Knowledge And Application Of Psychology Essay Examples
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Since the early days of psychology, scientists were extremely curious about the functioning of the brain and its role in learning new information/knowledge. It is this time when behavioral learning theory was developed. The followers of this theory defined learning to be a permanent change in the behavior of a person brought about as an outcome of a practice or an experience. They believed learning to be an external event and study the impact of environment on one’s behavior. Two major behavioral theories that developed during these times were: Classical or Respondent Conditioning theory and Operant or instrumental conditioning theory.
The first model to be developed and studied under the behavioral tradition was Classical Conditioning theory. John Watson proposed and stressed that the process of classical conditioning can explain all the aspects of human behavior and psychology. Everything in a human being, ranging from speech to the emotional reactions to a situation, is a pattern of stimulus and its response. Watson, in his classical conditioning model, went as far as to completely deny the existence of any kind of consciousness or mind.
This model defines conditioning as a response, which is developed through repeated exposure to certain patterns of stimuli. Classical conditioning revolves around the principle of automatic or reflexive responses, and not voluntary reactions. The basic fundamental process for classical conditioning can be explained by its three stages:
Before Conditioning: In this phase, the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) leads to the formation of unconditioned response (UCR) in a creature. In simple terms, it means that a stimulus has produced a response in an organism that has not been taught. This response has been generated on the knowledge acquired previously. Therefore, no new behavior has been learned yet.
Another stimulus involved in this stage is a neutral stimulus, i.e. a stimulus that produces no response at all.
During Conditioning: In this stage, a neutral stimulus associates with an unconditioned stimulus to become a conditioned stimulus.
After Conditioning: At this point, the conditioned stimulus associates itself with an unconditioned stimulus to produce a conditioned response.
Other conditioning model that gained popularity along with the Classical Conditioning was Operant Conditioning model. B.F. Skinner, who proposed the model, was a little less rigid than Watson. He did believe in the existence of the mind, but stressed that it was easier and more productive to learn from observation of external behavior, rather than mental processes. He believed that looking at the causes of an action and its consequences was the best way to understand a behavioral pattern. This approach went on to be called as operant conditioning. With his work based on Thorndike’s law of effect, Skinner was regarded as the father of operant conditioning. He introduced a new term, reinforcement, into the law of effect. Behavior that tends to be repeated is reinforced or strengthened; the one that dies out is not reinforced or weakened (Thorndike, 1905). He identified three types of operant or responses that follow behavior:
Neutral Operant: These are the responses generated from the environment for a particular action, which neither increase nor decrease the probability of that action being repeated in the future.
Reinforcers: These are the responses that increase the probability of an action being repeated. They can either be positive or negative.
Punishers: These are the responses that decrease the probability of an action being repeated. They weaken the behavior.
Classical conditioning is highly prevalent in our everyday lives. People fail to realize that the delicious appearance and presentation of odorless and unnatural foods owe their beauty to the process of classical conditioning.
Another significant aspect of classical conditioning is that it takes place unconsciously. The areas of the brain responsible for conditioning are different from those responsible for our conscious memories. The conditioned response obtained is called classical conditioning, and cannot be controlled at will; they are involuntary responses. It is easy to suppress the behavior but not the urges that come along with the behavior (Morsella, 2005).
Understanding of classical conditioning theory can help us understand the addiction, how it works and impacts our lives. It can help us understand the changes in the body process and reactions when drugs or alcohol is consumed and how can they be curbed.
Another useful implication of classical conditioning is the appetizer effect. If there are numerous neutral stimuli predicting a meal consistently, it can cause people to feel hungry, because of the involuntary changes induced in the body by the stimuli.
Classical conditioning is also being used in the efforts for wildlife conservation. A technique of taste aversion is being used on lions to keep them from preying the cattle. This will, in effect, prevent farmers from hunting and killing the lions.
Just like classical conditioning, operant conditioning plays an equally important role in our daily lives. A significant share of our behavior is impacted by the acknowledgements we get for behaving in a specific way. Students study for rewards, adults go to work in order to receive money, or other material and non-material benefits.
Understanding of operant conditioning can help us alter a particular behavior pattern as desired. Our behavior shapes up during the course of our lives because of our values, principles, attitudes, and beliefs.
Operant conditioning can also be applied in various forms of behavioral therapy or modification. It can greatly help in removing malicious behavior patterns and adapt a cleaner socially adaptive behavior. Many bad habits like smoking, drinking, drugs, etc. can be removed and it can help a person gain greater self-control.
It is also important in the field of education. It plays a great role in devising educational programs, such as personalized system of instructions or programmed learning. In the case of programmed learning, the complex task that needs to be achieved is broken into smaller units. The performance and the response of the owner at each unit is reinforced by the end of the exercise and hence, a new behavior is said to be inculcated. The personalized system of instruction is similar to programmed instruction, except that each sub-unit needs to be mastered with expertise before moving onto the next unit. This serves as an enthusiastic reinforcement for the students.
Reinforcement principles play a great deal in the business operations. Its proper application can lead to increased productivity by employees and hence, company profits. The positive reinforcement in the form of praises by the boss will eventually mold the employees in a way that they become more effective in their jobs.
Off late, operant conditioning has also been applied to control the visceral responses of the body, such as heartbeats, intestinal contractions, dilation of blood vessels, etc. If developed properly, it can be used to treat people suffering from blood pressure problems.
Morsella, E. (2005). Classical Conditioning in Everyday Life. Psychological Review.
Thorndike, E. L. (1905). The elements of psychology. New York: A. G. Seiler.
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