Welcome to Psychology, The First Assessment

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1 Your first assessment task begins here!! Below you will find some reading about an approach in psychology called behaviourism. This is not the only type of psychology that we will consider but it was one of the very first approaches that made psychology into a scientific discipline that we see today. As you will gather from your reading this approach is all about LEARNING, very apt you might think? You need to print a copy of this for yourself and complete the relevant sections of the handout either by hand or typed and then print a copy off. You will then need to bring this to the first psychology lesson that you have. Remember if you have any difficulty answering the questions think about using some other resources, the internet for example, or visiting the library. Recommended texts are highlighted in the AS handbook. You also need to have a large ring binder folder for the first lesson and to print off the specification for psychology this is found in the student handbook under appendices (first hyperlink) It is important that this is completed to the best of your ability as it will be taken as an early indication of your suitability for the course. You will also be expected in the first couple of weeks to complete an induction assignment. This will consist of a past examination question paper, of which this reading will help you to complete. Your score will then be recorded and again an assessment made of you suitability to continue further with psychology. The department does not assume that you know anything about psychology we teach it all from scratch but your enthusiasm and work ethic are very strong indicators for us as to whether we can predict, early on in the academic year your success on the course. Please click onto this link and download the specification p9-23 for the outline of the course contents.

2 V1-0.PDF Behaviourist Approach Behaviourism The behaviourist approach was influenced by the philosophy of empiricism which argues that all knowledge comes from the environment. All humans are born like a blank slate (tabla rasa) & personality is shaped by experiences. Watson (1913) was concerned with observable behaviour & the connection between an event in the environment, a stimulus & the behaviour which follows, a response (stimulus-response/s-r psychology). Behaviourism developed as a reaction to the introspective method developed by Wundt. The behaviourists believed psychology should be objective & scientific based on observable behaviour. They criticised introspection because it was subjective & not observable, & hence could not be scientific.

3 Key assumptions of the behaviourist approach All behaviour is learned from the experiences a person has in their environment. This means that behaviourists are strongly on the side of nurture in the nature-nurture debate & regard genetic influences on behaviour as minimal. As all behaviour is learned, it can be unlearned. All behaviour is learned through the reinforcement or punishment of behavioural responses or by association. They claimed that reinforcement, a reward, strengthens the link between a stimulus (something in the environment) & a behavioural response. Behaviour is determined by the environment, since we are merely the total of all our past learning experiences, free will is an illusion. The behaviourists believe that we should only study what is observable, that methods should be objective & scientific. What is a laboratory experiment? Advantages write at least 3 Disadvantages, write at least 3. Classical Conditioning Pavlov ( ) was a Russian physiologist interested in the digestive processes of dogs, in particular the salivation reflex. A reflex is a fixed & automatic response to a particular stimulus; the response cannot be controlled. Pavlov was interested in the accurate measurement of the relationship between the stimulus of the food & the response of salivation.

4 Pavlov (1927) A dog was held in a harness so that little movement was possible. A bell which the dog had not heard before, was rung to check that the dog did not have an automatic salivary response to this sound. Pavlov called the bell a neutral stimulus (NS) because there was no automatic response to it. The experimenter than rang the bell & immediately before he presented the food (UCS unconditioned stimulus) to the dog. Salivation in response to the food is called the unconditioned response (UCR) because it automatically or unconditionally causes salivation. The pairing of the bell & food was repeated several times. After being presented with the food several times the bell becomes a conditioned stimulus (CS) because it can only cause salivation once it has been paired. The bell presented on its own produced salivation. The salivation caused by the bell on its own is called the conditioned response (CR) because it only occurs after the bell-food pairings have taken place. The bell which had not previously produced salivation eventually did so because of its repeated pairings with food. This response came about as the result of an association being formed between the bell & the food. Activity: Use the terms: NS, UCS, UCR, CS, CR to complete the diagram. Bell ( ) Food ( ) Bell ( ) + Food ( ) Bell ( ) no salivation salivation ( ) salivation (UCR) salivation ( ) How could you apply the above explanation to a child who is perhaps being bullied at school? Try and use the same format as above.

5 Phenomena of classical conditioning Extinction: The food (UCS) reinforces the response of the bell (CS). Without the food (UCS) the salivation to the bell (CR) would not develop. If we continue to sound the bell & never reinforce the animal with food, the salivation to the bell will eventually die out, i.e. extinguish. After a time lapse, giving the animal time to rest, if the bell is rung again the salivation may reappear in a weaker form. This is known as spontaneous recovery. Generalisation: The basic conditioning process can be made more flexible by generalisation, i.e. other stimuli similar to the original one, will elicit the response, e.g. a bell with a different tone. Discrimination: The animal can be taught to choose between a pair of stimuli, by reinforcing one of the pair but not the other.

6 Trying out classical conditioning See if you can use Pavlov s method to condition a response in someone else. You will find that blowing gently but briskly into someone s eye will make them blink. You will probably need to practice this a few times, to make sure you are the right distance away from each eye & you are not blowing so hard as to make this an unpleasant experience. Blowing down a straw or an empty biro tube helps to aim the puff of air. Tap with a pencil on the table for your NS/CS (the equivalent of Pavlov s bell). Prepare a diagram like the one above. Fill in the terms puff, blink & tap as well as NS, UCS, UCR, CS, CR. Little Albert (Watson & Rayner, 1920) An 11 month old child known as Little Albert s reactions were tested to various stimuli (a white rat, rabbit, and cotton wool). He showed no fear of any of these. However, hardly surprisingly, he did show a fear reaction to a loud noise behind him, a hammer hitting a steel bar. The experimenters made this noise several times, at the same time presenting him with a white rat.

7 Albert developed a fear of the white rat after that. Classical conditioning is one way of explaining fear responses. It is possible that people develop phobias through forming this kind of association. Psychologists have used behaviour therapy to help people overcome phobias. If behaviour is learned then it can also be unlearned & more appropriate behaviours learned instead. Operant conditioning This type of learning drew on the work of Thorndike ( ). Thorndike was interested in the effect that consequences have on behaviour. He observed that, when a cat was caged in a puzzle box, it eventually learned to escape & every time the cat was returned to the box, it seemed to escape more quickly. Form this he developed the Law of Effect (1911), i.e. if a behaviour has pleasant consequences, then the behaviour is likely to be repeated, whereas if behaviour has unpleasant consequences, then it will be avoided. Skinner ( ) Skinner developed radical behaviourism which states that psychologists should use only scientific methods & focus only on observable behaviour & its consequences. He claimed all behaviour is learned from environmental consequences or operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is where a behaviour becomes more or less likely as a result of its consequences (reward or punishment). Skinner conducted most of his experiments on animals such as rats or pigeons in a Skinner box. In this box hungry rats learned to press a lever to get the reward of food. Since pressing a lever is not a normal part of a rats behaviour, it has to be taught to do so. A hungry rat is placed in the Skinner box. Initially it explores the environment & by chance will come close to the lever. At this time the experimenter may drop a pellet of food into the tray when the rat accidentally touches the lever. Gradually the rat builds up a connection between pressing the lever & getting the food reward. Hence it has to operate on its environment to gain reinforcement. If the rat is reinforced every time it presses the bar, the behaviour becomes stamped in & it has learned to press the bar to get food. In Skinner s words: Behaviour which is reinforced tends to be repeated, behaviour which is not reinforced tends to die out (extinguish).

8 Activity: 1. How would you explain this in terms of a very young child bringing a painting home from school & your reaction to the painting? 2. Outline the steps you would take to train a dog to fetch your slippers, based on the principles of operant conditioning. A more sophisticated process emerges with schedules of reinforcement, where the rewards are not given after every response but at less regular intervals. In this way the response rate & extinction of the behaviour can be varied. The schedules are as follows: Continuous schedule: This is used when setting up the conditioning process. A reinforcement is given after every response. The extinction rate is very fast. Fixed ratio schedule: This is where reinforcement comes after a fixed number of responses, e.g. after every 5. Extinction rate is medium. Fixed interval schedule: Reinforcement is given after a fixed period of time. Extinction rate is medium. Variable ratio schedule: Reinforcement is given after a varied number of responses. Extinction rate is slow. Variable interval schedule: Reinforcement is given after a varied length of time. Extinction rate is the slowest of all the reinforcement schedules.

9 Types of reinforcement There are three types of reinforcement; positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement & punishment. Try to think of examples of the following? Term What happens Effect Examples Positive reinforcement Negative reinforcement Punishment

10 Evaluating the behaviourist approach Behaviourism is criticised for being deterministic (it sees you as a product of the environment, i.e. everything you have learned it ignores the idea of freewill proposed by the humanistic psychologists that man has freedom to choose his own path master of his own destiny), mechanistic & reductionist (it tries to explain very complex behaviours in a very simplistic manner in terms of stimulus & response, rewards & punishments, etc) & the work is largely based on non-human animals (the experiments have proven successful on animals does but humans are much more complex so we need to take care when generalising results across species suggesting what is true of animals may also apply to humans). However, it is highly testable & has given rise to many successful applications, e.g. treating phobias. The basic assumption that all learning is a result of environmental consequences of a person s behaviour was challenged in the 1960s. Social learning theorists such as Bandura (1986) showed that people also learn from observing others through insight. Observational learning takes mental processes or cognitions within the individual into account. Radical behaviourists did not think that mental processes were a proper area for scientific study. The radical behaviourists are only concerned with stimulus response (observable behaviour) not what goes on inside the human mind (the black box). Behaviourism supports the nurture debate to such a degree that it ignores inherited characteristics (e. genes). Key influences on psychology The highly scientific nature of the approach, exemplified by the use of experiments, has influenced all areas of psychology, e.g. cognitive psychology, social psychology & developmental psychology all use the experimental method. However, unlike behaviourism, most of the experiments in these areas use humans as participants rather than animals. The scientific approach of behaviourism also influenced psychology to focus firmly on observable, objective measures of behaviour. Behaviourism has also influenced practical applications. If all behaviour can be learned then it can be unlearned. Behaviourist principles have been used effectively to treat people suffering from phobias. The behaviourist approach dominated psychology from the 1920s to the 1950s. The emphasis was on learning from the environment or nurture &

11 this as a consequence had key influences on educational policy. If all learning comes from the environment then, according to the behaviourists, achievement at school is a matter of creating the right environment. What do you think are the strengths and weakness of this approach in analysing behaviour? Complete the table below. Strengths You need to write at least 5 strengths explaining why it is a strength? Weaknesses You need to write at least 5 limitations, again explaining why it is a limitation.

12 Test your knowledge, what do the following terms mean? Objective Subjective Nurture Nature in this context? Free will Generalisation Reinforcement

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