in animal experiments can be generalised to humans. Examples of animal experiments are Skinners work on operant conditioning with rats, Pavlov, who demonstrated classical conditioning using dogs and Masserman who used cats to demonstrate how a phobia might be learned which was extended by Wolpe who used this to devise a means of treating phobias by systematic desensitisation. <br />. The advantage of using animals in experiments is that they can be used when it would be unacceptable to experiment on humans. It has been suggested that animals feel less distress because they are less aware and more adaptable than humans although the physiological relationship remains the same. The use of animals in experiments has also led to many useful applications such as systematic desensitisation. The principles of operant conditioning have been applied in education in terms of positive and negative reinforcement which is based on experiments by Skinner on rats and pigeons.<br />However, many people object to animal research on ethical grounds. Distress and harm is caused and the level to which animals feel pain is controversial. Some researchers argue it isn’t possible to generalise from animals to human behaviour so experiments cannot be justified. Human behaviour is more complex and governed by higher mental activity (thinking processes). <br />
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