A Critique of the Behavioural Theories of Learning

4649 words 19 pages

One of the most debated issues in psychology pertains to the nature and meaning of learning. The systematic study of learning is relatively new as it was in the late nineteenth century that studies in this realm began in a scientific manner. Psychologists borrowed techniques from the physical sciences, and conducted experiments to understand how people and animals learn. Psychologists have tried in the past to define and explain how learning takes place. Two of the most important early researchers were Ivan Pavlov and Edward Thorndike. Among later researchers, B. F. Skinner was important for his studies of the relationship between behaviour and consequences. They are also known as
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(p. 294), can be adaptive. For example a child if taught to fear fast moving cars in a street would also fear other vehicles like trucks, and motorcycles. Or a child, if bitten by a dog would probably fear all dogs. Myers D.G cite Berry and Mc Arthur 1986 in which adults with child like features like a round face, large eyes and small chin were perceived as having child like warmth, submissiveness and naiveté.
Pavlov’s dogs also learned to response to a particular tone and not to others. This concept implies the learned ability to distinguish between a conditioned stimulus and other stimuli that do not signal an unconditioned stimulus.
Examples Of Classical Conditioning In Humans The following example clarifies how this principle applies in our lives. A child is harassed at school and he feels bad when harassed. The child thus associates being harassed and school. The child begins to feel bad when she thinks of school. In the above example, in order to extinguish the associated of feeling bad and thinking of school, the connection between school and being harassed must be broken.
Similarly many phobias like the fear of dental work, fear of dogs, fear of snakes etc are examples of conditioning. Pavlov’s work also provided a basis for Watson J.B. to define behaviour as a bundle of conditioned responses. He did not give importance to inner thoughts, feelings and motives. John Hopkins Magazine


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