Behaviorism Theory Essay

Behaviorism Theory Essay

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A learning, or behavioral theory, in terms of human development, follows the view that the focus of psychology should be behavior, the way we act. A behaviorist places value on attributes that one can see and therefore study, as opposed to the invisible attributes, such as thinking, feeling, and other brain activity that occurs without one even knowing (Craig & Dunn, 2010, p. 14). There are three important modern behavior or learning theorists: Ivan Pavlov, John Watson, and B. F. Skinner. However, as stated by William Crain John Locke was the “Father of environmentalism and learning theory”, although Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner were his “heirs” (Crain, 2011 p.3). To some, the behaviorist theories may seem limiting or incomprehensive, but one can see that all of the major theories play a role in our understanding of development.
British philosopher John Locke developed theories in late seventeenth century that a child has no built-in beliefs or understanding of concepts until the child has experienced these things for themselves. He asserted in his writing that through observation of children’s behavior, children are like an empty, unfurnished room that one can select the furnishings for, especially in early years when children are most susceptible to suggestion and input (Crain, 2011). Locke believed that environment was a critical factor in development, but also saw that the way one gives a child input affects behavior as well. Crain, (2011) noted that Locke felt that a child’s good health was important to facilitate, and that beyond that, adults should help reinforce children’s behavior through reward and punishment.
More than two hundred years later, B.F. Skinner saw the importance of reward and punishment as he studied oper...


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...tson’s later innovations was to remove or de-condition fears, by very slowly introducing the feared object in a slow, incremental, and safe manner until the object no longer evokes a fearful response (Crain, 2011).
All of these behavioral/learning theorists have made huge progress in understanding the psychology of human development through a rigid set of principles, through research, observation, and behavior modification experiments. One may be put off by the unyielding denial of cognitive processes in behavior and the relationship to development. To be sure, many theories and theorists have made progress in bridging the gap between behavior and environment only theories, and cognitive theories. One should not lose sight that all of these major theorists have made valuable contributions to our views of human development, including these unwavering behaviorists.

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