Describe and Discuss the Behaviourist Approach

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Behaviourists regard all behaviour as a response to a stimulus. They assume that what we do is determined by the environment we are in, and the environment we have been in the past which has caused us to learn how we act and respond to certain things. Behaviourists believe that it is unnecessary to consider the persons; thoughts, memories etc. when explaining behaviour. It is enough to know what causes a person to respond in a certain manner. Behaviourists also believe that people are born with small knowledge of reflexes and that all of a person’s more difficult behaviours are the result of learning through being in a certain environment and the people you are with. Behaviourists use two processes to explain how people learn, these are classical conditioning and operant conditioning. In classical conditioning, people learn to associate one action to another action when they occur together, such that the response originally caused from one action is then transferred to another. The person learns to produce an existing response to a new action. For example, Watson & Rayner (1920) conditioned a young boy to respond with anxiety to the stimulus of a white rat. They achieved this by pairing the rat with a loud noise that already made Albert anxious. The anxiety response was transferred to the rat because it was presented together with the noise. The response also generalized to other things that resembled the rat, including a rabbit and a fur coat. In operant conditioning, people learn to perform new behaviours through the consequences of the things they do. If a certain behaviour is followed by a reinforcement then the likelihood of that behaviour being repeated increases in future. A consequence can be reinforcing in two ways, either the person gets something good or they avoid something bad. Conversely, if a behaviour is followed by a punishment then the
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