Behavior impacts our daily lives. “John Watson believed that psychology should deal with actual behavior and not with mental states.”(Lecci & Magnavita, Section 5.1 2013). Behaviorism focuses on actual behavior, not consciousness and does not focus on introspection (Lecci & Magnavita, 2013). By observing the actual actions and behaviors of individuals, one can learn a significant amount of information about who that person is. In my time working in the behavior intervention field, I learned a lot about human behavior and how to understand what is going on in someone’s head based on their actions. When working with special needs children or adults studying behavior is important for the safety of the staff and client. We would observe negative behavior or responses and then attempt to condition new more positive behaviors. It was mostly effective because behavior can be conditioned or taught. For example, the study with Little Albert displayed similar conditioning results as Pavlov’s dog experiment.
Behaviorism can be beneficial to some fields but not all. It can be a powerful way to help observe and condition new behavior in special needs individuals. However, certain individuals do not respond well when they feel they are being conditioned to do something. Also, it can be challenging to use this theory when working with individuals with mental disorders. Operant conditioning can be defined as responses in which an organism in a certain environment displays spontaneously without specific training (Spielberger & DeNike, 1966). “Successful conditioning of an operant response is inferred from an increase in its rate of occurrence as a function of reinforcement administered by the experimenter. “(Spielberger & DeNike, p. 306, 1966). In some cases, new behavior can be conditioned.
Spielberger, C., DeNike, L.; Descriptive behaviorism versus cognitive theory in verbal operant conditioning. Psychological Review, Vol 73(4), Jul, 1966 pp. 306-326
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In modern psychology today, we can see the behavioral theory and a lot of treatment that has validity. The goal of a behaviorist is to reinforce good or desirable behaviors and eliminated unwanted or negative behaviors. Such techniques are used based on the theories of operant and classical conditioning. According to Lecci & Magnavita (2013), “Operant conditioning involves nonreflexive action and learning as a result of consequences that are typically not occurring at the same point in time” (p. 140).
Today in modern psychology we can see a form of operant conditioning in modeling, and according to Khan (1979), “Modeling and imitation learning is the method through which the majority of socially desirable behaviors are learned” (p. 41). With modeling, it is based upon the social learning theory by Albert Bandura and stresses on the social components of an individuals learning process. Instead of using punishments or reinforcement modeling lets an individual learn new acceptable behaviors and skills by watching others perform those wanted skills. A therapist may model the behavior for the client, or the client will watch other peers engage in the positive behaviors. Both approaches are helpful and useful, due to the client seeing the positive behavior across all fields.
Modeling has been used with a lot of anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, specific phobias, conduct disorder, and many more. An example in society today can be in the school setting, for I use modeling when helping my clients with unwanted behaviors. For instance, with self-esteem I can be informed of bad news, and I always try to find the positive aspect out of the situation and show the client that I will strive to do better and not label myself as “stupid”, its necessary to show that we can attempt to learn from our mistakes and become better. I model new situations with confidence and demonstrate how important it is to love yourself; I talk to my clients about things I have done to help build my confidence also.
We learn through watching others, and modeling behavior has helped many of my clients get rid of unwanted behaviors or thoughts. The parent is the child’s first teacher, and when a parent models good morals and behavior, their children are often quick to follow.
Khan, K. H., & Cangemi, J. P. (1979). Social Learning Theory: The Role of Imitation and Modeling in Learning Socially Desirable Behavior. Education, 100(1), 41-46.
Lecci, L.B. & Magnavita, J.J. (2013). Personality Theories: A Scientific Approach. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Robey, P. A., Wubbolding, R. E., & Malters, M. (2017). A Comparison of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy to Adlerian Individual Psychology. Journal Of Individual Psychology, 73(4), 283-294. doi:10.1353/jip.2017.0024
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