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Chapter 10

PSY 3303 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Classical Conditioning, Joseph Wolpe, Systematic Desensitization

Course Code
PSY 3303
Dave Miranda

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Behaviourism and the Learning approaches to personality
Questions to be addressed in this chapter
Two theories of learning are complimentary
Three considerations motivate the study of behaviourism in contemporary personality
theory and research.
oThe first concerns the task of theory construction it is instructive to see both the
achievements and the limitations of past efforts
oA second considerations involves applications
oFinally behaviourism anticipated some of psychology contemporary trends with
current researchers who may not label themselves “behaviourists” nonetheless
exploring behaviouristic themes
Behaviourism’s view of the person
Best understood by way of analogy = body as a kind of machine
The body is a collection of mechanisms
That perform various functions
Skinner writes: we have discovered more about how the living organism works and are
better able to see its machinelike properties
The behaviourist explores how these mechanisms learn, that is, how they change in
reaction to environmental input.
The implication is a philosophical position known as determinism. Determinism is the
belief that an event is caused by, or determined by, some prior event, with the cause being
something that can be understood according to basic laws of science. When applied to
questions of human behaviour, determinism is the belief that people’s behaviour is caused
in a lawful scientific manner. Determinism stands in opposition to a different belief,
namely the belief in “free will”
Behaviorism’s view of the science of personality
The first assumption is that behaviour must be explained in terms of the causal influence
of the environment on the person.
oBehaviorism, in contract, is about what’s in the environment. Behaviourists ask
about how environmental factors causally determine people’s behaviour
The second assumption is that an understanding of people should be built entirely on
controlled laboratory research, where that research could involve either people or animals
oBehaviorists build a theory of persons in large part on a database involving
Human beings are physical objects in a physical universe
Environmental forces determine the trajectories of our lives as we come into contact with,
and are influenced by, one environmental factor after another
People do not act as they do because they decided to act that way but because
environmental forces caused them to do so

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Behaviorists recognize that people have thoughts and feelings. But they view thoughts
and feelings as behaviors that also are caused by the environment
Behaviorists urge us to identify the environmental factors that are the true cause of
people’s feelings, thoughts and actions
An understanding of the laws of learning promises to replace any and all personality
theories. If behaviour can be explained by the laws of learning, and if “personality” is
just a label that describes the type of behaviour a person has learned to do, then there is
no need for scientific theory of personality that is distinct from learning theory
They looked forward to a day when theories of personality would be “regarded as
historical curiosities”
Situational specificity of behaviour
oBehaviorists expect that there will be substantial variability in action as people
adapt to situations that present different rewards and punishments for different
types of behaviour
oAnother implication involved the causes and treatment of psychopathology
oThe behavirorist assumes that maladaptive, “abnormal” behaviour is caused by
maladaptive environments to which the person has been exposed.
if behavior is determined by the environment then the way to do research is to manipulate
environmental variables to learn how they influence behavior.
the behaviorist argues that these other theories are too speculative, and thus not
sufficiently scientific because they contain variables that one cannot even observe
the value of studying simple systems
Basic points of emphasis of learning approaches to personality
1. Empirical research is the cornerstone of theory and practice.
2. Personality theory and applied practice should be based on principles of learning.
3. Behaviours is responsive to reinforcement variables in the environment and is more
situation specific than suggested by other personality theories
4. The medical symptom-disease view od psychopathology is rejected, and emphasis
instead is placed on basic principles of learning and behaviour change.
Watson, Pavlov and Classical conditioning
John B. Watson (1878 1958)was the founder of the approach to psychology knows as
Watson developed his views on behaviourism as an approach to psychology, he first
stated these views forcefully in a landmark paper published in psychology’s leading
journal, Psychological Review in 1913
Public lectures and a book published in 1914 (Watson’s Behaviour)
Behaviourism (1924)
Around the beginning of the 20th century, Pavlov was involved in the study of gastric
secretions in dogs

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Principles of Classical Conditioning
Classical conditioning is a process in which a stimulus that initially is neutral eventually
elicits a strong response. It elicits the response because the neutral stimulus becomes
associated with some other stimulus that does produce a response.
Food is a unconditioned stimulus (US and the salivation in response to food is an
unconditioned response (UR). unconditioned” connection between stimulus and
response occurs without any learning, or conditioning
New stimulus such as the sound of a bell
Bell is called a conditioned stimulus (CS), and the salivation in response to the bell is a
conditioned response (CR)
Through classical conditioning, one also can learn to avoid a stimulus that initially is
neutral. This is called conditioned withdrawal
Pavlov found that the response that had become conditioned to a previously neutral
stimulus would also become associated with similar stimuli, a process called
If repeated trials indicate that onlyl some stimuli are followed by the unconditioned
stimulus, the animal recognizes differences among stimuli, a process called
The process of generalization lead to consistency of response across similar stimuli, the
process of discrimination leads to increased specific of response. Finally if the originally
neutral stimulus is presented repeatedly without being followed at least occasionally by
the unconditioned stimulus, there is an undoing or progressive weakening of the
conditioning or association, a process known as extinction. Whereas the association of
the neutral stimulus with the unconditioned stimulus leads to the conditioned response,
the repeated presentation of the unconditioned stimulus without the unconditioned
stimulus leads to extinction
The classical conditioning model may be potentially very helpful in understanding the
development, maintenance and disappearance of many of our emotional reactions
Conditional Emotional Reactions
Conditioned emotional reaction
Many fears are conditioned emotional reactions
The “Unconditioning” of fear of a rabbit
Behaviour therapy based on the classical conditioning model emphasizes the extinction
of problematic responses, such as conditioned fears, or the conditioning of new responses
to stimuli that elicit each undesired responses as anxiety
Jones = direct conditioning
The positive feelings associated with food were counter-conditioned to the previously
feared rabbit. However even in the later sessions the influence of other children who
were not afraid of the rabbit seemed to be significant
Systematic Desensitization
A therapeutic technique known as systematic desensitization – Joseph Wolpe
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