Behaviorist Perspectives and Learning Theories
Gonna talk about process theories rather than structural theories.
There have been structural models such as id Ego Superego / And then there’s
stages of development presented by Freud
To the degree ppl are different it is because of learning and environmental
exposure, and experiences we have had as we developed, so if ppl act diff, its cuz
they have been exposed to different sets of consequences.
The Learning Perspective
• Individual differences as the result of learning and environmental experiences
• Behaviour therefore changes in response to external and situational
• “Thinking is for doing” (Susan Fiske)
Thinking is associated with behavior.
If we take a Radical behaviorist aka radical environmentalist perspective : other
than physiological things derived from genetic code, we have individual difference
exclusively based on differences in life experience. (environment shapes us)
Rmeber :Plaster model saying ppl are fixed, plastic model says we are malleable.
Radical behaviorist would be a radically plastic model.
Watson’s Theory can be called a radical behaviorist theory.
Edwin Twitmeyer (1873-1943)
Discovered same principle as pavlov using entirely different experimental paradigm,
and studying different set of processes.
Studied reflex actions in ppl and whether certain emotional states made reflex
actions more potent or not. So if emotional states could influence reflex actions.
Ex if you made ppl mad would they be more likely to act reflexively rather than
Studied “knee-jerk” reflex Twitmeyer dropped hammer on ppl and, not to bias
results, ppl couldn’t see the hammer,
ppl didn’t like the feeling because he would tap them out of nowhere, so then
people asked “couldn’t there be a signal when you about to tap us. So he put light
above them and it would light when he was gonna drop the hammer, after about 200 times of lightly tapping someone with this hammer, while this light was on.
Eventually when the light came on people jerked their legs involuntary.
Stimulus was different but the result was the same, whether it was mechanical
stimulus actually hitting the knee, and setting it off or a non-mechanical stimulus
(where the light goes on and causes peoples knee to jerk). Not something you
expect light to do, (like make ur eyes dilate) it was unrelated behavior (knee-jerk).
He presented this info, (after lunch break – so ppl were tired) audience was
hostile towards him.
He is a foot note, but Pavlov is the one we remember.
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936)
He was studying salivary reflex in dogs, won nobel prize for physiology of digestion,
and it was an epiphenomenon that he stumbled upon this process of learning (it
was an accident).
Why would food cause saliva to come ? it lubricates the mouth, able to swallow
our food, also helps start digestive process
Reflex reaction of slaiva to food makes sense; it is an adaptive response to food
Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS)
- “natural” object/event (food); elicits reflex behavior (this reflexive
behavior is what we call the unconditioned response)
(not all unconditioned stimuli will be natural as we shall see later)*
Unconditioned Response (UCR)
- “reflexive” behavior (salivation)
Conditioned Stimulus (CS)
- “neutral” stimulus that is paired with UCS (metronome)
At 1 this conditioned stimulus causes no response, or no relevant response. May
produce some response but it is nto the response of interest to us.
Conditioned Response (CR)
- learned response to paired stimulus (salivation)
So we pair unconditioned stimulus with the conditioned stimulus, and what may
happen is that that eventually, the unconditioned stimulus on its own will lead to
the same response that the unconditioned stimulus induces. BUT now its called the
conditioned response, cuz it is elicited by the conditioned stimulus alone. You will notice that the the UCR and CR are the same, even though the UCS and CS are
the UCR and CR are the same, but the distinction is that one is in response to food,
(which functionally makes sense, the other is in response to a ticking metronome,
which functionally doesn’t make sense, unless the dog is gonna eat the metronome,
but ofcourse the dog ids not gonna eat the metronome, but when it hears the
metronome, it knows that food is oncoming.
Conditioned means learned in this case.
Unconditioned Stimulus Unconditioned Response
Neutral Stimulus Neutral Response
During Conditioning… (aka associative learning)
Neutral Stimulus + Unconditioned Stimulus (repeatedly) Unconditioned
UCS and CS are paired together repeatedly and response elicited is still called
Unconditioned Response, cuz trigger of the response is still the CS. Right now UCS is
not doing anything. NOTHING, not strengthening the CR or nothing.
Unconditioned Stimulus Unconditioned Response
Conditioned Stimulus Conditioned Response
Not only food elicits salivation, but the metronome also elicits salivation.
But its not like the dog confuses metronome for dog chow, what is happening is that
the metronome serves as a signal during the conditioning phase that food is on the
way, so now after conditioning, the dog has learned that CS predicts the UCS . (cuz
they are presented in the same space of time).
Some people said study of unconscious etc was not an exact science; cuz u had to
train the subject to be a proper subject The Rise of Behaviorism
• Reaction to then-current psychology
Which focused on Exploring internal states of consciousness
• Criticized psychology as a non-exact science (cuz ppl had to be trained to be
– Pavlov did not identify as a psychologist
– “Physics envy” persists even today idea that psychologists were
kind of reacting against these hard sciences because they couldn’t find
a way to operationalize their construct. (could find a way to measure
what they were measuring)
– Non exact not like psychology has any predictive value,
– people may forget or lie when you ask them qs and that may lead to
• Watson and the “behaviorist manifesto”
Watson 1913, published “behaviorist manifesto”, for his view of psychology as a
science, we had to get away from internal states.
Don’t deny internal states, rather they said we can’t study them objectively.
Watson wanted psychology to be a science, things that could be tested. Set up
conditions and observe what happens.
And to Watson the only way to do this was to study overt, observable behavior.
(Other types of data can be misinterpreted)
Problem Watson had with study of unconscious and things was that they were not
operationally defined, “fuzzy definitions”
So rather than look at the structures, look at their outputs (their processes). Not
saying that thoughts don’t exist, its jus that we can’t observe thoughts. But we can
observe the behavior that thoughts may lead to.
So we cant observe that they feel hungry in their mind, but we can observe their
behavior (they rub their tummy, they can say “I’m hungry”)
Goal for Watson was to get rid of things ppl couldn’t agree on and have a more
John Broadus Watson (1878-1958)
Thoughts he brought to table influenced advertising
One of his ideas that still used today is, you don’t have to tell ppl pepsi is good just
pair the product with something pleasant. MODEL + PEPSI
So there’s an association and the more we see that association, the more we can
bring that association into our own minds. One of Watsons primary interests was the study of emotions. Studied specifically
Watson suggested that were basic emotions. He thought the basic emotions were:
Fear, Love and Rage
1 he thought they were really common and universal, but also that they had easily
Fear leads to withdrawal response. Anger and love both lead to approach responses
but ofcourse we can distinguish anger from love by seeing what they do.
• Neutral stimuli can take on the properties of associated unconditioned stimuli
• This can manifest in emotional responses
– Watson’s basic emotions: “fear, love, and rage”
• “Little Albert” (Watson & Rayner, 1920)
– Confound variables (not just paired association)
– Historically misrepresented (e.g., generalization)
Watson most famous for his “Little Albert” study.
kid is 9months of age, subject to ,live animals, burning newspaper and Watson
wearing a mask. And the baby wasn’t really bothered by any of these things.
Showed some interest but not really that concerned.
But one thing did reliably evoke a response from him, If they were to hold a long
metal rod, directly behind him and then strike that with a hammer as if it was a
tuning fork, made a very loud clanging noise and startled the baby and cuz he
didn’t know where it was coming from, he would start to cry and look around for his
mom and stuff.
So neutral reaction to all these other stimuli and an unconditioned response to the
metal bar noise, they attempted to condition him to a white rat.
So they present the white rat, and Albert sometimes leans forward to touch the rat,
so he often showed interest and would reach for it and touch the animal. And then
what they would would do was bang the metal rod and did this repeatedly. They did
this 7 times. And after 7 pairings of the rat with the noise, Albert reacted with crying
and avoidance when the rat was presented alone.
So even if there was no sound, Albert showed manifest distress. (he tries moving
away from the rat and cries). They then wanted to see how his behavior generalizes. So do similar stimuli also
provoke that fear response?
So he was presented with the white rat, some blocks from home (so he was familiar
with them), a brown rabbit, a brown short haired dog, seal skin coat, package of
white cotton, and Watson’s hair , assistances’ hair and a bearded Santa clause
And what they found was that Albert shows the same fear response to the rat. Also
shows strong fear to the rabbit the dog and the seal skin coat.
And he had a negative effect to Halloween mask and Watson’s hair (not same as
And mildly fearful of cotton package,
And seemed to enjoy playing with the wooden blocks and hair of Watson’s
AFTER 5 days
He then re-conditioned the rat and the sound to Albert (just 1 trial)
And then attempted to condition Albert to fear the rabbit and the dog both with