Psychology: Behaviourist Theory in Child Learning and Development Essay 2022


Added on  2022-09-28

8 Pages2126 Words34 ViewsType: 34
Higher EducationCalculus and Analysis
Running head: PSYCHOLOGY
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Psychology:  Behaviourist Theory in Child Learning and Development Essay 2022_1

Behaviorism or the behaviourist approach is a systematic theoretical understanding of
the behaviour of humans and other animals. The primary assumption behind behaviourist
theory is that all animal behaviours are based upon either of the following two factors:
1. A response to a particular external stimulus
2. A behaviour that is a result of the consequence of that individual’s history combining
elements of both reinforcement and punishment clubbed with the individual’s current
state of mind, motivational factors and existing stimuli (Murtonen, Gruber, &
Lehtinen, 2017)
Historically, the early derivatives of behaviourist theory can be extracted from the late
nineteenth century with Edward Thorndike’s pioneering of ‘The law of effect’ which
emphasised on reinforcement and punishment as chief influencers in the strengthening and
weakening of a behavioural trait. It was followed in the early twentieth century by John B.
Watson’s devising of ‘methodological behaviourism’ which prioritised the measurement of
observable behaviour in order to understand human behaviour. Following Watson, there were
two significant proponents to the behaviourist approach namely B.F Skinner and Ivan Pavlov.
Skinner suggested that internal factors and individual’s private events including their
thoughts and feelings should also be considered should also be considered as the variables
that control behaviour. The technique called ‘operant conditioning’ is devised based on his
ideas. Pavlov, on the other hand provided us with his famed experiment with the dog’s
learned behaviour to explain how external stimuli plays an effect on an animal’s ability to
learn and modifies their behaviour (Malim, 2017).
Children’s development and behavioural growth and changes follow certain
regulations and patterns. The human brain follows strict rules when it comes to learning
Psychology:  Behaviourist Theory in Child Learning and Development Essay 2022_2

something and repeating a learned behaviour. The effect is more prominent in children
because of the fact that the child brain is still in the process of a neuro-cognitive development
and is an easy target for most stimuli to generate a particular response. This essay attempts to
discuss the developmental aspect of behaviourist theory and critically analyse the theory to
bring out a thorough understanding of child learning and development. It will take an in depth
look into the various theoretical underpinnings of behaviourism and attempt to explain how
child learning and development follows a behaviourist pipeline (Tighe & Leaton, 2016).
Prior to discussing and connecting child development and learning to the behaviourist
approach, it becomes important to critically evaluate behaviourism to its core. This section
will be evaluating two central concepts of behavioural psychology namely operant and
classical conditioning. Even though the end result of both conditioning is learning, the
differences in the processes help us better understand the deeper intricacies in human
behavioural analysis.
The process of classical conditioning was first described by the famous Russian
Physiologist Ivan Pavlov in his famous experiment with the dog. He paired a neutral stimulus
with an unconditioned stimulus in order to gain an unconditioned response, in an attempt to
connect the two types of stimuli. A neutral stimulus is described as one which does not elicit
a response and an unconditioned stimulus is one where a response is subconsciously
generated. In his experiment with the dog, the dog salivating was the unconditioned response
when triggered by the unconditioned stimulus (the smell/taste of the food). The ringing of a
bell was the neutral stimulus that was clubbed with the unconditioned stimulus and later
when just the ringing of the bell generated salivation in the dog, the ringing became the
conditioned stimulus and the salivation, the conditioned response. This is the way classical
conditioning works. It establishes a connection between the environmental factors which are
Psychology:  Behaviourist Theory in Child Learning and Development Essay 2022_3

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