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School Of Thought Paper Behaviorism Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 3342 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Behavior builds on the reaction of a given entity. When ones environment, culture, or belief system is modified in a particular way, human or animal characteristics will allow instinct to take affect without a moment’s notice. Over time, this method of thought was observed on a comparative scale that eventually was based more of on an underlying method of principles that harbored a discipline setting. From a scientific prospective and more defined element of thinking, the concept of behaviorism was defined as an approach to psychology that combines elements of philosophy, methodology, and theory (Kohn, 1993). Eventually the core of behaviorism could be defined as “Do this and you’ll get that.” This perception of this method is seldom misunderstood; usually this response is open to a debate in which certain individuals will receive and ponder the underlying circumstances that will be promised and delivered. On one theory, we take for granted that this is the logical way to raise children, teach students, and manage employees (Kohn, 1993). Behaviorism has been around for a number of years, but some individuals may not have realized that it has a definite history. Behaviorism was in fact the first psychology that keenly observed human behavior and how humans learned. Behaviorism was thought of as a known way of conditioning that has been verified throughout various portions of our world.

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It was a rejection of structuralism and its subjectivity, of psychoanalytic theory’s often-murky observables, and of functionalism’s emphasis upon the conscious mind. Behaviorism, in essence not considered an instructive philosophy, is usually acknowledged as a psychological theory about human behavior and learning. In their studies, behaviorists focus only on observable human behavior and discount mental processes. They believe that all behavior is learned, and they believe that new learning is a result of acquiring new behavior patterns by means of environmental conditioning (Ozmon & Crave, 1995). Although behaviorism thoroughly overlooks thought processes, it widely accepts positive and negative reinforcement to support and construct desired behavior.

Behaviorism and its key components can be phrased as a type of psychology that studies the obvious, visible actions and reactions of an individual. In place of focusing on the mind, behaviorists engage on the equitable, environmental surroundings that influence a person’s behavior. Behaviorism embraces the topic of human psychology as the behavior of the human being. Behaviorism claims that consciousness is neither a definite nor a usable concept. The behaviorist, who has been trained always as an experimentalist, holds, further, that belief in the existence of consciousness goes back to the ancient days of superstition and magic. Behavior theorists characterize learning as a more or less undeviating change in behavior.

Behaviorists consider human behavior could be understood by studying specific behaviors. “Behaviorists think human traits such as personality, character, and integrity are not internally determined by each individual, but are the results of behaving in certain ways and are established through behavior patterns which are developed through environmental conditioning” (Ozmon & Craver, 1995). Behaviorists also believe that we have no right to project our feelings or cultural beliefs onto the various subjects that we examine. For example, if a person gives a piece of meat to a dog, it is justifiable to describe the dog’s behavior (i.e., the animal jumps up, drools, opens its mouth, and eats the meat). However, it is not valid to say the dog in question “likes” the meat since that projects the attitudes or feelings of the human onto the dog, and there is no evidence to support the statement.

Behaviorism theory began in 400 B.C. with the teachings of Greek philosopher Aristotle. Eventually this theory became the most accepted learning theory in the first half of the 20th century. Behaviorism has a history in several philosophical backgrounds. It is grounded in realism, especially the acquisitive trademark, which sustains behavior is caused by environmental conditions. Instead of concentration on mind or consciousness, behaviorists look at observable facts, capable of empirical verification.

Ivan Pavlov, (1849-1936) considered to be the father of the conditioning theory, strongly influenced the behaviorist movement by his studies of conditioned reflexes in humans and 3 animals (Gray 2). Born in pre-Soviet Russia, he was a distinguished experimental psychologist and physiologist. Behaviorism is a direct descendant of the investigations of Pavlov, the work on conditioned reflexes led to development of classical conditioning. In classical conditioning, an unconditioned stimulus such as food, leads to a reflex unconditioned response, like salivation. When paired with a conditioned stimulus such as a bell, the result is that the conditioned stimulus begins to evoke the same response. “Pavlov was also a strong opponent, throughout his life, of the Freudian interpretation of neuroses” (Nichols, 2004)

Pavlov measured only conditioned reflex behavior, when modern behaviorists use operant conditioning that includes action on the part of the organism being conditioned. The organism can act or adapt to change in its environment, and the ensuing transformations reinforce the behavior of the organism in some way. The modern view tends more toward a two-way flow, while Pavlov showed it only one way. Nevertheless, his pioneering was of crucial importance (Nichols, 2004).

Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1949) embarked on a series of learning experiments with animals. After a series of trial and error activities, the animal would chance upon the “solution” that released food. Further trials in the same puzzle box resulted in the animal’s making the proper response more rapidly than at first. This led Thorndike to his “law of effect,” which he also extended to human activity. He found a very dominate effect from rewards but also discovered that punishment was a less effective way for the control of behavior. Following Pavlov’s lead, Thorndike assumed a connection between stimuli and responses. If stimulus A is known to be associated with response B, repeat A until B is produced without hesitation whenever A occurs. Teachers rapidly accepted Thorndike’s laws of learning, which they found to be highly useful devices for classroom instruction. Thorndike was one of the first to understand that education and psychology were closely linked. “Psychology forms the foundation for the science of education, and schools furnish subjects and data sources for psychological research” (Pulliam & Van Patten, 1991).

John B. Watson, (1878-1958) considered the “Founder of Behaviorism,” repudiated the introspective method in psychology as delusive and unscientific. He relied solely on an observational technique restricted to behavior. He believed that fears are conditioned responses to the environment. In experiments, he conditioned people to be fearful and then reconditioned them. “He thought of the environment as the primary shaper of behavior and maintained that if he could control a child’s environment he could then engineer that child into any kind of person desired” (Ozmon & Craver, 1995). In an experiment to prove his point on the matter, Watson performed an interesting experiment. After studying infants at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Watson stated, that if he were given a child with a healthy body, he could mold that child into any kind of expert he chose. He said:

Give me a dozen healthy infants, well formed, to bring them up in any way I choose and I’ll guarantee you to take any one at random and train him to become any type of 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 (Hamachek 2003).

Watson believed that environment is far more important than heredity in the determination of human behavior. He rejected inherent ideas and most instincts. His experiments with infants caused him to bring about that almost all emotional responses are learned. Watson held that if the environment could be strictly controlled, any normal child could be raised to be a mechanic, an athlete, a professional person, or a thief.

Watson believed that psychology should be confined to those activities that could be verified by an outside observer. He also thought that psychologists should study only directly observable behavior, not mental processes and consciousness. Watson argued that animals, including humans, will work toward things that aid their survival and reproduction (ex: food, water, sex) and avoid things that harm them. He believed that humans were simply more complicated than animals but operated on the same principles. He was responsible for many experiments – some of which included animals and humans (i.e. Kerplunk Experiment and the experiment involving Baby Albert). “Watson was very influential, and the strong movement in American psychology toward behaviorism is often directly attributed to him” (Ozmon & Craver 1995). Born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990) taught psychology at the University of Minnesota and Indiana University before returning to Harvard, where he had taken his Ph.D. By far the greatest influence on behavioral therapy came from Skinner’s operant conditioning. The term operant refers to a voluntary response as opposed to involuntary reflexed. The frequency of operant responses is determined by their consequences. Responses that are positively reinforced will be repeated more frequently, those that are punished or ignored will be extinguished. The operant conditioner carefully observes target behavior and then quantifies its frequency and rate. Then, to complete a functional analysis of the behavior, the consequences of the behavior are noted to determine the contingencies of reinforcement.

Operant conditioning is particularly effective with children because parents have considerable control over reinforces and punishments. (Nichols, 2004) Another way of putting it is that, in a very real sense, we are our own makers He believed that reinforcement follows behavior; it does not precede it; even though most human behavior is conditioned by previous reinforcement (Ozmon & Craver, 1995). Behavior develops in directions that are positively reinforced; consequently, we should be controlling, devising, or using contingences that reinforce desired behaviors. Skinner thought that if we want to change culture or individuals, we must change behavior, and the way to change behavior is to change the contingencies (i.e. culture or social environment) Skinner took the possibilities of his theories into the area of social and cultural reform. He saw behavioral engineering as applicable on a global scale, maintaining that it is possible to solve problems of hunger, warfare, and economic upheaval if we will do so through the development of technology of behavior” (Ozmon & Craver, 1995). Although best known for his programmed instruction derived from the principles of operant conditioning based on laboratory experiments with animals, Skinner has moved behavioral engineering into the realm of utopian planning, the nature of humankind, social values and a definition of the good life (Pulliam & Van Patten, ).

Many people debate that the intent of behavioral engineering is to turn out robots, people who are at the beck and call of others who control them. “Skinner countered that this is not true; for when we look around at our present world, we find that most people are controlled by forces of which they are unconscious” (Ozmon & Craver).

“People act to improve the world and to progress toward a better way of life for good reasons, and among the reasons are certain consequences of their behavior, and among these consequences are the things people value and call good” (Skinner, 1971).

A person’s behavior is at least to some extent his own achievement. He is free to deliberate, decide, and act, possibly in original ways, and he is to be given credit for his successes and blamed for his failures. “In the scientific view (and the word is not necessarily honorific) a person’s behavior is determined by a genetic endowment traceable to the evolutionary history of the species and by the environmental circumstances to which as an individual he has been exposed” (Skinner, 1971). Neither view can be proved, but it is in the nature of scientific inquiry that the evidence should shift in favor of the second. “As we learn more about the effects of the environment, we have less reason to attribute any part of human behavior to autonomous controlling agent. And the second view shows a marked advantage when we begin to do something about behavior” (Skinner, 1971). Autonomous man is not easily changed; in fact, to the extent that he is autonomous, he is by definition not changeable at all. But the environment can be changed, and we are learning how to change it.

Skinner was a strong advocate of education, although many critics argue that what he meant by education is not education but ‘training. Skinner expressed much of what was accepted for education is not good education because it is not reinforcing, it does not properly motivate students to progress, and does not deal with immediate reinforcement.

Skinner thought that one of the most effective kinds of instruction may be done through the use of teaching machines, including small computers. He is often referred to as the “father of the teaching machine” and has done significant research in this area. The questions in a teaching machine are interrelated and are usually arranged in sequences of increasing complexity. Skinner thought that learning should take place in small steps and succeeding questions should have some relationship to the preceding ones. He preferred that students have nothing by success.

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Skinner recommended the use of programmed instruction, which is simply a system of breaking down information into small parts and organizing it in a way that students can understand. While teaching machines are not necessary, Skinner believed that the computer is the best teaching machine because students are actively involved in their work and are not passive. Furthermore, students can work at their own pace through carefully selected instructional programs that provide immediate feedback as reinforcement Many critics charge that Skinner’s theories belittle and limit humanity, but there is a strong argument that his views are optimistic, holding the promise that we can become practically anything through proper behavioral engineering. The principles of behaviorism and the techniques of behavioral engineering go back at least to Pavlov and Watson, but B.F. Skinner pioneered their implementation in many fields of contemporary life. Skinner saw behaviorism extending into politics, economics, and other social organizations. He strongly championed it as an educational method that is more practical and produces greater results than any other. Skinner viewed the educational processes as one of the chief ways of designing a culture, and his attention was also directed at numerous other institutions. He believed that positive reinforcement can induce us to begin to alter and control our schools and other institutions. It has grown in popularity and is used frequently, particularly in areas of special education and with disadvantaged children.

Behaviorism has been increasingly used in education since the 1960s, and many educators are zealous supporters of the behavioral techniques that they are using in their classroom. Behaviorism is based on the assumption that teachers can adequately describe what people do in terms of observable behaviors and that these behaviors are acquired through experience via simple conditioning or learning. Behaviorists view the child as a highly conditioned organism even before entering school. Whatever has gone on before, including contradiction in the values exhibited by parents or the environmental control of institutions such as churches, will have an impact on the school environment. Since teachers must engage in the modification of behavior, it is important that they know what goals they wish to achieve and how to reach them with efficiency. “Skinner does not see this process as evil but as a means for expanding possibilities and developing a preference for a better kind of civilization”.

Many people see education and conditioning as two different things. Education presumably represents a free mind being exposed to ideas that one may look upon critically and accept or not accept, whereas conditioning is seen to represent the implementation of certain specific ideas in the pupil’s mind with or without her critical consent. Skinner, however, drew no distinction between education and conditioning. He did not feel that the mind is free to begin with. Whatever kinds of critical judgment or acceptance of ideas students make are already predicated on ideas with which they have been previously conditioned.

Obviously, there are many strengths of behaviorism for it to be so admired. Behaviorism clearly states one’s objectives, which allows the learner to focus on one goal. The success of the desired outcome is easily measurable and specific learning is guaranteed. Cueing responses to behavior allow the learner to react in a predictable way under certain conditions. A big strength of behaviorism and the resulting social learning and social cognitive theories are their ease of application to real world examples. Information gathered for learning theories such as these are often represented by statistics and facts, rather than theoretical concepts and ideas. Therefore, applying them and measuring the outcome is much simpler.

In spite of behaviorism’s popularity and success, there are many criticisms against it. It is said that behaviorism sees the human being as an automaton instead of a creature of will and purpose. Critics believe that behaviorism limits one’s retention unless it is reinforced. Behavior or responses are reinforced by repetition, as well as positive and negative reinforces. However, it is very difficult for a single educator to appropriately and individually reinforce thirty or more learners at the same time. Critics claim that behaviorism limits one’s learning by association. The learner sees much of the information as irrelevant to his everyday life. Students are unable to put the pieces together and apply them to other situations. It is also said that a negative side to behaviorism is that the learner is usually externally motivated. Motivation for correctly responding to a stimulus is directly related to the time between the response and the reinforcement.

After discovering the many regions of behaviorism, the writer discovered that behaviorism is found in the core of parenting, education, the military, as well as the work force. Our world is constantly changing; however one thing seems to remain the same. We are all conditioned one way or another. Humans, as well as animals, seem to follow certain guidelines that have been programmed into their being. As Watson argued, humans, as well as animals, will do what they have to do to survive and avoid things that will hurt them.


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