Dealing with an Irritable Child Using the Behaviorist Theory I. Introduction Behaviorist theory, or Behaviorism, is a learning theory that is rooted in the changing of the behavior of an individual (Gordon & Browne, 2010). As the name implies, Behaviorism is simply interested in the observable behaviors of the subject and not with the mental processes that may be involved in the performing of these behaviors…
Hence, Behaviorism is also sometimes called the Stimulus-Response or S-R Theory. Since learning is developed to become a reflex action, Behaviorism largely works under the mechanics of Classical Conditioning. Classical conditioning has fundamental requirements in order to be effective. The first of these is contiguity, which refers to the degree of association between the reinforcer and the behavior that is being aimed at (Klein, 2011). Contiguity plays an important role in conditioning because it is what connects the stimulus and the consequent response that is hoped to achieve (Gordon & Browne, 2010). Next, conditioning will be effective only if there is sufficient frequency at which the behavior is being drawn out. The required response will only become automatic upon application of stimulus if S-R bonds have been established many times before (Klein, 2011). Finally, the required behavior will be achieved by classical conditioning if the proper reinforcement is applied. Reinforcement is the mechanism used to increase the chances that the response that preceded it will occur again (Klein, 2011). There are different kinds of reinforcements in terms of their desirability. First, positive reinforcement is a pleasant stimulus that aims to strengthen a response if it is given after the response occurs. For example, offering a child candy for taking out the trash is positive reinforcement. On the other hand, negative reinforcement is the removal of an undesirable stimulus after a response (Gordon & Browne, 2010). For example, excusing a child from household chores because of good grades in school demonstrates a negative reinforcement. Both positive and negative reinforcements fortifies or reinforces the response that preceded the reinforcement. Unlike reinforcements, a punishment decreases the occurrence of a response because of the introduction of an undesirable stimulus following the response (Klein, 2011). It should be noted that the Behaviorist Theory needs to satisfy certain assumptions and implications. Proponents of the Behaviorist Learning Theory believe that human begin as a blank slate, one that needs to be filled with programmed responses to certain stimuli (Gordon & Browne, 2010). In addition, behaviorists have modeled a strongly deterministic theory of learning. However, one should keep in mind that while behaviorist strategies may apply without failure on animals, animal behavior is still very much different from human behavior in terms of thoughts, ideas, emotions, and feelings (O' Boyle, 2006). II. Proponents of the Behaviorist Theory The different proponents of Behaviorist Theory include B. F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov, and John B. Watson. B. F. Skinner was the most significant contributor to the Behaviorist Theory. He fashioned quantitative and scientific experiments that would prove the premises of Behaviorism (Taylor, 2008). His vast research on operant conditioning is still being widely used today and is considered as a main authority in the field. Ivan Pavlov is most notable in the Behaviorist circle for his conditioning experiments. One of his experiments included ringing a bell and accompanying the ringing bell with food powder which made a dog salivate (Lefrancois, 2011). Later on, even without the food powder, the dog would salivate upon hearing the bell ring. John ...
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