The behaviourist approach to psychology

What is the behaviourist approach in psychology? What are the main assumptions? Where have the ideas been applied and what are the strengths and weaknesses?

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Behaviourists investigate behaviour using strict laboratory experimentation. Such methods are objective and thus the results can be considered scientific. This approach mainly uses non-human animals in experiments, there are several reasons that they believe this is the best method of study, they are;

(a) The laws of leaning are universal
(b) There is only a quantitative difference between animals and humans
(c) Using animals in experiments can be more ethical
(d) Animals are also more convenient to test


The major area of explanation is that of learning (for example operant and classical conditioning, these are the key learning processes). The discoveries concerning the laws of learning have been applied to many aspects of behaviour such as;

1. Moral development - for example the conditioned emotional response of guilt and conscience.

2. Language Acquisition - for example Skinners theory that adults shape a child's language through operant conditioning (correct grammar is reinforced and incorrect grammar is not).

3. Attraction - reinforcement affect models have been applied ...