Describe and Evaluate the Behaviourist Approach in Psychology Essay

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Describe and evaluate the Behaviourist Approach

The basic assumption of the behaviourist approach is that all behaviour is learned through experiences a person has in their environment. From this we know that behaviourists are on the side of nature in the “nature vs. nurture” debate. In comparison bio psychologists will be firmly on the side of nurture.

There is also the argument between behaviourists to whether behaviour is learnt better through positive or negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is when someone does something correctly and we reward them with a sweet or chocolate. A strength of this is that the individual will repeat the action again, but a limitation is that the individual will expect the reward every time.
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Bio psychologists try to explain behaviour via the functioning of the brain but behaviourists explain it via our environment.

Frederic Skinner had an extreme viewpoint when it came to psychology and developed a behaviourist approach called radical behaviourism; this states that only scientific methods should be used to investigate human and animal behaviour. He also came up with the idea of operant conditioning, this when something is more or less likely to do something due to its consequences. This can be explained through a rat experiment.

1. The rat approaches the lever in the skinner box 2. The rat is rewarded by the dispensing of food pellets 3. The rat presses the lever and food is automatically dispensed. 4. When the rat becomes hungry again it presses the lever 5. The rat continues to push the lever when it becomes hungry and it has learnt a new behaviour.

As the rat was rewarded with food it was more likely to repeat its actions. The experiment allows you to change something’s behaviour and as the experiment could’ve taken place any day and the same results would have occurred it was replicable, this is a strength. Another real strength of this experiment is that it is relatable to humans. As humans we gamble, we put money into a fruit machine and wait for the reward (food), this is no different