Published on 15 February 2022

What Is Behavioral Psychology?

Behavioral Psychology what-is-behavioral-psychology
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Behavioral psychology, or Behaviourism, studies the connection between our minds and behaviors. The theory is based on the idea that everyone acquires their behaviors through conditioning. Conditioning takes place through interactions with the environment.

Behaviorists believe that our actions and responses to environmental stimuli shape our behaviors. Understanding why humans act the way they do has always been the main focus for psychologists who have attempted to explore the minds and brains of numerous subjects to unveil what lies within.

A Brief History Of Behaviorism

Behaviorism was initially established by John B. Watson, who is often considered the "father of behaviorism" with his 1913 publication in his classic paper, "Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It." The following quote from Watson best synopsizes it:

"Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in, and I'll guarantee to take anyone at random and train him to become any specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors."

In other words, behaviorists strongly believe that all behaviors are the result of environmentally stimulating experiences. Regardless of their background, any person can be trained to behave in a particular manner, given the proper conditioning.

From the early 1920 through the mid-1950s, behavioral psychology became the dominant and influential school of thought in psychology. However, some critics suggest that the popularity of Behaviorism grew out of the germinal desire to establish psychology as a measurable and objective science.

At that point, psychologists were engrossed in developing theories that could be empirically measured and clearly described but also used to make contributions that may influence the essence of everyday human lives.

Frequently asked questions

Cognitive behavioral psychology is a type of talk therapy/psychology that focuses on how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors affect one another.
Behaviorism or behavioral psychology is a theory of learning behaviors by understanding patterns and associations between behaviors and our environment.
Examples of behavior include interactions between two people, how we approach motivation, cognitive processes, and factors that cause us to act in a certain way.

Primary Concepts Of Behaviorism

Behaviorism consists of two main components: operant conditioning and classical conditioning.

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning is the association of a conditioned stimulus (e.g., food) with a neutral stimulus (a bell). The neutral stimulus eventually emerges as a conditioned stimulus (i.e., the bell is thought to be rewarding through its association with food, even in the absence of food).

This pioneering research by Ivan Pavlov was pivotal in the development of behaviorism. The associated stimulus becomes the conditioned stimulus, and the learned behavior is the conditioned response.

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning, occasionally called instrumental conditioning, is a learning method that occurs through reinforcements and punishments. In operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and the following consequence for that particular behavior.

When a desirable result follows an action, that action (behavior) becomes more likely to happen again. On the other hand, steps followed by adverse outcomes become less likely to occur again in the future.

Applications Of Behavioral Psychology 

Behavioral psychology, or the science of how behavior is formed and changed, has many applications in our daily lives. It's used to help people with anxiety and depression, increase productivity, and enhance communication between individuals. It can also improve relationships between family members, coworkers, friends, or partners. 

In addition to clinical settings, behavioral psychology techniques are also used in education to help kids better understand their classmates and be more successful at school. 

Finally, it can be helpful for employers who want to motivate staff or create positive work environments. Ultimately, this powerful field of study can help us lead better lives by teaching us how to recognize our mental habits and develop healthier ones.

Behavioral Psychology Techniques

Behavioral psychology techniques rely on the idea that people can learn or unlearn certain behaviors using reinforcement. This has been used in classrooms, workplaces, and at home to help teach new skills or cease unwanted behavior. 

Positive reinforcement is typically the most popular approach and rewards positive behavior with praise, privileges, and recognition reinforcing the issues you want your target to repeat. 

However, there are other forms of reinforcement, such as negative reinforcement (which works by removing an unpleasant stimulus when a desired behavior occurs) and selective withdrawal (which involves denying something pleasant). 

Through careful observation and research, behavioral psychologists have provided evidence for how these techniques can be effective; ultimately helping people change their lifestyles.

Influencers And Impact Of Behavioral Psychology

Several psychologists influenced the theory of behaviorism. In addition to those mentioned above, several other prominent psychologists and theorists have left an indelible mark on behaviorism. Among these are Clark Hull, who proposed the drive theory of learning, and Edward Thorndike, a pioneering psychologist who defined the law of effect.

Moreover, numerous therapeutic approaches have their roots in behavioral psychology. Although behavioral psychology eventuated more of a backdrop position after the 1950s, its principles remain essential today.

To this day, behavior analysis is often practiced as a therapeutic method to help children with developmental delays or autism acquire new and necessary skills.

Strategies And Weaknesses Of Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral psychology has been an incredibly influential tool for psychologists to understand how behavioral psychology may be shaped and modified. 

The primary strategy behavioral psychologists employ is operant conditioning, which rewards or punishes certain behaviors to encourage desired responses. This technique can be used on animals and humans in various settings, including parents encouraging their children to complete household chores. 

The main weakness of this psychological approach is that it doesn't consider any internal motivation behind the behavior, meaning that it focuses solely on external factors without considering the individual's desires or needs. 

Furthermore, this method does not always result in long-term changes - for instance, a child who completes their chores with the promise of a reward may maintain those actions until the tip is no longer being provided; after that, the behaviors could return to their previous levels.

Behavioral Psychology Theories And Criticism

Behavioral psychology theories have come under fire from some for relying too heavily on the idea of cause and effect without considering the complexity that surrounds us in our everyday lives. 

Critics point out that many of these theories place behavior too firmly in the context of rewards and punishments, ignoring numerous other reasons why an individual may respond to a situation in a particular way. 

Additionally, they argue that these theories don't always allow enough room for contextual variations depending on personal differences between individuals or cultures, suggesting an oversimplified view of the world instead. 

However, proponents counter by pointing out that behavioral theory works well as a framework for understanding basic psychological processes and can help those seeking mental health assistance identify potential causes for their behavior.

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solutions

While many aspects of behavioral psychology have been widely discredited, the underlying principles and observations of learning remain widely used today. 

Reinforcement schedules are employed in many learning and teaching models and understanding how students react/respond to environmental stimuli. 

Understanding 'the development of the theory and how thinking around these ideas have evolved' is essential to comprehending the theory's applicability in a classroom setting. Still, it must be remembered that as a learning system, the approach is best suited to learning that requires memorization of facts rather than deep comprehension learning. 

Much of the theory is still highly beneficial to educators in the modern classroom as a behavior management technique.