Psychology is divided into varying approaches. In this article I will be concentrating on three main psychological perspectives. Firstly, I will be looking at the Behaviourist approach. I will focus on Classical and Operant Conditioning. This will show how it is suggested that we are shaped by our environment and that different kinds of reinforcement can influence how we behave. Secondly, I will be looking at the Biological approach. This approach suggests that our behaviour is a product of our genes and behaviour is often inherited. Finally, I will be explaining the Cognitive Approach. This approach stems from belief that before we can understand behaviour we must be able to understand the human thought process.
The behaviourist approach states that we are a product of our environment and our behaviour is shaped from birth. If positive or negative behaviour is rewarded, it is likely to be repeated. If it receives negative reinforcement such as punishment, it is less likely to be repeated. The behaviourist approach is made up of two main perspectives classical and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning involves learning through association, whereas operant conditioning is learning through consequences.
Classical conditioning involves learning through association between two stimuli that occur at the same time. Therefore the response of one stimuli becomes associated with the other. Such as being trapped in a lift. Being trapped would be the unconditioned stimulus and the lift would be the neutral stimulus. The anxiety of being trapped is the unconditioned response. The unconditioned response of feeling anxiety would then be associated with the lift. Thus, creating the conditioned response of anxiety when entering the now conditioned stimulus of the lift.
Pavlov (1927) noticed that when food was brought to dogs, there would be the unconditioned response of salivating. Pavlov wondered if pairing a neutral stimulus such as a bell with the unconditioned stimulus of the food could create the conditioned response of salivating on hearing of a bell. Pavlov noted that after a while the ringing of the bell alone would cause the reflex of salivating. The salivating became a conditioned response and the bell the conditioned stimulus. Although the test was successful this study is limited due to it being conducted on animals.
Operant conditioning is the theory that behaviour is conditioned as the result of consequences to behaviour. The idea of positive reinforcement is used to strengthen desired behaviour such as being rewarded with a positive stimulus (such as sweets) for good behaviour making the behaviour more likely to occur in the future. Negative reinforcement is used to weaken undesired behaviour by stopping an unpleasant experience. Being told off is the unpleasant stimulus, so to avoid this desired behaviour is conducted, thus reinforcing this behaviour. Negative reinforcement involves someone behaving in a certain way in order to avoid a negative consequence. Skinner (1938) carried out an investigation of operant conditioning using rats. He would put the rats in a box. When the rat pressed a lever, the rat would receive food pellet. This reinforced the behaviour in the rat, making it more likely to press the lever in the future. Again this study is limited due to it being conducted on animals and the same may not apply to human behaviour.
Social learning theory is an extension of the behaviourist approach. Social learning is defined as learning from others. It suggests not only are we shaped by our own experiences like classical and operant conditioning we are also shaped by seeing the consequences of the actions of people around us. Behaviour that is seen as being rewarded is imitated. Imitation is more likely to occur of people we look up to or are similar to us.
Bandura (1961) conducted a study on children. The ‘Bo-Bo doll’ experiment involved two groups of