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Chapter 10

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Dave Miranda

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. o The first concerns the task of theory construction it is instructive to see both the achievements and the limitations of past efforts o Asecond considerations involves applications o Finally 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. o Behaviorism, 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 o Behaviorists build a theory of persons in large part on a database involving animals ENVIRONEMTNAL DETERMINISM AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR THE CONCENPT OF PERSONALITY • 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 • 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 o Behaviorists 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 o Another implication involved the causes and treatment of psychopathology o The behavirorist assumes that maladaptive, “abnormal” behaviour is caused by maladaptive environments to which the person has been exposed. EXPERIMENTATION, OBSERVABLE VARIABLES,AND SIMPLE SYSTEMS • 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 WATSON’S BEHAVIORISM • John B. Watson (1878 – 1958)was the founder of the approach to psychology knows as behaviourism • 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) PAVLOV’S THEORY OF CLASSICAL CONDITIONING • Around the beginning of the 20 century, Pavlov was involved in the study of gastric secretions in dogs 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 generalization. • If repeated trials indicate that onlyl some stimuli are followed by the unconditioned stimulus, the animal recognizes differences among stimuli, a process called discrimination • 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 PSYCHOPATHOLOGYAND CHANGE 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 • Atherapeutic technique known as systematic desensitization – Joseph Wolpe • Wolpe viewed persistent reactions of anxiety as a learned response that could be un- learned. He developed a therapy that was designed to provide this “unlearning”. Phrased more technically, his therapy technique of systematic desensitization was designed to inhibit anxiety through counter-conditioning • Relaxation in relation to the imagined stimuli generalizes to relaxation in relation to these stimuli in everyday life • According to the behaviour therapy point of view, no symptom is caused by unconscious conflicts. There is only a maladaptive learned response and once this response has ben eliminated, there is no reason to believe that another maladaptive response will be substituted for it AREINTERPRETATION OF THE CASE OF LITTLE HANS • Odedipal conflicts – Wolpe and Rachman are extremely critical of Freud’s approach to obtaining dat and of his conclusions. They make the following points: o Nowhere is there evidence of Hans’s wish to make love to his mother o Hans never expressed fear or hatred of his father o Hans consistently denied any relationship between the horse and his father o Phobias can be induced in children by a simple conditioning process and need not be related to a theory of conflicts or anxiety or defense. The view that neuroses have a purpose is highly questionable o There is no evidence that the phobia disappeared as a result of Han’s resolution of his Oedipal conflicts. Similarly, there is no evidence that insight occurred or that information was of therapeutic value RECENT DEVELOPMENTS • One illustrative area of research is the use of classical conditioning procedures to demonstrate that people can unconsciously develop fears and attitudes towards others • In a surprising turn of event, researchers recently have related classical conditioning principles to a topic that we previously associated with the phenomenological theory of Carl Rogers, namely self-esteem. Baccus, Baldwin and Packer (2004) reasoned that expressions of high self-esteem are responses that could be altered through classical conditioning. • The results demonstrated that classical conditioning increased feelings of self-esteem. People who saw smiling faces paired with words that are defining of them displayed higher levels of self-esteem than control-group subjects Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning • In Skinner’s hands, behaviourism was not just an approach to the psychology of learning. It was an all-encompassing philosophy that promised a comprehensive account of human behaviours, as well as technologies for improving the human experience AVIEW OF THE THEORIST • Conditioned Reflexes aroused Skinner’s interest in behaviourism • Skinner (1959) developed some of his principles of scientific methodology: o When you run into something interesting, drop everything else and study it o Some ways of doing research are easier than others. A mechanical apparatus often
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