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Lecture 8

PSYC 215 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Problem-Based Learning, Organizational Behavior Management, Hyperbolic Discounting

Course Code
PSYC 215
John Lydon

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Behaviourism focuses on one particular view of learning: a change in external behaviour
achieved through a large amount of repetition of desired actions, the reward of good habits and
the discouragement of bad habits. In the classroom this view of learning led to a great deal of
repetitive actions, praise for correct outcomes and immediate correction of mistakes. In the field
of language learning this type of teaching was called the audio-lingual method, characterised by
the whole class using choral chanting of key phrases, dialogues and immediate correction.
Within the Problem Based Learning (PBL) environment, students may be encouraged to engage
with the learning process and their peers within the group by positive reinforcement from a
skilled facilitator to increase positive actions of engagement, contributions and questioning.
Negative behaviours eg lack of engagement, negative contributions, could be minimized by the
facilitator using negative reinforcement. Within the behaviourist view of learning, the "teacher"
is the dominant person in the classroom and takes complete control, evaluation of learning comes
from the teacher who decides what is right or wrong. The learner does not have any opportunity
for evaluation or reflection within the learning process, they are simply told what is right or
wrong. The conceptualization of learning using this approach could be considered "superficial"
as the focus is on external changes in behaviour ie not interested in the internal processes of
learning leading to behaviour change and has no place for the emotions involved the process.
Operant conditioning was developed by B.F Skinner in 1937, operant conditioning deals with
the modification of "voluntary behaviour" or operant behaviour. Operant behavior operates on
the environment and is maintained by its consequences. Reinforcement and punishment, the core
tools of operant conditioning, are either positive (delivered following a response), or negative
(withdrawn following a response). Skinner created the Skinner Box or operant conditioning
chamber to test the effects of operant conditioning principles on rats. Although operant
conditioning plays the largest role in discussions of behavioral mechanisms, classical
conditioning (or Pavlovian conditioning or respondent conditioning) is also an important
behavior-analytic process that need not refer to mental or other internal processes. Pavlov's
experiments with dogs provide the most familiar example of the classical conditioning
procedure. In simple conditioning, the dog was presented with a stimulus such as a light or a
sound, and then food was placed in the dog's mouth. After a few repetitions of this sequence, the
light or sound by itself caused the dog to salivate. Although Pavlov proposed some tentative
physiological processes that might be involved in classical conditioning, these have not been
Skinner's view of behavior is most often characterized as a "molecular" view of behavior; that is,
behavior can be decomposed into atomistic parts or molecules. This view is inconsistent with
Skinner's complete description of behavior as delineated in other works, including his 1981
article "Selection by Consequences." Skinner proposed that a complete account of behavior
requires understanding of selection history at three levels: biology (the natural
selection or phylogeny of the animal); behavior (the reinforcement history or ontogeny of the
behavioral repertoire of the animal); and for some species, culture (the cultural practices of the
social group to which the animal belongs). This whole organism then interacts with its
environment. Molecular behaviorists use notions from melioration theory, negative power
function discounting or additive versions of negative power function discounting. Molar
behaviorists, such as Howard Rachlin, Richard Herrnstein, and William Baum, argue that
behavior cannot be understood by focusing on events in the moment. That is, they argue that
behavior is best understood as the ultimate product of an organism's history and that molecular
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