Prior to the 1920’s, psychology was known as “the science of mental life.” However, John B. Watson dismissed the idea of cognitive psychology and instead, suggested that it should be redefined as “the science of observable behavior.” He claimed that science is found through observation. After all, it is impossible to observe people’s thoughts and feelings, but one can observe a person’s behavior. From that point on, behaviorism became yet another key theory in the study of psychology.
Behaviorism focuses on what an organism does; any action that can be observed and recorded. It is defined as “a belief that behavior is determined by forces in the environment beyond our control, rather than by the exercise of free will” (Myers, 1998, p. 15). Since free will cannot be measured, than it must not exist. Behaviorists view the world in terms of stimuli and responses and examine the influence of the environment on organisms’ responses.
To explain how behaviorism views learning, it is important to understand the concept of B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning and E.L. Thorndike’s law of effect. Skinner was concerned with actions that operate on the environment. He ran experiments on p
Then, he began giving the pigeon food once it pecked at a specific set of keys, and since food is desirable to the bird, it began to frequently peck at the same keys. The student is glad to not have to take the test, and the teacher is happy that hisher strategy to get the student to learn was successful. Therefore, perhaps the most important behaviorist teaching method is to use reinforcement as a consequence in order to establish environmental conditions that control student behavior in the classroom. A positive reinforcer increases behavior by presenting a satisfactory consequence, while a negative reinforcer increases behavior by removing an aversive consequence. This principle involves the concept of, "if you do this, then you can have this. Then, the teacher would give the students lined paper used for beginning writing, and so on and so forth. The Premack principle (also known as the Grandma"tms Law) is another way that behaviorist teachers try to encourage wanted behaviors in their students. This is a process of gradually reinforcing responses as the child approaches the desired behavior. A behaviorist teacher does not attempt to help students in their personal and emotional lives, or believe that knowledge creates perception. Then, the teacher would give the students worksheets with the alphabet (upper and lower case) in dotted letters so they can trace the letters for themselves. So, what exactly does it mean to learn To behaviorists, learning is known as behavioral modification, or the process of being conditioned, reinforced, and punished in an attempt to alter behavior. What a student thinks is of no concern, but rather, what they do is significant. By doing this, a behaviorist teacher can strengthen what they deem as desirable behaviors and weaken or get rid of what they feel are unwanted behaviors. Students can easily be taught to perform behaviors that a teacher feels are desirable if heshe has "trained" them to do so. Learning then, is conceived in terms of changes in observable behavior.