Comprehensive Description of the Behavioral Approach. Strengths and Limitations of Behaviourism

Academic Paper 2017 9 Pages

Medicine - Neurology, Psychiatry, Addiction


It appears that the field of psychology is becoming extremely fascinating day-by-day owing to the sophistication of newly designed psychology approaches and research advancement. It is evidently true that the discipline of psychology has undergone transient evolution since its inception, and further developments are inevitable because; psychological research is currently widening to incorporate different perspective, which were not studied in psychology in the past. Initially, psychology emerged as one of the classical disciplines of science but, it has advanced significantly, especially after psychologists established the new branch of applied psychology whose application is gaining popularity. Currently, psychology does not only entail the social aspect of the human mind, but it also involves biological perspective and, this has led to the emergence of biopsychology and cognitive psychology.

Concisely, biopsychology applies biological and psychological approaches to investigate the interactions between the mind, behaviour, body and the environment and, it has expanded extensively in the field of psychoneuroimmunology and behavioural genetics (Mills College, 2013 par. 1). As such, it involves some of the most complex topics in biology such as genetics and the immune function in regard to the effects of environment on personality, mood and behaviour of an individual. In general, it deals with mechanisms through which the nervous system and the brain control behaviour. On the other hand, cognitive psychology deals mental processes, especially with regard to the information acquisition by the memory, processing and storage. As such, it studies all mental abilities ranging from perception, language processing to problem-solving in day-to-day life (Yale University, 2013 p. 1). However, it is worth noting that there are different approaches of psychology but, behaviourist approach seems to explain the interaction of the human mind and the environment. Therefore, this essay will provide a comprehensive description of the behavioural approach and evaluate its strengths and limitations.

Behaviourism is relatively different from the other psychology approaches, which focus on the functioning of the human brain in respect to emotion and thinking because; it is concerned primarily with the observable behaviour rather than the internal events. It entails the interpretation of human behaviour from the external events with regard to the environment. As such, it applies scientific and objective approaches to measure observable behaviour, which is usually interplay between biological functions of the brain and the environmental stimuli. Sammons remarks “show that people are quite capable of observing and learning from the behaviour and experiences of others” (p. 2). It is believed that behaviourism emerged as one of the principal paradigms of psychology during the first half of the 20th century, in which several assumptions on behavioural analysis and methodology formed a new avenue of understanding among psychologists. In behaviourism, individuals are believed to possess no free will in nature but, the interaction with the environment determines their observable behaviour (McLeod, 2007 p. 1). It is the stimulus-response association that is manifested as an individual’s behaviour but, not necessarily the internal processes of the human brain. Therefore, behaviourism approach accomplishes one of the most fundamental purposes of psychology of predicting the outcome of a stimulus. McLeod (2007) reaffirms Watson’s remarks, “the purpose of psychology [is] to predict, given the stimulus, what reaction will take place; or, given the reaction, state what the situation or stimulus is that has caused the reaction” (p. 1).

In regard to the evaluation of the behaviourism approach, this approach gains its strengths from the methodologies, which are adopted by behaviourists because; they involve significant insistence on precise measurements, control over variables and objectivity. This probably the reason as to why behaviourists are considered to have played significant roles in introducing behaviourism, which is a scientific method, into psychology (Sammons, n.d. p. 2). However, it is believed that this approach encompasses a number of drawbacks because; it applies methods, which study behaviour under artificial conditions or the so-called ‘built environments’. In most cases, these artificial conditions have been evaluated to be relatively different from the real-world context and, this has attracted an unprecedented criticism, especially with regard to the use of animals in behavioural studies (Sammons, n.d. 2). Moreover, this approach is extensively criticised because it tends to overlook the significant influences of the internal mental processes associated with learning. The principle notion among behaviourists is that learning is attributable to personal experiences but, not the cognitive activity of the human brain; thus, behaviour is acquired. This understanding among behaviourists has been discredited after a comprehensive evaluation of some of its key theories such as classical and operant conditioning, in which the problem-solving ability of human beings is not adequately explained because the aspect of mental processes is excluded in studying human behaviour.

Strengths of behavioural approach are quite numerous compared to the other psychology approaches and this makes it one of the most viable approaches for studying human behaviour. Some of the most significant strengths of the behaviourism approach include its dependence on science, high applicability, a wide array of supportive experiments and its emphasis on objective measurements. In addition, behaviourism applies identified comparison between humans and animals in the interpretation of stimuli responses.

It is believed that the scientific approach of behaviourism enables behaviourists to study human behaviour through the use of controlled variables under objective measurements to establish the underlying effects and causes of the independent, extraneous and dependent variables. Precision in behaviourism can be attributed to a number of scientific features such as objectivity, control, hypothesis testing, predictability and replication. Control of variables enables behaviourists to establish the effect of dependent variables, whereas the cause of the stimulus is evaluated by the use of independent variables and, this enhances predictability of the future behaviour of an individual or experimental animal. On the other hand, scientific investigations are aimed at testing the hypothesis derived from a given theory; thus, experimental findings can be replicated to build a universal consensus among the experimentalists (McLeod, 2008 p. 2). As a result, the results obtained provide substantial evidence of the dramatic discoveries to avoid ambiguity as it is the case with the other psychology approaches.

The second strength of the behaviourism approach is that it is highly applicable. Some of the areas where behaviourism is applied include gender role development, behaviour modification, behavioural therapy, moral development, addiction to drugs and aggression. It is also applied in aversion therapy, language development, relationships and scientific methods (McLeod, 2007 p. 3). Its applicability has made it be highly accepted by experimentalists in psychology and other scientific disciplines leading to the advancement of research on human behaviour.



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Title: Comprehensive Description of the Behavioral Approach. Strengths and Limitations of Behaviourism