Between 1920-1950, the behaviourist approach dominated psychology with the following assumptions:-
v All behaviour is learned from the environment: At birth, the mind is seen as having no innate ideas. This concept that at birth the mind is free of preconceived ideas or predetermined goals, and hence viewed as a clean slate, is referred to as tabular rasa. Behaviour is therefore environmentally determined, while new behaviours are learned through classical conditioning and operant conditioning.
v Psychology ought to be seen as a science, with theories supported by empirical data through carefully controlled observations and measurements of behaviour. Behaviourists therefore view psychology as a purely objective experimental branch of natural science whose theoretical goals are prediction and control
v Observable behaviour, not internal events such as thinking, perception and emotion are the primary concerns of behaviourists. They insist that only observable can be objectively measured, and therefore psychology should dwell on that. Internal dimension such as perception ought to be explained through ‘resultant’ behaviour.
v Learning in animals and humans bears no much difference. Experiments that involve lots of ethical issues can therefore be performed on animals.
v Behaviour is a response to a stimulus (S-R): Even with so many complicated behaviours, behaviourists argue that such behaviours can be reduced to simple Signal-Response situations.
Amazing stories have been told of service dogs that do all manner of things. Leading the blind, flash toilets, put clothes in and out of washing machines, and into driers, not to mention those used by security agents on their lines of duty. These dogs are highly skilled professionals. These dogs have been so trained using the same principles of learning as uncovered by psychologists.
Learning involves change. Once something has been learned, though tough at first, and after ‘breaking a few bones,’ with time, a novice turns into an expert capable of getting to and staying on at top of a given task. Learning therefore has some permanent influence on behaviour.
Learning is a relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs through experience.
Two types of learning
a) Associative Learning: This is learning that involves connections between two events. According to this principle of associative learning, ideas and experiences reinforce each other, with possibilities of mentally linking to one another. Information is therefore not recalled in isolation by our brains, but is thus grouped into a single associative memory. For example, when you think of a friends eye lashes, you think of their whole face. It helps learners to deeply connect with information, and accurately recall it when required to. Conditioning is the process of learning such associations.
Two types of conditioning
v Classical conditioning
v Operant conditioning
The two types of conditioning also form the basis of learning theories as discussed later...
b) Observational Learning: Traceable to Albert Bandura and his social learning theory, observational learning is critical during childhood. In his Bobo-doll experiment, Bandura demonstrated observational learning. Children that observed adults hitting a doll were found to have learned aggressive behaviour. Here, learning happens without necessarily any direct behaviour change. Through observational learning, it is possible to encourage new behaviour, discourage a current behaviour, or even encourage a behaviour previously forbidden. For such to occur, the observer must meet three conditions:- PAY ATTENTION to a behaviour, RETENTION of observed actions, REPLICATE/REPRODUCE what was observed. It is necessary that the observer gets the MOTIVATION to carry out the above three processes. If rewards are offered to the model, the more likely the observer replicates observed behaviour. That is also true if the observer likes the model they are observing.
According to the behaviourist’s school of thought, most of the principles associated with training dogs apply to humans as well as other animals.
Think about it...
If a dog can learn how to do laundry, then human potential for high performance has barely been tapped!