Uploaded by Harry Cordero Castillo


Behaviorism is a learning theory which considers anything an organism do as a behavior. According to the
behaviorist, these behaviors can be scientifically studied regardless of what happens in the mind (psychological
constructs such as thoughts, feelings…)
As a theory behaviorism focuses on observable behaviors and contents that there are no philosophical differences
between publicly observable processes (such as actions) and privately observable processes (such as thinking and
Behaviorism main figures
Ivan Pavlov, who investigated classical conditioning.
John B. Watson, defined learning as a sequence of stimulus and response actions in observable cause and effect
B.F. Skinner who conducted research on operant conditioning.
Basic assumptions of the Behaviorist Theory
Learning is manifested by a change in behavior.
The environment shapes behavior.
Learning can be studied most objectively when the focus of study is on stimuli and responses
The principles of contiguity (how close in time two events must be for a bond to be formed) and reinforcement
(any means of increasing the likelihood that an event will be repeated) are central to explaining the learning
Classical Conditioning
Operant Conditioning (Radical Behaviorism)
According to Skinner, voluntary or automatic behavior is either strengthened or weakened by the immediate
presence of reinforcement or punishment. New learning occurs as a result of positive reinforcement and
undesirable behavior is discarded through negative reinforcement.
Teaching and Behaviorism
Skinner explains that teaching is the arrangement of contingencies of reinforcement under which students learn.
Of course students learn without being taught in their natural environments, but when teachers arrange special
contingencies, this accelerates learning. That is these contingencies will speed up the emergence of behavior which
would otherwise be acquired slowly or make sure the desired behavior would appear, which otherwise would never
occur. (Skinner, 1968, p.64)
Examples of the applications in teaching
Directed instruction (a teacher is provides the knowledge to the students either directly or through the set up of
The use of exams to measure observable behavior of learning.
The use of rewards and punishments in our school systems.
The audiolingual approach to language teaching.
Criticism of Behaviorism
Behavioral theories do not account for free will and internal influences such as moods, thoughts, and feelings.
As a learning theory, Behaviorism doesn’t take into account important internal processes that take place in the
People and animals are able to adapt their behavior when new information is introduced, even if a previous
behavior pattern has been established through reinforcement.
There are many instances of learning that occurs without the use of reinforcements or punishments.
Behaviorists focus on the target, desirable behavior, that is the product. They fail to explain how humans learn, the
process through which the learning takes place.
For a behaviorist what occurs between the stimulus and the response (the black box) is of little importance. The
very meaning of the learning process is banned from any scientific analysis in the behavioristic approach (the black
box shouldn’t be opened.)
As a learning theory Behaviorism focuses on the observable behavior which they claim must be the subject of a
scientific study. Although this type of study will yield measurable results, and can be applicable to a number
of cases, such as in treatments for human disorders including autism, anxiety disorders and antisocial behavior, it
fails to account for the learning process and how the mind and the affective domain interfere in the processing of