Essay On Behaviorism; Conditioning Theories


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Behaviorism; Conditioning Theories

Behaviorism is a psychological perspective concerned with human behaviors and advanced in early 20th century. According to behaviorists, human behavior is influenced not only by mental processes but also through reflexes conditioning. B.F Skinner is considered a radical behaviorist who conducted extensive study on the effects of classical conditioning on human behavior (McLeod, 2015). Skinner was influenced by Watson (1913) theories of human behavior. Skinner believed that human behavior is far more as a result of ‘conditioning’ in which actions results in consequences. In his perspective, Skinner observed that human behaviors arises from ‘operant conditioning’ in which positive reinforces lead to positive behaviors while punishments lead to negative behavior. In his observation, rewards improve good behaviors while punishment leads to weak behaviors (Watson, 1913).

Classical conditioning and behavioral changes

Skinner’s classical conditioning is applicable in life especially on conditioning human behaviors based on rewards and punishment. Skinner observed that ‘gifts’ or ‘meatballs’ resulted in a repeat behavior in which the rat pressed the lever ostensibly for more meat ball (McLeod, 2015). Similarly, in my life, I discovered that when I was given gifts by parents for good academic work, I improved my hard work in school. I also noticed that students performed well in class assignments when they were promised gifts by subject teachers.

Skinner noticed that when the rat was ‘punished’ using electric current, the rat learned to press the lever to ‘switch’ off the offending current (McLeod, 2015). In this case, punishment is aimed to ‘reduce the occurrence or repeat of an unpleasant thing.’ As such, punishment helps in controlling negative issues. To illustrate this, while in high school, I noted that severe punishments such as suspension from school minimized bad behaviors such as bullying and smoking. On another occasion, I observed that when a kid engaged in bad behaviors such as stealing cheese, caning helped in preventing the kid from repeating the behavior.

In my work career, I have observed that rewards such as good salary increment, welfare and health benefits helps in reinforcing employees hard work, commitment and loyalty to their employer. Far from material rewards, I noted that employees’ positive behaviors are reinforced when managers appreciate workers effort through positive words. Similarly, in the social life, I have observed that when one acknowledges another person by saying ‘thank you’ or ‘welcome,’ this helps in reinforcing a repeat of the acknowledged behavior. On the other hand, lack of appreciation, low pay and abusing workers leads to poor work output. When a kid engages in bad behaviors, punishment helps in minimizing a repeat of such behaviors. In conclusion, conditioning leads to positive or negative behaviors. The overriding argument is people result to positive or negative behaviors based on the conditioning nature received.

Peer-reviewed research study that addresses the theory or treatment of phobias

De Jongh, A; Ten Broeke, E; Renssen, M R. (1999). "Treatment of specific phobias with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): protocol, empirical status, and conceptual issues". Journal of anxiety disorders 13 (1–2): 69–85.

In this study, the authors sought understand the effectiveness of the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) treatment method for particular phobias. In addition, the study was concerned with conceptual and practical use of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) treatment method in controlled and uncontrolled studies. In this case, the author considered the application of EMDR over treatment phobias involving childhood spider phobia. In their conclusion, the authors assessed that EMDR is effective when subject were observed in controlled conditions but the method was less effective in when subjects were placed in uncontrolled conditions. Furthermore, the researchers assessed that there are limited studies in the application research of EMDR on trauma related phobias. Another observation made was that EMDR is a time bound procedure that is only applicable when in vivo exposure is inhibited. As such, the conclusion was that EMDR requires further clinical research attention.

How behaviorism can still be relevant today

Behaviorism is relevant today in innumerable ways. In particular, the behaviorism perspective can be used in skill development and learning. At home, behaviorism is effective in instilling discipline among the children, enhancing good morals and encouraging personal development. Similarly, behaviorism is effective in school in promoting good academic performance, discipline and morals. At work, behaviorism perspective could be applied to motivate employees to work hard, enhance commitment and loyalty to the organization, similarly, behaviorism perspective is effective in enhancing education in harmful practices such as stealing (McLeod, 2015).

However, behaviorism has limitation in that it may lead to rebellion or encourage a culture of performing certain behaviors based on rewards or punishment. The rationale for this is that, young people may develop ‘dependence behaviors’ that are only influenced by rewards or punishment as depicted by Skinners rat experiment (McLeod, 2015). The rat got used to pressing the level when it felt hungry or felt uncomfortable when the electric current was set in.

Far from this, the behaviorism perspective is ineffective in explaining how human learn some behaviors such as language. Behaviorism does not enhance language development. Some aspects such as language learning are interplay of social, psychological and biological transformation and thus cannot be enhanced by rewards or punishment. Behaviorism perspective of rewards and punishment is only applicable in molding behavioral aspects that are ‘external’ such as social relations, bowel control among others (Watson, 1913). However, some behaviors such as sex or language learning arise from interplay of biological, psychological and social influencers.

References

De Jongh, A; Ten Broeke, E; Renssen, M R. (1999). "Treatment of specific phobias with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): protocol, empirical status, and conceptual issues". Journal of anxiety disorders 13 (1–2): 69–85.
McLeod, S. A. (2015). “Skinner - Operant Conditioning.”
Watson, J. B. (1913). Psychology as the Behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20, 158–177.