Psychologist World

Behavioral Approach

The behavioral approach explained: Introduction to the branches of behaviorism in psychology, assumptions of the approach and an evaluation.
Behavioral Approach

The behavioral approach is based on the concept of explaining behavior through observation, and the belief that our environment is what causes us to behave differently or suffer illnesses. The main categories of behaviorism are:

Classical Behaviorism:

Initiated arguably by John B. Watson, with his publication of "Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It" (often referred to as the behaviorist manifesto), who described his behaviorist approach in psychology as "a purely objective experimental branch of natural science". More on Classical Behaviorism

Methodological Behaviorism:

Methological behaviorism is based on the idea that all types of psychological research are based to a greater or lesser extent on observing behaviors; the closest insight, some may argue, we currently have into someone's psychological make-up. More on Methodological Behaviorism

Radical Behaviorism:

Radical behaviorists would claim that all our actions can be explained in terms of environmental factors. This is a somewhat extreme view in that it ignores biological and cognitive influences, particularly given research that has found genetic factors to play a part in disorders such as schizophrenia and depression and the success of cognitive treatments such as rational emotive therapy (RET). Popular holders of the radical behaviorism approach were J.B. Watson, and Skinner, but psychologists today widely acknowledge the importance of cognitive and biological factors in explaining disorders and behavior. More on Radical Behaviorism

What does it assume?

  1. Behaviorists assume that we can understand people by observing their behavior. This contrasts with the cognitive approach which looks at thought processes and other unobservable activities.
  2. Behavior can be observed in terms of responses to certain stimuli. For example, a person being asked to hold a book (stimulus) would respond by holding the book. This Stimulus-Response Theory forms the basis of conditioning, which suggests learning in humans and animals can take place through the association of a response with particular stimuli.
  3. Behaviorism also assumes that we are born as a blank slate, or tabula rasa, and so equal at birth. It is environmental factors rather than genetic or biological differences that make us behave differently. Behaviorism very much represents the nurture aspect of the nature-nurture debate.

Evaluation of the Behavioral Approach:

Skinner and Pavlov's dogs have shown the importance of classical and operant conditioning in learning.
There is substantial support - primarily twin and family studies - showing the significance of biological factors in diseases. The dopamine hypothesis, which suggests schizophrenia is linked to abnormal levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, has lead to the production of successful drug therapies. Gottesman (1991) summarized around 40 studies of mono- and di-zygotic twins and found that there is a potential genetic link to schizophrenia.

See Also:

Behavioral Therapies:

More Approaches:

 More on Behavioral Psychology

To Run Or To Fight?

How the Fight-or-Flight response explains stress.

Stress: Fight Or Flight Response

Shock Therapy

Aversion therapy uses the behavioral approach principles that new behavior can...

Immerse To Overcome?

If you jumped out of a plane, would you overcome your fear of heights?

Bats & Goodwill

Why Do We Help Other People? When Darwin introduced his theory of natural...

Identity Crisis: The Stages Of Life According To Erikson

Erik Erikson's theory on stages of human development

Classical Behaviorism

Overview and in-depth review of classical behaviorism in psychology.

More on Behavioral Psychology...

Sign Up for Full Access

Join Psychologist World today for access to our entire 2,200+ collection of psychology theories, approaches, studies, experiments and online guides.

  • Psychology approaches, theories and studies explained
  • Body Language Reading Guide
  • How to Interpret Your Dreams Guide
  • Self Hypnosis Downloads
  • Plus More Member Benefits

Learn More and Sign Up

Psychologist World is an online magazine dedicated to psychology, providing theory and experiment overviews, popular psychology articles and practical psychology guides. For details of content available with membership click here.

© 2016 Psychologist World and partners. Parts licensed under GNU FDL.
Home About Contact Us Terms Privacy & Cookies Sign Up