There are many developmental theories, formulated for understanding development of a child through stages of life. There are different opinions on the psychological and physical development as understood by different scientists. This has resulted in the variety of developmental theories, for example, behaviorism theory. However, all psychologists concur that development is an orderly process, which sometimes involves simultaneous stages. This essay discusses behaviorism as one of developmental theories.
Components of behaviorism and its main contributors
Behaviorists propose that all activities, such as acting, thinking, and feeling amount to the behavior of an individual. In this view, all psychological disorders resolution comes from changing behavior patterns or learning environment. A lot of focus goes to objective and observable components of behavior in this theory. Therefore, behaviorism contrasts in many ways to psychoanalytic or humanistic theory, especially in terms of how the personality of a person forms. Particularly, behaviorist psychologists believe that the external environment of a child, cultural and sub-cultural conditions mold the behavior. The behavior, acquired from the interaction with other people, subsequently shapes personality. Secondly, the significance of the unconscious is minimal to behaviorists. According to behaviorists, the culture and sub-culture environment determines the life of a person. Thus, behaviorism theory is deterministic (Millon, 2003).
Therapy, using behaviorist model, focuses on the learning principles together with the process and method, applied in learning. Therefore, such processes like rewarding, denying, punishing, desensitizing, therapy of aversion, modeling, and imitation apply. Since this theory also denies a person the free will, it is less concerned with the outside energy, which has an effect on a person’s behavior. Since there is less external influence, behaviorist believes that normal behavior of a person results from adopting acceptable upbringing in the right condition and model. On the other hand, absurd behavior is a reflection of defective conditioning. While treating clients, behaviorist pays little regard to how a person feels, thinks, expresses the emotions or uses imagination. Behaviorists believe that understanding of the personal environment and favorable interaction with the society leads to understanding of self and personal behavior. In addition, if a person learns neurotic behavior, the same person can unlearn the behaviors.
The origin of behaviorism traces back to the work of an American psychologist John Watson. Basing his work on the experiments of Ivan Pavlov, Watson held the view that psychology concerns behavior only and not the mind or human consciousness. Nowadays, behaviorism highly associates with Skinner B. F., who tested Watson’s theories in the laboratory. According to Skinner, apart from their response to environment, people operate on the similar conditions (environment) in portraying consequences (Skinner, 2011). This is a feedback reaction, which essential of the wider system of psychology.
Skinner developed “operant conditioning”, which means that people behave the way they do because the person had experienced the behavior in the past. According to Skinner, if an action gives positive outcome, the organism involved likely repeats the behavior. If the outcome of behavior is negative, the organism less likely repeats the behavior. Therefore, using behaviorist theory, it is possible to infer learning history (Millon, 2003). Observing the behavior of an organism gives a hint on the actions, reinforced in the past. Skinner stands out in psychology history as a credible system-builder. His description and outline on the effects of reinforcement on response remains enormous contribution to psychology.
Behaviorism in class
Application of behaviorism stretches to class setup. The science of response to stimuli, as explained by Skinner, applies to learning procedure. As indicated earlier, repetition of reinforced practices reoccur, while punished responses rarely reoccur. If a teacher encourages discussion, for example, the students likely repeat discussions. Alternatively, condemnation of talking during an exam time reduces the number of students who repeat this behavior.
The application of “operant conditioning” makes learning to be easy and direct. When contingencies of a task break down, it reinforces the understanding of items by students. A teacher may prefer to simplify the steps of scientific methods into manageable segments such as the introduction and systematic units. Students, who are slow in learning, find this learning method better, as it reduces frustration. Some teachers prefer to use niceties like candy in rewarding students who remember what their teacher instructs. Through modeling, explicit pathways of teaching students can be achieved, especially if those students are slow learners. Modeling in class involves demonstration of what the teacher trains. This gives extra guidance, needed by other students.
Setbacks of behaviorism in class
Research shows that the application of behaviorism does not always yield positive results in class. Positive reinforcement with rewards as encouragement gives repetitive results. On the other hand, negative reinforcement makes children fearful of making mistakes. Hence, people argue that learning has lost creativeness, which often comes by exploring the natural drive within. Rewarding student does not always work since some students may do the right thing not to learn but to get the rewards.
Practical application of behaviorism
In testing behaviorism, a person may use a pet dog. If the dog picks a ball and it receives petting, the dog is likely to repeat the same in the future. Alternatively, when a dog picks a ball in a tennis court, and the owner kicks it, the dog would likely not pick the ball in future. The positive reinforcement makes a lesson to be learnt more likely for repetition, as opposed to negative reinforcement of the past event.
The practical use of behaviorism has, for a long time, been applied in different institutions, especially schools. Behaviorism rewards acceptable behaviors in the society and condemns improper behavior.