• Behavioral Perspective – Views behavior as a result of learning. Most important causes of
behavior are proximal causes, causes that lie close to the behavior itself and can therefore be
readily identified. The province of psychology was behavior…that is, observable and
measurable responses to specific stimuli. Personality development is simply the result of the
interaction between our genetic endowment and the types of learning to which we are exposed
by our environment.
• Learning – Process whereby behavior changes in response to the environment.
• Conditioned Reflex – If a neutral stimulus (ex: the bell) is paired with a non-neutral stimulus
(ex: food), the organism will eventually respond to the neutral stimulus as it does to the non-
• Ivan Pavlov – Russian neurophysiologist. Conducted experiment by which he associated
ringing a bell and eating using a dog called conditioned reflex.
• John B. Watson – American Psychologist. Founder of the Behavioral movement.
Conducted experiment similar to Pavlov’s dogs, but with an 11-month old boy and fear of
• Edward Lee Thorndike – Interested in the impact of such stimuli as consequences of
behavior. If an organism is repeatedly presented with a pleasant or painful stimulus after
making a given response, how will this affect the response? Developed the ‘law of effect.’
Conducted experiment with a trapped cat, and food (salmon).
• Law of Effect – responses that lead to ‘satisfying’ consequences are strengthened and
therefore are likely to be repeated, while responses that lead to ‘unsatisfying’ consequences
are weakened and therefore are unlikely to be repeated. With this conclusion, Thorndike laid
down another fundamental principle of learning: the importance of reward in the learning
• B.F. Skinner – Refined Thorndike’s discoveries and demonstrated their application to
everyday life. He renamed Thorndike’s law to ‘Principle of reinforcement’ – the basic
mechanism for predicting and controlling human behavior. Skinner stated that much of our
behavior is based not on internal contingencies but on external contingencies.
• Assumptions of Behavioral Psychology:
1) The task of psychology is the study of behavior.
2) Methodology -- carefully measuring responses
3) The goal of psychology is the prediction and control of behavior.
4) The major ingredient in behavior is learning.
• Basic Mechanisms of Learning:
1) Respondent Conditioning – Respondent Behavior is behavior that occurs reflexively, or
automatically, in response to specific stimuli. Consists of Conditional responses and
Unconditional responses. Respondent Conditioning refers to the process of associating a
neutral stimuli to produce some type of respondent behavior. (AKA Classical
Conditioning) Unconditioned responses are simple responses, such as blinking or
dog experiment salivation. Organism responds to the environment.
a) Unconditioned Stimulus – food
1 b) Unconditioned Response – salivation
c) Conditioned Stimulus – tone
d) Conditioned Response – salivation to bell, without food.
2) Operant Conditioning – Organism operates on the environment. Does something in order
to achieve a desired result. All operant behavior is the result of Operant Conditioning.
The likelihood of a response is increased or decreased by virtue of its consequences.
Having taken a certain action, the organism learns to associate that action with certain
consequences. This perceived association between action and consequence is called a
• Reinforcement – behavior is increased or maintained by rewarding consequences.
a) Primary Reinforcer – Simplest type of reinforcer. One to which we respond
instinctively without learning.
Ex: food, water, warmth, and sex.
b) Conditioned Reinforcer – AKA secondary reinforcers. Stimuli to which we have
learned to respond by
associating them with primary reinforcers. Ex: money.
• Reinforcement operates in 4 basic ways:
1) Positive Reinforcement – a response is followed by a positive reinforcer, with the result
that the response increases in frequency.
2) Negative Reinforcement – what promotes the response is the avoidance or removal of an
3) Punishment – acts to suppress responses. 3a) Positive punishment occurs when an
organism, in order to obtain some consequence, stops performing a behavior (rare). 3b)
Negative punishment occurs the organism, in order to avoid a consequence, stops performing
a behavior (more common).
Reinforcement increases the likelihood of a response; punishment decreases the likelihood of
• Other mechanisms associated with learning:
1) Extinction – the elimination of a response by ending the conditioning that created it.
2) Generalization – once an organism has been conditioned to respond in a certain way to a
particular stimulus, it will respond in the same way to similar stimuli without further
3) Discrimination – learning to distinguish among similar stimuli and to respond only to the
appropriate one. Opposite of generalization.
4) Habituation – mechanism that modifies the effects of respondent conditioning. Where
repeated exposure to a stimulus results in the lessening of the organism’s response to the