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13. Behaviorism


Two major traditions in Psychology:

  • Behaviorism – looking externally at what people do
  • Cognitivism – what’s internally going on in people’s heads

Definition of Behaviorism (Dictionary.com):

The theory or doctrine that human or animal psychology can be accurately studied only through the examination and analysis of objectively observable and quantifiable behavioral events, in contrast with subjective mental stress.

The Behaviorism Program

  • The Black Box – What’s in the person’s head is off limits
  • We can hypothesis things that are external (what the person does)

Behaviorism is about influencing behavior though the use of a stimulus.

Two forms of Behaviorism:

  • Classical Conditioning (Stimulus)
  • Operant Conditioning (Response, Consequences)

Classical Conditioning Example:

  • Evan Pavlov’s conditioned reflex where he associating ringing of bells to salivation of dogs

Operant Conditioning Example:

  • BF Skinner’s operant conditioning chamber (Skinner box) used to measure responses of organisms and their orderly interactions with the environment. 
  • A stimuli causes a behavior which has positive or negative consequences.
  • As a result of the consequences, the behavior changes (learning to make associations).

Behavioral Economics

  • People make “mistakes” consistently
    • Loss aversion
      • People feel more concerned about losses than gains
    • Power of defaults
      • People tend to go with defaults
    • Confirmation bias
      • People tend to see what they are looking for
  • Still a form of behaviorism

Learnings from Behaviorism

  • Observation
    • Look at what people actually do
    • Learn about what people respond to a stimulus
  • Feedback loops
    • When feedback on behavior can be observed, it tends to produce a respond
    • Circular process of action, feedback and respond tends to motivate behavior
  • Reinforcement
    • Learning occurs by the reinforcement of stimuli
    • When a certain action always produces a certain result, we tend to learn and make the association

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