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What is the behaviourist approach?

A way of explaining behaviour in terms of what is observable and in terms of learning. Behaviourism identifies two important forms of learning; classical and operant conditioning.


Describe the process of classical conditioning.

In classical conditioning, two stimuli are paired together; one is neutral and the other is an unconditioned stimulus which produces an unconditioned response. when the two stimuli are associated together, the response to the unconditioned stimuli is associated with the neutral stimulus, and eventually the neutral stimulus will produce a conditioned response without the presence of the unconditioned stimulus. Learning through association.


Describe operant conditioning.

A form of learning in which behaviour is shaped and maintained by its consequences. Possible consequences include positive reinforcement, in which behaviour is rewarded to increase the likeliness of it happening again, negative reinforcement is which the likelihood of an action happening is increased by the want to avoid an unpleasant consequence, and punishment in which a negative consequence DECREASES the likelihood of an action happening again.


Explain how Skinner's box worked.

Skinner conducted experiments with rats, and sometimes pigeons, in specially designed cages called Skinner boxes. He found that when a rat was rewarded with a food pellet for activating a lever, it continued to perform the behaviour. He also found that the rat could be conditioned to perform the same behaviour in order to avoid an unpleasant consequence such as receiving an electric shock.


Evaluate the behaviourist approach.

It has good scientific credibility because it emphasizes objectivity and replication. It gave psychology greater credibility and status.

The principles of conditioning have good real-life application. Operant conditioning has been used in token economy systems in institutions and classical conditioning has been applied to the treatment of phobias. This makes the approach useful and helpful.

It is a mechanistic view of behaviour as it views humans and animals as passive, machine-like responders with no conscious insight into their behaviour. Because it ignores mental processes that occur between the stimulus and the response, the behaviourist approach may apply more to animals than to humans.

There are ethical and practical issues with the studies on which the behaviourist approach is based. The animals were exposed to stressful conditions which might have also affected their behaviour. This gives the study low reliability and low internal validity.


Explain social learning theory.

Social learning theory is a way of explaining behaviour that includes both direct and indirect reinforcement, combining the behaviorist approach with the role of cognitive factors.


What is social learning?

Learning through observation and imitation.


Describe what vicarious reinforcement is.

Reinforcement which is not directly experienced by occurs through observing someone else being reinforced for a behaviour. This is a key factor in imitation.


Explain the role of mediational processes in social learning theory.

Mediational processes are mental factors which intervene in the learning process to determine whether or not a new response is acquired. Bandura identified 4 mediational processes in learning-
motor reproduction


Explain what identification is in social learning theory.

People, especially children, are much more likely to imitate the behaviour of people with whom they identify, called role models. A person becomes a role model if they are seen to possess similar characteristics to the observer and/or are attractive and have a high status. From a role models perspective, modeling is the precise demonstration of specific behaviour which may be imitated by the observer and from the observers perspective, modeling is imitating the behaviour of a role model. The role model does not necessarily have to be present physically.


Describe the two studies by Bandura.

In 1961, Bandura et al conducted a study in which they recorded the behaviour of young children who watched an adult hitting a Bobo doll with a hammer and shouting abuse at it. It was found that these children behaved much more aggressively to the Bobo doll and the other toys later on than the control group who had observed a non-aggressive adult.
In 1963 Bandura and Walters showed three groups of children different videos of an adult behaving aggressively with a Bobo doll. One group was shown the adult being praised for their behaviour, another saw the adult being scolded for their behaviour and the last saw the adult receiving no consequence for their behaviour. It was found that the group which saw the adult being scolded played the least aggressively with the doll, followed by the one which observed the adult facing no consequences, followed by the group which saw the adult being praised. This shows how vicarious reinforcement effects learning of behaviour.


Evaluate social learning theory.

It recognises the importance of cognitive factors. Neither classical nor operant conditioning can offer an adequate account of learning on its own. This makes SLT a more comprehensive explanation of human learning.

It relies too heavily on evidence from lab studies ie Bandura's experiments were of young children in lab settings. Lab settings are often criticised for their contrived nature where participants may respond to demand characteristics. The Bobo doll was designed to be hit, and so the children were maybe just behaving how they thought they were supposed to. This means that the studies show little about how children actually learn aggression.

SLT underestimates the influence of biological factors. Bandura found that boys were more aggressive than girls which may be explained by hormonal factors such as differences in levels of testosterone which is present in larger quantities in boys than it is in girls and is linked to increased aggressive behaviour. This means that an important influence is not being accounted for.

Bandura emphasised reciprocal determinism which is when were are not merely influenced by our external environment but also exert an influence upon it through the behaviours we choose to perform. This makes social learning theory less determanistic than the behvaiourist approach and a more comprehensive explanation.


What is the cognitive approach?

An approach focused on how our mental processes affect behaviour. It argues that mental processes should be studied scientifically through making inferences based off of observable behaviour.


Explain the difference between computer models and theoretical ones.

They are both used to help understand mental processes but a computer model is concrete while a theoretical model is usual abstract. A computer model involves actually programming a computer to see if it acts in a comparable way.


Identify and explain an important theoretical model in the cognitive approach.

An important theoretical model is the information processing approach. This suggests that information flows through the cognitive system in a sequence of stages that include input, storage and retrieval. It is based off of how computers function.


Explain the role of schema.

A schema is an internal package of ideas about how something should be and is developed from experience. Babies are born with simple motor schemas such as grasping and sucking and adults develop more complex ones. Schemas enable us to process information more quickly and act as a mental shortcut. They can also, however, distort our interpretations of sensory information and lead to perceptual errors.


Explain the emergence of cognitive neuroscience.

Cognitive neuroscience is the scientific study of the effect of brain structures on mental processes. The localisation of cognitive functions has a long history.
- Broca identified how damage to Broca's area can lead to speech impairment.
-The emergence of fMRI and PET scans has advanced cognitive neuroscience
- It was found that different types of long term memory may be located on opposite sides of the pre-frontal cortex
-It was found that there is a link between the parahippocampal gyrus and OCD
- Brain fingerprinting and computer models are now being incorporated.


Evaluate the cognitive approach.

It has good scientific credibility and objective methods. It relies on rigorous and highly controlled methods of study and has allowed biology and cognitive psychology to come together.

It is guilty of machine reductionism. Although the human mind and the operations of a computer have similarities, this ignores the influence of human motivation and emotion.

The cognitive approach has little application to everyday life. Cognitive psychologists can only make inferences from behaviour they observe in their research , making the cognitive approach too abstract and theoretical in nature. Artificial stimuli are often used which may produce results which are unrepresentative of actual behaviour. IT lacks external/ ecological validity.

It is less deterministic than other approaches. It is based on soft determinism, making it more interactionist.


What is the biological approach?

A perspective that emphasises the importance of physical processes in the body such as genetic inheritance and neural function. It suggests that everything psychological is first biological and so we need to look at biological structures such as genes, the nervous system and neurochemistry.


What is a behaviour geneticist?

A behaviour geneticist is someone who studies whether behavioural characteristics such as intelligence and mental disorders are inherited in the same way that physical characteristics are. They use twin studies and compared the concordance rate between monozygotic (100% shared genes) and dizygotic (50% shared genes) twins.


What is a genotype and what is a phenotype?

A genotype is a set of genes a person possesses while a phenotype is the psychological, behavioural and physical ways in which these genes are expressed. The phenotype is influenced by environmental characteristics.


Explain Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

If a person has a trait which gives an individual a survival advantage, it will be naturally selected and passed on due to reproduction.


Evaluate the biological approach

It uses scientific methods to investigate. It makes use of a range of precise and highly scientific methods such as fMRI, family and twin studies and drug trials. There is no bias and the approach is based on reliable data.

It has good real life application as it can be used in the development of psychoactive drugs (drugs which act upon the nervous system to affect mood and behaviour) which are used to treat mental illnesses. It means suffers of mental illnesses can live a relatively normal life rather than live in a hospital.

It assumes that when a particular drug reduces symptoms of a mental illness, the lack of that substance in the brain is what caused the mental illness. Discovering an association between two factors does not mean that one is a cause. This means that the approach makes in accurate causal conclusions by claiming to have found a cause in what is really just an association.

It is too deterministic as it sees human behaviour as being governed by our internal biology which we have no control over. It may also complicate the law by claiming that criminals are not responsible for their behaviour but rather that their biology is.