Behaviorism

What Is Behaviorism?

Behaviorism is a learning theory that seeks to identify observable, measurable laws that could help explain human behavior. This school of thought contends that a human being is essentially a blank slate that can be taught any task or behavior with the right conditioning, or interaction with stimuli in the environment, regardless of individual traits and thinking patterns. That conditioning may be neutral or may include consequences, such as rewards or punishments. 

Although modern psychology pays more attention to the inner landscape of emotions and thought, behavioral therapy techniques are often used to help with developing new skills, connecting the steps required to complete a task, and rewarding desired behavior, particularly in the areas of developmental delays and modification of problematic behaviors. The theory of behaviorism laid the groundwork for understanding how we learn, and has had a durable influence on everything from animal training to parenting techniques to teaching standards.

The Desire for Predictability

Most people behave in ways that conform to norms of expected behavior throughout the different stages of their lives; therefore human behavior is said to be quite predictable. Most people also expect others to behave in a predictable fashion. On a social level, behavioral predictability builds confidence and trust. Behaviors and attitudes that deviate too far from the established norm or that are erratic and unpredictable are often considered unacceptable. At the same time, some people appreciate breaks in predictable routines. Some experts fear that, overall, predictability is being compromised in our competitive and ever-changing global economy and use of virtual systems. 

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Punishment

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