behaviourism, Brain Injury, Counselling, Freud, My Story, Uncategorized

23. Behaviourism: to fix us? (part 3)

Behaviourism: can this be used to fix us?

notebook n glasses.jpeg

John B. Watson (1878-1958) formally introduced behaviourism with the publication of his book ‘Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist’ (Watson, 1919) where he showed psychology to be completely objective (with no need for introspection). He promoted the use of scientific methods which involved the control of variables, and accurate measurements to gain observable, reliable results. Cognitive learning processes, genetic influences, any innate differences, and the artificial conditions of the experiment were not taken into consideration.

Maladaptive behaviour would therefore be seen by the behaviourist to be learned (maladaptive) behaviour, learned through classical conditioning and maintained through operant conditioning. Therefore, if a female adult presented with a fear of spiders, for example, the fear would be explained by her childhood experience (classical conditioning) of a spider suddenly appearing on her hand (fright paired with stimulus) as she reached to the back of the wardrobe to pick up her shoes. Since then her continual avoidance of spiders would have negatively reinforced (operant conditioning) the behaviour to the point that she would later fear leaving the house in case she encountered a spider.

With the additional aspect of cognition, where the cognitive steps behind the behaviour are taken into consideration, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective in treating adult anxiety disorders, and in this case, the technique of systematic desensitization would help by gradually exposing the woman to the feared stimulus (i.e., the spider) so that the maladaptive behaviour could be unlearned (extinction). This technique might begin with simply mentioning the word ‘spider’, talking about a spider, and gradually progressing on to looking at a picture of one, until eventually she could actually be in the same room as a spider and finally be able to come into contact with a spider without feeling anxiety. Behaviour modification techniques have also been shown to be effective in anxieties, phobias, depression and multiple sclerosis amongst many other disorders.

If you liked this, be sure to subscribe. It’s free and you will have access to my weekly blogs. If there are specific areas of interest that you would like me to write about, please comment or write a question and I’ll do my very best to answer. I would love to hear from you!

 

 

behaviourism, Brain Injury, Counselling, psychology, Uncategorized

22. Behaviorism: Conditioning (part 2)

Classical/ operant conditioning

notebook n glasses.jpeg

Assuming that the learning process was the same in humans as it was in some animals, it became apparent that a) stimuli elicited a behaviour, and b) events had caused the individual to respond to a stimulus in a certain way, i.e., learned behaviour. According to behaviourism, individuals learn through two types of conditioning: classical and operant.

Classical conditioning conditions the individual to produce the existing response to a new stimulus. Individuals learn to associate two concurring stimuli allowing the initial response to stimulus 1 to be transferred to stimulus 2. Therefore, the individual learns to respond in the existing behaviour to the new stimulus, as in the case of Pavlov’s dogs. Watson & Rayner (1920) also carried out an experiment on a young boy known as ‘little Albert’ pairing a loud noise (which made him anxious) with a white rat (which had not previously elicited any negative response). Little Albert’s anxious response (to the loud noise) soon transferred to the rat but sadly it also generalized to other stimuli that resembled the rat, e.g., white, furry rabbit and he soon became extremely anxious when faced with a cuddly, white toy rabbit. [It must be pointed out here that this experiment would of course be unethical by today’s standards.] Such conditioned responses can weaken with time (called ‘extinction’). Classical conditioning has been successfully used to treat phobic anxiety, and classical conditioning techniques are still used today in the treatment of phobias and anxieties.

Operant conditioning conditions the individual through the consequences of the individual’s behaviour. Thus, the individual’s behaviour can be followed by positive reinforcement (e.g., praise, reward) which strengthens the behaviour and increases the likelihood of the behaviour being repeated. If a behaviour is negatively reinforced (e.g., through nagging, avoidance), the response will be reinforced and maintained (e.g., a mum nagging her teenager to tidy up their bedroom!) thus avoiding spiders only makes the fear of them worse. If, however, the behaviour is followed by punishment, the likelihood of repeating the behaviour decreases, and the individual stops the behaviour (to avoid punishment). The term ‘operant conditioning’ was coined by B.F. Skinner (1953) who successfully trained rats to bar press in order to receive food pellets in the ‘Skinner box’. He later worked with pigeons to achieve further results. Today, positive reinforcement is considered to be the most successful method in training e.g., children. Operant conditioning has been very effective in modifying behaviour in individuals with learning difficulties, e.g., autism, and has proved to be a successful method to help people with phobias (e.g., in behaviour therapies, systematic desensitization). In everyday life, it is the foundation of education in today’s schools and also with psychiatric patients in hospitals. The concept of the ‘token economy’ is based on operant conditioning. Originally for psychiatric patients, this system awarded tokens to patients for achieving target behaviour, and these tokens could then be exchanged for a positive reinforcer, e.g., a treat, which ultimately increased the overall quantity of target behaviours. The token economy is now a common feature used in schools and some places of work and further research has endeavoured to find methods to maintain target behaviour and resist extinction once the tokens are no longer being awarded.

If you liked this, be sure to subscribe. It’s free and you will have access to my weekly blogs. If there are specific areas of interest that you would like me to write about, please comment or write a question and I’ll do my very best to answer. I would love to hear from you!

References

Martin, G.N., Clarkson, N.R., & Buskist,W. (2007). ‘The science of Psychology:                          Behaviourism’, Psychology (3rd ed.). Pearson Education Limited; England, U.K.

behaviourism, Brain Injury, Counselling, My Story, psychology, thoughts influence on physical body, Uncategorized

21. Behaviousrism (part 1)

The Behaviourist approach

Behaviourists explain maladaptive behaviour in terms of the learning principles that sustain and maintain it.

notebook n glasses.jpeg

Behaviourism focuses on the association between an individual’s behaviour and their surrounding environment, i.e., behaviour is simply a response to a stimulus or stimuli [without any consideration given to any influence of the individual’s mental state]. Thus, it follows that our behaviour is determined by the environment’s stimuli from which we learn how to respond accordingly. Because humans are born (like a blank slate) with only a few innate reflexes, all behaviours (both normal and abnormal) are seen by behaviourists as being learned through interacting with the environment. Learning and experiences determine how the individual becomes as a person.

Studying the behaviour of animals, Edward Thorndike (1874-1949) noticed that pleasant events would encourage a certain response whereas unpleasant/noxious events would ‘stamp out’ responses or at least make them less likely to occur again. Thorndike explained the ‘law of effect’ as how the consequences of a behaviour affect the likelihood of the behaviour being repeated.

Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), whilst studying digestion, found that hungry dogs began salivating when they saw the assistant who fed the dogs. Pavlov then discovered that it was possible to train the dogs to salivate in response to different stimuli, e.g., the sound of a bell, before the dogs were given food. This showed that dogs could learn to respond to a stimulus that had not previously elicited a response.

If you liked this, be sure to subscribe. It’s free and you will have access to my weekly blogs. If there are specific areas of interest that you would like me to write about, please comment or write a question and I’ll do my very best to answer. I would love to hear from you!

References

Martin, G.N., Clarkson, N.R., & Buskist,W. (2007). ‘The science of Psychology:                          Behaviourism’, Psychology (3rd ed.). Pearson Education Limited; England, U.K.