Major Players and Concepts
- Ivan Pavlov (1850?)– Salivating Dogs Experiment
- Edward Lee Thorndike (1898)– Reinforcement
- B.F. Skinner (1950)– Behaviorism and Learning
- John B. Watson (1930)
Theory in a Nutshell
Behaviorism begins with an observable behavior, which is then reinforced through positive and negative stimulus. Such learning is focused on training individuals to do a particular observable behavior and requires limited internal motivations.
Operant Conditioning– learning through consequences (Skinner)
Classic Conditioning (Pavlov)-Learning happens by associating a stimulus with a new response, which generates new relationships between the two for the learner (Conditioned Response).
While working with a construction company on best communication practices, I discovered a specific problem. Supervisors often had to speak directly with the local population about hazards and concerns. I have been thinking a lot about this issue, because communication is my subject area and I’m not sure anyone has thought through some of what needs to be learned.
The construction company needed behaviorist lessons, in order to provides lessons in which “the transmission of information from teacher to learner is essentially the transmission of the response appropriate to a certain stimulus” (Berkley ‘Behavorism’).
A member of the population comes up to a crew member and is irate because of the noise and congestion the construction is causing. I want the observable response of the supervisor to be controlled and anger-free. To help the supervisor face this issue, the supervisor is given three specific steps to follow:
- Have the person go with you to another part of the construction, which is not dangerous, and you can give them your attention.
- Stand with open posture. Allow the person to speak and respond in a calm tone: Thank you for bringing this issue to my attention.
- Give the person a contact number at the company, so someone can address the concerns in a safe and calm manner.
Stimulus: Angry Person
Anger causes other people to respond angrily- an unconditioned stimulus. (McLeod 2018)
Conditioned Stimulus: Angry Person approaches; Conditioned Response: Supervisor follows calming script provided by company (McLeod 2018)
Supervisors have fewer complaints and disruptions: Improves employee morale.
Multiple complaints and meetings about how to behave or allowing situations to escalate causing lower employee morale.
Does this theory work?
- Reinforces Training Behaviors
- Develops set patterns of behavior to help everyone navigate certain situations easier, which includes quantifiable results.
- We can measure the success of these behavior patterns (Berkley ‘Behavorism’).
- Extremely old theory focused exclusively on psychology and ignores pre-existing learning theories and techniques.
- Limited learning engagement or agency for learners.
- Relies on cause and effect, and reduces higher level thinking.
- Students become so consumed with outside reinforcements (grades) that they lack appropriate internal motivators.
B. F. Skinner’s 1950 article, “Are Theories of Learning Necessary?” Psychological Review, 57, 193-216.
Stanford’s Behaviorism page provides quite a depth of information about the theory and types:https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/behaviorism
McLeod, S. A. (2015). Skinner – Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html