Behaviorism Theory

Behaviorist theorists believe that behavior is shaped deliberately by forces in the environment and that the type of person and actions desired can be the product of design. In other words, behavior is determined by others, rather than by our own free will. By carefully shaping desirable behavior, morality and information is learned. Learners will acquire and remember responses that lead to satisfying aftereffects. Repetition of a meaningful connection results in learning. If the student is ready for the connection, learning is enhanced; if not, learning is inhibited. Motivation to learn is the satisfying aftereffect, or reinforcement.
Behaviorism is linked with empiricism, which stresses scientific information and observation, rather than subjective or metaphysical realities. Behaviorists search for laws that govern human behavior, like scientists who look for pattern sin empirical events. Change in behavior must be observable; internal thought processes are not considered. Ivan Pavlov’s research on using the reinforcement of a bell sound when food was presented to a dog and finding the sound alone would make a dog salivate after several presentations of the conditioned stimulus, was the beginning of behaviorist approaches.
Learning occurs as a result of responses to stimuli in the environment that are reinforced by adults and others, as well as from feedback from actions on objects. The teacher can help students learn by conditioning them through identifying the desired behaviors in measurable, observable terms, recording these behaviors and their frequencies, identifying appropriate reinforcers for each desired behavior, and providing the reinforcer as soon as the student displays the behavior.


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For example, if children are supposed to raise hands to get called on, we might reinforce a child who raises his hand by using praise, “Thank you for raising your hand. ” Other influential behaviorists include B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) and James B. Watson (1878-1958). Cognitivism/Constructivism Cognitivists or Constructivists believe that the learner actively constructs his or her own understandings of reality through interaction with objects, events, and people in the environment, and reflecting on these interactions.
Early perceptual psychologists (Gestalt psychology) focused on the making of wholes from bits and pieces of objects and events in the world, believing that meaning was the construction in the brain of patterns from these pieces. For learning to occur, an event, object, or experience must conflict with what the learner already knows. Therefore, the learner’s previous experiences determine what can be learned. Motivation to learn is experiencing conflict with what one knows, which causes an imbalance, which triggers a quest to restore the equilibrium.
Piaget described intelligent behavior as adaptation. The learner organizes his or her understanding in organized structures. At the simplest level, these are called schemes. When something new is presented, the learner must modify these structures in order to deal with the new information. This process, called equilibration, is the balancing between what is assimilated (the new) and accommodation, the change in structure. The child goes through four distinct stages or levels in his or her understandings of the world.
Some constructivists (particularly Vygotsky) emphasize the shared, social construction of knowledge, believing that the particular social and cultural context and the interactions of novices with more expert thinkers (usually adult) facilitate or scaffold the learning process. The teacher mediates between the new material to be learned and the learner’s level of readiness, supporting the child’s growth through his or her “zone of proximal development. ” Behaviorism Posted in Behaviorist Theories, Paradigms and Perspectives | 0 comments Summary: Behaviorism is a worldview that operates on a principle of “stimulus-response.”
All behavior caused by external stimuli (operant conditioning). All behavior can be explained without the need to consider internal mental states or consciousness. Originators and important contributors: John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov, B. F. Skinner, E. L. Thorndike (connectionism), Bandura, Tolman (moving toward cognitivism) Keywords: Classical conditioning (Pavlov), Operant conditioning (Skinner), Stimulus-response (S-R) Behaviorism Behaviorism is a worldview that assumes a learner is essentially passive, responding to environmental stimuli.
The learner starts off as a clean slate (i. e. tabula rasa) and behavior is shaped through positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement. Both positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement increase the probability that the antecedent behavior will happen again. In contrast, punishment (both positive and negative) decreases the likelihood that the antecedent behavior will happen again. Positive indicates the application of a stimulus; Negative indicates the withholding of a stimulus. Learning is therefore defined as a change in behavior in the learner. Lots of (early) behaviorist work was done with animals (e. g. Pavlov’s dogs) and generalized to humans.

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