Behaviourism - psychology without a soul?

Behaviourism is a school of thought that focuses on a humankind. In the centre of its interest is the behaviour of an individual, his observations, and analysis. Classical behaviourism is based on experiments conducted by the Russian physiologist IP Pavlov and is represented for example by J. B. Watson. Classical behaviourism is based on the assumption that the proper scientific approach in psychology orients on observable and measurable behaviour.

Consciousness and mental states are considered as elusive and derived, scientific approach is limited according to classical concepts of behaviourism on recording of physical, muscular, and physiological responses. Such an approach is one of the radical behaviourism.

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov is person who is inherently linked with behaviourism. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a major physiologist, professor of physiology and discoverer of the function of conditioned reflex. He examined the nerves of the heart, the physiology of digestion, and a conditioned reflex. In 1907, he won the Nobel Prize.

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov left his original theologically oriented profession, because he was inspired by progressive ideas of D.I. Pisarev (the most important Russian literal critic after 1860) and I.M. Sechenov (the father of Russian physiology) and has dedicated his life to science.

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov immerses himself to studying physiology, which remained essential and most important subject of study throughout his life. In 1855, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov completed his course with outstanding grades and received the title of "candidate of natural sciences."

Based on his actual enthusiastic and interest in physiology, he decided to continue his studies, and he started study the Academy of Medical Surgery into third year. In 1879, he graduated and was awarded with a "gold medal". After a competitive examination, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov won membership in the Academy. This enables him, together with his function "director of the Physiological Laboratory" at the clinic of the famous Russian clinician S.P. Botkin, to continue his research work. Pavlov's research of the physiology of digestion led him to create a science of conditioned reflexes. In his study of the reflex regulation of the activity of digestive glands, Pavlov paid special attention to the phenomenon of "psychic secretion", which is caused by food stimuli that are at a distance from the animal. This discovery of function of conditioned reflexes made it possible to study all psychic activity objectively, instead of resorting to subjective methods as had hitherto been necessary. It was now possible to investigate by experimental means the most complex interrelations between an organism and its external environment.

In 1903, at the 14th International Medical Congress in Madrid, Pavlov spoke with a dissertation "Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology of animals." In this treatise he defined conditionality and were determined other reflexes, and it was shown that conditioned reflex should be considered an essential psychological phenomenon, which is also the physiological.

Pavlov and reflex theory

As guiding principles of materialistic teaching on the laws of governing activities of living organisms Pavlov deduced for theory of reflexes into 3 principles:

  1. Principle of determinism
  2. Principle of analysis and synthesis
  3. Principle of structure

Pavlov development of these principles, and also his school helped greatly towards to build up of a scientific theory of medicine, and towards the discovery of the laws governing the functions of the organism as a whole.

Research held in Pavlov's laboratory, which was running throughout the decades, first revealed the basic laws controlling activities of large hemispheres of the cerebral cortex. Many physiologists have been participating in developing problems of Pavlov's basic laws of control brain activities. As a result of this research was unified Pavlov's theory of higher nervous activity.

At the height of his fame was Pavlov in 1904 awarded the Nobel Prize.

Conditioned and unconditioned stimuli, operant conditioning

I. P. PavlovIvan Petrovich Pavlov was interested in emergence of excitement, ways of functioning of our neural network, the types of signals, and their processing. Stimulations are divided on the unconditional and conditional. Unconditioned stimulus produces a reaction of the organism itself. Pavlov was experimenting with dogs, unconditioned reflex in a dog is that if we show them the meat, the dog begins to salivate immediately. Conditioned reflex is that which does not respond itself, but if it is closely linked with unconditional, then after a certain number of repetitions itself induces the reaction. This conditioned response must be strengthened from time to time with unconditional response, to prevent its extinction. It is a classical conditioning.

Many other psychologists have followed up the work of Ivan Petrovich Pavlova. One them was B. F. Skinner. He was continuing during his experiments and observations with ideas based on the information that behaviour is composed of elements that he called operant. Organism as a spontaneous response to stimuli produces these operands. Driving motor of learning is reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is the reward, negative reinforcement occurs when we remove disruptive stimulant away from the body. If is some of operant reinforced, the probability of its repeating increases. This is the theory of operant conditioning. Every random motion of an animal that it does can be understood as "operant". When this movement will be rewarded, we are creating operant conditioning. When is the experimenter rotating series of small random motions one by one, he can be able to shape the behaviour of the animal until it is able to act the way, which was not part of its natural or original nature. Furthermore Skinner coined the term "black box" where is stored anything that is not accessible to direct observations, it means emotions and cognitive processes. He was concentrating only on the sequence of motor behaviour and he was examining the possibility of their influence and reaching their enduring change. This certainly allowed self-restraint, however, lead the researcher during the next period to the erroneous conclusion that b concerned during the psychological research with what is reliably stored in that "black box" - is not actually necessary. Skinner himself clearly distanced himself from the term "therapy" - mainly individual therapy. He was naming his approach as "behaviour change". Initially he attracted the attention only in an area, which is closely connected with influencing of the behaviour in the broadest sense, which was in education. Here, however, this approach has proved extremely successful.

Narrow focus of classic behaviourism overtook neo-behaviourism, which is trying to integrate behaviourism and psychoanalysis. Factors are, according to this theory instinctive need, signal and the response. Instinctive need is a construct that includes any sufficiently strong stimulus for evocation of the response, it can be also called motivation. The signal controls when, where and with how a response will particular individual response react. The response itself is the result of instinctive needs a signal. Learning occurs at the moment when the organism will have some response. Any event that increases the tendency to repeat a challenge is called hardening.

Social learning and conditioning

Reward and punishments, which provide other people, have great importance on the behaviour of individuals. Social learning is therefore considered as a specific case of operant conditioning. Some behaviours one can learn from direct experience, which is how it is rewarded or punished for behaving in a certain way. It is therefore a strengthening, which may be either direct - material rewards, social approval or disapproval, or substitutional – when is followed someone who is socially punished or rewarded for behaviour that is similar to me myself and which is self-rewarded or self-punished ever occurs when we are evaluating our own performance when we praise or punish ourselves.

People generally tend to behave in a manner, which is likely to induce strengthen. People are learning a lot of reactions without direct empowerment, through observation and therefore thank to surrogate learning. People behave consistently, if they are remaining in relatively constant situations they encounter, and they also play consistent role. It is also a lot of behaviour that in different environments is not rewarded nor punished, and every individual is gradually learning to recognize the context in which is the particular behaviour appropriate and in others inappropriate.

Theory of learning

Learning is a relatively enduring change in an individual that is saved based on his lived experience with the external environment, or with his or her own movements. Such change is reflected in the change in manner of behaviour, in thoughts, experiencing or physiological response in situations similar nature and character or in similar activities.

The basic types of learning are three basic models of learning based on cognitive behavioural methods: The first model refers to methods, which are based on learning and unlearning, on associations between stimulus and response. It is a classical conditioning, the second model is the basis of operant conditioning methods, which aim is planned behaviour modification through manipulation and consequences that such behaviour causes. The third model takes into account the processes of perception and mental activity of the monitored person. Approaches based on this model are referred to as social learning theory - or cognitive behavioural theory. These models can also be described clearly as follows:


Initiative -> Reaction


Initiative -> Response -> Consequence


Initiative -> Response -> Organism -> Effect

Conditioning is thus creating temporary connections (reflexes, habits) between a specific stimulus situation and response of individual’s to it. According to the arrangement of learning situations and anticipated internal learning processes distinguishes classical and operant conditioning.

Cognitive theory and social learning theory suggest that cognitive processes have intermediary function between stimuli and behaviour. It is not the initiative itself, which raises certain behaviour, but the importance, which will any person attribute to it. Cognitive processes in the sense that the consequences have of such importance that the client attribute to it, influence even the consequences. Cognitive processes are considered as a mediating variable. Thus, learning can occur without direct reinforcement, it can occur only with help of cognitive processes can provide (e.g. the influence of advertising on food choices).

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