We explain what is the behaviorism, the behaviorism of Watson and Skinner. Also, how behaviorism works in education.
What is behaviorism?
Behaviorism or behaviorism (from English behavio u r , “conduct”) is understood as a current of psychology that sets its interest in the behavior of living beings , and which understands it as a set of relationships between stimuli and specific responses.
In its more classical approach, it abandons any interest in the intrapsychic (such as emotions, reflections, imaginations) and focuses solely on observable behavior, that is, it values the objective over the subjective .
Behaviorism was a highly dominant psychological school since its appearance in the twentieth century, especially in the period between wars , and is considered as a response to introspective psychology , dominant in the era of structuralism and introspection as a method of study. Its greatest exhibitors were the Americans John B. Watson (1878-1958) and BF Skinner (1904-1990), each in its own way.
There are in practice numerous aspects of behaviorism, different from that initially proposed by Watson, such as the Skinner, Tolman and Hull school, or the interconductual psychology (interconductism) of JR Kantor, Rachlin’s teleological behaviorism, Bijou’s empirical behaviorism , and other authors such as Staddon, Timberlake or Hayes.
Broadly speaking, however, behaviorism tends to perceive the behavior of living beings as the result of a conditioning imparted throughout their formation through external stimuli (such as punishments and rewards), rather than the result of internal mechanisms ( like instincts or thoughts ). For this reason, behaviorism values the environment above all , since learning cannot be separated from the context in which it took place.
Assuming this perspective, mental pathologies are not really such, unless there is a biological or physical basis, that is, a disease. Of the rest, they should be considered in the context of their learning context, so they do not approve the treatment through psychoactive drugs.
J. Watson was the one who inaugurated behaviorism as a psychological current , taking hold in objective positions around the mind. He did not deny the existence of intrapsychic phenomena, but they could be studied, since they are not observable; what instead can be done with the behavior.
In this sense, Watson was the heir of Ivan Pavlov’s studies on classical conditioning . According to Watson, the observation and modification of behavior was the path to the interior of the human mind, and not vice versa; Furthermore, only by aspiring to an objective character in their approaches, could psychology break through the Natural Sciences , somehow adopting the steps of the Scientific Method .
Burrhus F. Skinner took behaviorism one step further, embracing a radical side. Thanks to his contributions, psychology is considered today related to the field of Sciences and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy was developed, in which his studies are very influential.
Skinner’s behaviorism was based on Watson’s studies and Pavlov’s simple conditioning, but he dismissed the idea that only external stimuli were responsible for our behavior . For Skinner, this was the product of a series of experiences of adaptation, both pleasant and unpleasant, useful and useless, forging learning .
This addition meant removing the focus of the study of stimulus dynamics and fixing them in the way in which they are incorporated into the psyche, that is, the adaptation process that it called operant conditioning . In this new scheme, the perception of what we do and the consequences that what we have done is the foundation of the behavior .
Behaviorism in education
Behaviorism was as important as a psychological school, which also greatly influenced the way we understand learning . Hence, there are behavioral theories of learning, and school approaches that seek to make the most of what these theories raise.
In fact, the behavioral approach to schooling starts with the use of reinforcements (positive and negative) to stimulate the desired behavior in children and young people, and discourage or eradicate unwanted ones. In these models the motivation towards the study is external to the student and in general the development of his memory is privileged , so that other techniques and theories more conducive to a participatory and less punishing education are used today .