The Challenge of Behaviorism

The Challenge of Behaviorism

Summary of chapter 10 Skinner and Staats: the challenge of Behaviorism.

Radical behaviorism: skinner

Skinner used principles of reinforcement to put forward his theory of behavior. This theory shows how reward and punishment can impact on behavior. Although Skinner has proposed many credible models on animals, his propositions on humans are widely contentious and inadequate. Skinners’ theory disregarded causes of behavior within an individual, such as thoughts, traits, and needs. Instead, he put emphasis to the more scientific explanations which are external. Therefore, this theory has failed to give a credible description of personality, as it attributes everything to science. His approach to behavior focuses on observable features. Skinner opposed the idea of thinking about personality traits or inner intentions, arguing that such traits relate to circular reasoning. In addition to dwelling on external causes and observable behaviors, Skinner focused on control over behavior. However, the fact that those inner factors can determine the direction that the behavior takes, shows that Skinner’s behavioral perspective is inconsistent. Regarding learning principles, Skinner suggested that a person and the environment undergo mutual responsiveness. In other words, he suggested that the person’s behavior lead to contingent change in environment, which again forces the person to adjust behavior. This scenario is referred to as adaptive behavior – it can be decreased by punishment and increased by reward (Skinner, 1972).

Behavior that becomes accustomed to its environment is reinforced. In regards to this view, Skinner suggested that it is the short-term rather than the long – term consequence of behavior, which is significant. This view is in contrast with what happens in the real world because immediate and long-term consequences of behaviors are poles apart. Reinforcement of behavior can be categorized differently, including positive reinforcement, primary reinforcement, secondary reinforcement and negative reinforcement. All forms of reinforcement serve to increase the rate of behavior response. On the other hand, punishment reduces the response rate. Punishment has been cited as unsuitable for controlling behavior because of its unintended unpleasant feelings that reflects in an individual. These feelings remain in a person long after the undesirable behavior has been changed, and may hinder desirable behavior thereafter. As such, Skinner was opposed to use of punishment to control behavior (Cloninger, 2007).

Skinner also suggested that reinforcement of a particular behavior can be ceased with the aim of changing it. This process is referred to as extinction. The behavior that is changed through this technique can unexpectedly return later. Skinners’ operant behavior theory has found wide application in different fields, especially in therapy and education. Skinner encourages use of positive reinforcement, particularly because it is self-sustaining. Learning principles can be used to change behavior through a technique known as behavior modification. This technique has been applied in a wide range of behaviors, including weight control, oral hygiene, classroom management and many more (Cloninger, 2007).

Skinner’s theory points out that the behavior of animals, such as rats, is like that of humans. Nevertheless, it is contemplated that this view is in contrast with what personality theory would propose. This is in the sense that, by arguing from that perspective, distinctive human characteristics such as language and thought are disregarded. In addition, Skinners proposition dismissed the genetic impact of personality and glorified the potential of learned behaviors (Skinner, 1972).

Psychological behaviorism

Staats proposed psychological behaviorism that strongly criticized radical behaviorism for neglecting psychological tests and individual differences, while tackling personality issues. Staats also integrated biological influence to address the shortcomings of radical behaviorism. Staats conceded skinner’s suggestion that behavior can be maintained through reinforcement, though his argument was human oriented. Skinner’s radical behaviorism left determination of the reinforcing factors to empirical analysis, hence contrasting Staats’ claim that stimuli that bring out emotional responses also reinforces according to the new learning (Staats, 1996). He added that emotional responses enhance positive emotions and discourage negative emotions. Detailed explanation of the specific behaviors that supplement the human behaviors that are developed by chaining was used by Staats through behavioral repertoires. Staats pointed out some basic repertoires (BRRs), which are used to transition into consequent learning. He maintained that learning is later compromised if the basics are not acknowledged……………………………………………………………………

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