Mental events

Psychology is defined as a science that focuses on the study of and to explain the way human’s think, behave, and feel. The behaviourist school of psychology is concerned with the explanation of behaviour through observable outcomes without making reference to mental events. Behaviourism is very narrow and can be strongly objected in its approach to psychology, as it does not consider the mental thought process involvement in behaviour. This school of psychology is very much about nurture rather than nature. (Harre and Lamb, 1983).

In early 20th century there was a surge of interest in the explaining of how learning takes place by exploring the observable mechanisms of learning. This new interest focused on observable forms of behaviour, which included bodily movement that was visible by an observer, and also the internal physical processes connected to overt bodily movement and how these could be modified. This interest developed into the psychological theory of behaviourism. (McInerney, 1998)

Behaviourists believe that behaviour is simply learned habits and reactions humans and animals and personality merely a collection of these habits. Therefore the goal of behaviourism is to predict, modify and condition human behaviour (” The Behavioural Approach”). A behaviourist psychologist aims to recondition patients’ behaviour and reactions to stimuli. These goals would be used in circumstances such as drug abuse, alcoholism, overcoming phobias and teaching children and teenagers.

According to behaviourism basically all behaviour can be explained as the product of learning and all learning consists of conditioning (Colman, 2001). The belief is that human behaviour can be trained because human emotions are so malleable therefore personality is forever changeable (Cohen, 1979). Behaviour is simply a reaction to a stimulus which once learned becomes part of learned habit. It was also believed learning occurs through the reinforcement of certain aspects of the situation.

Reinforcement is when something is added to the situation which makes the same reaction in that situation more likely in future (McInerney, 1998). The belief was that most of behaviour is a result of what has been learnt, which is to say that it is the result of the environment rather than biological influences. Therefore the study of learning and the conditions under which it occurs is the core project of behaviourism (Tennant, 1997)

Behaviouristic therapy is aimed at the modification of behaviour especially undesirable ones by mainly reinforcing the desirable behaviour and suppressing or punishing the undesirable and unwanted behaviour. Once the therapist has identified the behaviour and triggering factors they may employ several techniques to condition or recondition the person’s behaviour. These methods of therapy have been derived and adapted by experiments done by earlier behaviourists such as Pavlov, Watson and Skinner. Methods used today include desentisation, aversion/sensitisation therapy and flooding (“Changing States”).

Desensitisation is a form of reconditioning focused on progressively relaxing the patient towards the feared stimulus even when the stimulus is not present. Desentisation is especially useful in people who have phobias and are fearful of potential presence. In these cases the person is slowly encouraged to relax and re-establish a reaction to the though of the stimuli’s presence (“Changing States”).

Aversion/Sensitisation therapy is basically the opposite of desensitisation. The focus of this therapy is for the subject to dislike the stimulus that the subject perceives as pleasurable. This is achieved by associating a negative stimulus with the ‘pleasurable’ one in order to recondition the behaviour of like to hate in response to the stimulus. This therapy is useful in smoking habits; alcoholism and drug abuse (“Changing States”.) The ‘flooding’ technique involves the subject focusing their thoughts on the worst possible outcome or event. The purpose of this is that the subject focuses so much on this that they are literally flooded with these great fears. Because the subject is thinking so much about this fear, the stimulus loses it potential to create such fear and anxiety (“Changing States”).

The behavioural approach to psychology emphasises the effects that environmental stimuli can have on a person. Because of the importance of the environment, behavioural psychologists concentrate on the process of learning and any lasting change that occurs as a result …

The purpose of this essay is to discuss and evaluate different approaches that are used to find the cause and treat various mental disorders. There are five major approaches in Psychology, which are: The Behaviourist Approach, The Cognitive Approach, The …

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Unlike classical conditioning, operant conditioning is not induced by a specific stimulus; it is more a voluntary action. Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1949) first became aware of this and constructed a puzzle box designed for cats. The task for the cat was …

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