Behavioural Model

The behaviourist model is another approach of psychology which suggests that our behaviour is a learned response that changes over time. It was introduced in 1913 by john Watson. I have chosen to look at this approach because I think that it is necessary to know all the different angles there are in psychology.  From this I will look into classical and operant condition as examples.

Classical condition is an aspect which most people studying psychology have heard of. The theory behind this is that a stimulus and response can be linked together via the brain system found by Clark and Squire (1998). There is a lot of evidence to support this theory. Pavlov (cited in Psychology, 2004) found that phobias are thought to have developed in this way. From example a person who is afraid of heights may climb to the top of a building and look down (environmental stimulus), may start to fell nausea and dizziness (response).

Operant condition explains how our behaviour is influenced by our actions. For example we learn at an early ages which of our actions are rewarded and which are punished. Skinner (cited in Psychology, 2004).

This approach fails to take into account any biological factors that may influence a person’s decisions, because of this it is widely criticised for being reductionist and too simplistic. Some critics have described the behavioural therapies as being dehumanizing and unethical. For example token economy systems can be imposed on people without their consent.

This behavioural model allows individual and cultural differences to be taken into account which can have huge benefits. Behaviour is referred to as adaptive or maladaptive which is much nicer and more ethical than calling a person abnormal.

As you can see by looking at this approach there are many strengths and weaknesses. What are your overall views?


Clark, R. E., & Squire, L. R., (1998). Classical Conditioning and Brain Systems, The Role of Awareness, 77-81.

Cardwell, M., Clark, L., & Meldrum,C., (2004). Collins. Psychology third edition. Collins.133-134


11 responses to “Behavioural Model

  1. you could argue that Skinner and Pavlov conducted their experiments on animals who are different from humans so they can’t be generalised to them. however Pavlov is still important because he paved the way for the behaviourist movement because he came up with the idea of condition and response and without that the “little Albert” study may have never happened. i think the only time the beahviourist could be classed as unethical was with the little albert study because they didnt remove the conditioning they placed on him even though they planned to. it may be reductionist but that could be a strenght for the approach because if you tried to look at every aspect of one human being it would be almost impossible because we are all different but with reductionism you can just reduce it down to the important behaviours and then see if it is the same with eveyone else

    • There are many more than just the “little Albert” study that behaviourists have conducted which are unethical. Zimbardo’s Standford prison experiment would fall under the behaviourist approach as he was looking at how people conform and obey. Also many experiments that have been carried out by Milgram have been very unethical which again would fall under the behaviourist approach. There are of course psychologists that follow the behaviourist approach, but in a ethical mannor. For example, Bandura (1978) suggested that the emoution of aggression can be explained via the social learning theory. Durning this research participants were not harmed.


      Bandura. A, (1978), Social Learning Theory of Aggression. Journal of Communication, 28: 12–29

  2. I believe the Behavioural model is a very important aspect within psychology, as there are many aspects to it. As well as Operant and Classical Conditioning, there is Social Learning Theory as well. This looks into if we learn from others and watching others in social situations. Bandura is one of the key psychologists involved in Social Learning Theory, and he suggested that we learn from the environment around us. This in turn leads to us modelling others behaviour. He suggested that there are many behaviours which can be learnt through modelling, which include; aggression, moral judgements (especially moral thinking and moral behaviour), reading and phobias. Social learning theory is a very useful aspect of the Behavioural model, as it shows others how people learn which in turn means it can be used in the education system especially.


    • Social learning theory is another aspect, sadly I could not fit that into my blog as it would have been to long but thank you for adding that. The social learning theory also has a very good way of looking at aggression and how it is caused. A research articel that i recently looked at supports this theory. Bandura (1978) suggested that the emoution of aggression can be explained via the social learning theory, this suggests that agression is a learned responce rather than a biological one.


      Bandura. A, (1978), Social Learning Theory of Aggression. Journal of Communication, 28: 12–29

  3. Behaviourists believed in the idea of empiricism, where we are born with a clean slate, and learn from our environment. They adopted the idea that psychology should only investigate observable behaviour if it wanted to be an objective science. Psychologists such as, J. Watson, Pavlov and B.F Skinner tried to explain all behaviour through the learning theories of classical and operant conditioning. However, they have been criticised (by the cognitive and humanistic approach) and modified by psychologists such as, Bandura, who developed the Social Learning Theory, which stated that behaviour can be learnt through observation rather than just through reinforcements (positive and negative). It has also be criticised by the cognitive and humanistic approach, suggesting that the research cannot be related to humans as most of the experiments were conducted on animals. They too argue that it is too subjective and ignores the internal mental processing. However, the behaviourist approach has helped education, and those with behavioural disturbances. For example, the operant conditioning has helped with training blind dogs. So, while there are many limitations to this approach, there are many strengths to its adaptive research.

    • Bandura (1978) suggests that behaviour can be explained through the social learning theory, but also goes in depth on agression. This shows us that the behavioural approach can be used to explain many different aspects of behaviour. It is detailed and explained and also has supporting evidence such as Bowlby (1982) were the attachmeant theory is looked at. This can come ontop the side of behaviourists and can also provide key support. Some of the liminations of the behaviourist approach is that it is reductionist and fails to look at the biological factors which could influence behaviour. I noticed that you stated the humanistic approach criticised the bahaviourist approach however, some aspects will work togather. Again looking at Bowlbys attachment process, this could prove to be useful to the humanistic approach, would you agree?


      Bandura. A, (1978), Social Learning Theory of Aggression. Journal of Communication, 28: 12–29
      Bowlby, J. (1982), Attachment and loss: Retrospect and Prospect. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 52: 664–678. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-0025.1982.tb01456.x

  4. I believe in the behaviourist approach that you learn from a blank slate ‘tabula rasa’. I think that the behaviourist approach is very empirical as Pavlov and Skinners experiments were objective and scientific. I think that the behaviourist approach has been useful as you can apply Pavlov’s finding to practical applications like teaching a baby to use a potty. I do agree as well that there are negatives to this approach such as it is very reductionist as it only looks at the stimulus and response and not the mediating process that go on in the middle unlike the cognitive approach.

    • I agree that the behaviourist apprpach is reductionist as it fails to take any biological factors into account. However this approach hold vital information about learning for example, Bowbly carried out various experiments based on the behaviourist appraoch and found out key information on the attachment process. Despite having experiment which were highly unethical for example the use of rhesus monkeys which sometimes resulted in death, Bowlby did discover some rich informtion. The key question here is was it worth breaking ethical guidelines for this information?

      Bowlby, J. (1982), Attachment and loss: Retrospect and Prospect. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 52: 664–678. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-0025.1982.tb01456.x

  5. There is no doubt that the behaviourist approach is highly influential to psychology research. Firstly there is a wealth of research that holds support for the behaviourist approach. Secondly the objective emphasis on observable behaviour lends itself perfectly to the scientific method. Broadbent (1961) states that the best method for rational advance in psychology is behaviourism. However, this scientific method does not always deliver high validity. Also the learning theory could be criticised for being reductionist, mechanistic, and deterministic which raises ethical concerns regarding the control of human behaviour and the importance of individual responsibilities. Finally, although conditioning is widely accepted as an explanation it is clear that the behaviourist approach ignores genetic/biological factors in psychological processes.

  6. The behaviourist approach has had a major impact on the field of psychology for the way it explains our behaviour as a response to stimuli around us. Although it is difficult to distinguish whether all behaviours are learnt as a response to our environment or because of genetic influences.
    As you mentioned before token economy is used widely as a response to changing/adapting behaviour issues. For example, the use of token economy is often used in prisons, inmates are given jobs/chores/goals to reach and as a reward things such as free time are given if the criteria is met. This shows that people can be conditioned to act in a certain way because of the response that has been given. Although there have been many examples of people being released from prison and then re-offended and ended up back again, showing that people can just give the response that they need to give to enable them to get what they want and that their behaviour has not changed despite token economy.

  7. I believe that the behaviourist perspective has more strengths than weaknesses, and every perspective has its critics it just depends on what grounds these criticisms can be deemed respectable. The behaviour perspective has a whole has made a great difference to childcare,education and parenting. This field is constintely informing society on how we and most importantly children learn behaviour. According to Bandura’s (1961) social learning theory children learn behaviour and development from role models, this study can inform society, for example footballers should be advised to present acceptable and good behaviour, as footballers are one of the main role models for children.

    Bandura, A., Ross, D. & Ross, S.A. (1961) Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 575-82

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