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Do you agree with the behaviorist view that learning can be described simply in terms of stimulus-response relationships?

Do you agree with the behaviorist view that learning can be described simply in terms of stimulus-response relationships?

This week I will be taking the role of a behaviorist. Behaviorism focuses on overt or visible behavior meaning being able to witness a behavior being played out. Behaviorist John B. Watson believed that “rather than studying subjective feelings such as hunger, we should study visible behavior such as eating” (Lieberman, 2012, pg. 21). Behaviorists also argued that instead of speculating about what a person might be thinking, it would work best to present rewards, for example, then observe the effects it produces. It does not take into account thoughts or feelings the way that Cognitivism does, behaviorism focuses on outward manifestation instead.

A pro of behaviorism is that it can be observed therefore making it easy to measure with the naked eye. We are able to dissect if a difference exists from when the subject began to where they find themselves now. Another pro is that it is easy to implement and examine. It does not go into major depths of their thinking process or how their brain systems functions when responding to stimuli the way cognitivism does.

A con is that people can change their behaviors unexpectedly. They could make it seem like they have changed their behavior but in reality may only be doing so in order to receive the reward at the end, and may not be logically understanding why they should do the things they are doing. A second con is that it doesn’t require a lot of thinking in order to achieve wanted results. Once the subject notices the pattern form after several trials they will just repeat the same steps, like a routine.

A personal experience for me was when I was little and would misbehave or do something I knew I wasn’t supposed to, my mom would just open her eyes really wide and give me “the look”, and I knew what it meant. For me, getting “the look” was worse than getting scolded in front of other people, the way many parents do in attempt to “discipline” their kids. It took little to no effort for me to quickly grasp and associate that look with the desired behavior. I classify this as operant conditioning, which is one of the two types of conditioning in behaviorism; I classify it as OC because I have learned how to act differently based on the natural consequences of my previous actions.

Another experience is in first grade when the teacher wanted the class to be ready for the next lesson, she would wait for the class to be quiet and we all folded our hands in front of us. She would reward those who got ready first and had the cleanest area around them with two pieces of candy. This I classify as classical conditioning because she used positive reinforcement to get the desired behavior out of her students.

Yes, I agree with the behaviorists view that learning can be described simply in terms of stimulus-response because I have witnessed how someone’s behavior causes consequences whether positive or negative. Not every stimulus-response scenario occurs in a lab. These scenarios are presented to us on a daily basis and we don’t even realize it.

I also agree with the behaviorist view that learning only occurs if there is an outward manifestation because otherwise how can we prove that learning has taken place? If you are teaching a group of kids how to read, in order to verify that they have learned, you need to hear them read. You cannot imagine that they are silently reading to themselves.

The potential advantages of defining learning as a change in behavior when considering my own career (or future career) and/or in my relationships is that it will help guide me when it comes to what works and what doesn’t. I will be able to deter from making jokes my husband doesn’t like and will upset him, for example, and therefore be able to avoid a negative experience.

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