Behaviorism and Related Topics

Behaviorism and Related Topics


Behaviorism stemmed from the behaviorist school of psychology.  It simply states that the things that humans or animals do, whether it be acting, feeling or thinking – are all considered as behavior which can be observed.  It considers psychology as a science of behavior.  It doesn’t use introspection as a mehod.  There are three type of behaviorism:  Psychological Behaviorism; Analytical Behaviorism; and Methodological Behaviorism.


Psychological Behaviorism refers to explaining human and animal psychology as a result of stimuli, responses and experience.  It involves concepts of punishment and reinforcement.


Analytical Behaviorism states that when we appoint a particular impression or idea about someone, it doesn’t mean that this person in a particular state or condition.  Instead, we characterize a person on how he or she might do in a specif situation or environment.


Below are examples of people’s observable behavior and what affects and motivates them.


The first related topic is called relational aggression.  This is an observable behavior in adolescents, most commonly in girls.  Such behavior will remind some of the movie “Mean Girls”.


Relational Aggression refers to accomplishing harm unto others by manipulating or damaging relationships.  In this form of aggression, social relationships are used as the vehicle for harming a peer.  This is prevalent in exclusive girls’ schools where the girls usually resort to gossip and reputation-bashing rather than physical violence which commonly happens among boys.


Exclusion, rumors, taunts, alliance building, cyberbullying, covert physical, cold shoulder treatment, aggression are some of the common means of causing hurt on another person.  For example, a girl becomes jealous of a classmate and she makes up stories about this classmate.  She makes up stories about her values and tells everyone that this classmate has been sleeping around.  Such rumor discourages other people to befriend this classmate and results to her being ostracized by students and teachers within the school.  The jealous girl then achieves her goal of excluding her classmate an possible taking away positive limelight on this classmate.  Such offensive action by the jealous girl is called relational aggression.


There are two type of relational aggression (RA).  The first type is called Proactive RA.  This type is meant to achieve a goal.  The example above is of this type.  The second type of is called Reactive RA.  In Reactive RA, the act of aggression is meant as a defensive response with an intent to retaliate.  For example a boy gets teased and bullied.  To protect himself, he also teases other kids and those who bully him.


What motivates relational aggression? There are several reasons for this type of aggression, namely: belonging, fear, power and drama.  Almost everybody wants to belong.  Others will use the tactics mentioned above to belong to a group.  Some are afraid of being rejected or ostracized and will use relational aggression methods to avoid being disliked.  Other use this to obtain social power while others like the drama that goes with it because they are bored with their lives.


Most often relational aggression happens in pre teen and teenage years.  However, if not addressed properly there may be long term effects until adulthood.  There may be adjustment problems in adult life for those who are victims of relational aggression.  Thos who suffer social rejection in early years may also display anti- social behavior in his or her adult years.  A child or adult victimized by relational aggression can suffer depression,, loneliness, anxiety and low self-esteem.  In extreme cases, targets of relational aggression may even commit suicide.


It may also be worthwhile to explain the complex social structure of adolescents, especially among girls.


The Queen

The queen is usually charming to adults and manipulatively affectionate.  She is not intimidated by other girls and usually has them at her beck and call.  Her evaluation of right and wrong depends on the loyalty of those around her.  She doesn’t take responsibility for hurting other people’s feelings.  She is extremely conscious about her image and puts a lot of effort in maintaining it.  She believs that her image revolves around her relationships with others.



The Sidekick

The sidekick rarely says her opinions and she gets pushed around by the Queen.  She is extremely loyal to the Queen and her social status  dpends on the Queen’s perception of her.


The Gossip

The Gossip is usually a good communicator and someone who gains people’s trust.  She gets her power through the information she gets from people around her.  She uses this confidential information to gain social leverage.


The Floater

The Floater’s self-esteem isn’t anchored on one group.  She may usually stand up against the Queen.  She is usually adequately pretty and smart and uses this as her protection against aggression towards her.


The Torn Bystander

She is usually caught in the crossfire and may often be forced to choose allegiances.  She is usually accommodating and wants everyone to get along.  unlike the Floater she will make ways to fit into a group and be accepted.


The Wannabe

She usually cannot make her own decision and puts others’ need on top of hers.  She likes to be needed and will do anything to be part of the inner group of the Queen and the sidekick.  A wannabe do not have her own principles and values and a firm grip of who she is.

The Target

The victim of relational aggression.  She may feel rejected, isolated and lonely.  She pretends that she is okay by rejecting people and putting on a show that she is not affected.  At times, she may be tempted to change herself to fit  in and stop the aggression.


Some people also tend to display an overly passive behavior, quite opposite as the one discussed above.  Instead of aggression some people are overly shy.  Sometimes it hinders them from doing certain activities and attaining their potential.  This overly passive behavior may be a symptom of an extreme version of social anxiety.


Social Anxiety is defined as an emotional discomfort and fear in social occasions.  It may also be defined as being ” marked by persistent fear of one or more social performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people and possible scrutiny of others.” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition) In mild cases it may be classified as shyness and in extreme situation it may become a disorder.  It is common in early childhood but an individual outgrows it through adulthood.


An individual experiencing social anxiety is usually conscious of what people think of him or her.  He or she may be scared to eat of eating in public or be shy around people.  Some are afraid of doing specific tasks in front of people and may experience performance anxiety, fear of public speaking and stage fright.


Components of social anxiety include, Psychological; Cognitive; and Behavioral.  In the psychological component, symptoms are sweating, trembling and inability to speak.  It also includes nausea and butterflies in the stomach.  The cognitive component is exemplified by thoughts of being judged negatively.  Such thoughts may inhibit an individual to perform tasks.  Behavioral component may include avoidance of such situations that cause social anxiety.


Many of us may experience some of the symptoms of social anxiety at one time or the other.  This makes this a normal behavior.  However, it becomes a disorder once it hinders us from functioning in our daily lives.  To an extent social anxiety is normal but extreme cases may need expert advice.


Behavior is also said to be affected by society.  Erikson’s idea of social development discusses how children socialize and how it affects their behavior and personality.  Erikson suggests that there are stages of social development that each child must successfully complete for a healthy interaction with other people from childhood through adulthood.

The first stage is Trust Versus Mistrust. From ages birth to one year, children learn the concept of trust based on the actions of their caregivers.  If they develop trust, this encourages feeling of security and confidence.  If they don’t learn to trust, they develop feelings of anxiety, heightened insecurities, and an over all feeling of mistrust of people around them.

The second stage is called Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. Between the ages of one and three, children begin to assert their independence.  They begin to make their own decisions such as what to wear and walking away from their caregivers. Children must be encouraged in this newfound independence to be confident about the world they live in. If they are criticized, and over-controlled, they begin to feel inadequate, insecure, afraid of their surrounding and overly dependent on other people.

The third stage is Initiative vs. Guilt.  About age three and continuing to age six, children assert themselves frequently. Children start to plan activities, make up games, and initiate activities with others.  If allowed to thrive in this stage,, children develop a sense of initiative, and develop leadership abilities.  If this tendency is discouraged, children develop a sense of guilt. They develop a feeling of being a nuisance to others and will therefore remain followers, lacking in self-initiative.

The fourth stage is Industry vs. Inferiority. From age six years to puberty, children start to develop a sense of pride in their achievements and accomplishments. At this time, their activities in school and the role of teachers are important.  They begin to plan projects and execute them through completion.  They become makers and feel proud of their projects. When not properly facilitated, the child begins to feel inferior, doubting his own abilities and therefore may not reach his potential.

The fifth stage is called Identity vs. Role Confusion. During adolescence, this is  transition from childhood to adulthood and is most important. Those in this stage begin to plan their future such as careers, family, etc.   They start to explore possibilities and begin to form their own identity and the role they will play in the world.

The next stage, Intimacy vs. Isolation. This stage marks the sharing of intimate relationships with others other than the person’s family. If a success, this leads to a sense of commitment, safety, caring for others and a long term relationship.  Failure of this stage leads to avoiding intimacy, fearing commitment and relationships can lead to isolation, loneliness, and sometimes depression.

The seventh stage is called Generativity vs. Stagnation. The middle adulthood stage is when we establish our careers, settle down, have families and plan our adult lives. We begin to take a role in society becoming a very productive part of it.  Failure to complete this stage leads to feeling unproductive and useless.


The last stage is called Ego Integrity vs. Despair. This stage is experienced by senior citizens and retired people. It is in this stage that people evaluate their lives, if they had contributed to society of not.  If people in this stage feel that they had been unproductive in their lives, they begin to feel guilty, lonely and depressed.







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