2.1 Psychology as an objective science
Behaviourism was an approach driven by an attempt to treat psychology as an objective science. To do this, behaviourists focused only on directly observable, measurable events and behaviours. Consequently, they rejected theorising about ‘mental events’ to explain why we do the things we do. The behaviourist approach considered how the environments that people live in influence their behaviour. Learning was defined as any relatively permanent change in behaviour produced by environmental events. The process of learning was referred to as ‘conditioning’ and two forms of conditioning were identified: classical conditioning, and operant conditioning
At this point, you will find it useful to consider whether this view of learning matches your own understanding of the ways in which people learn.
Of particular importance in the behaviourist view is the way in which the consequences of a particular behaviour influence the chances of that behaviour happening again. Table 1 illustrates how, in behaviourism, an event is defined as reinforcement or punishment depending on how the event influences the frequency of the behaviour it follows. This view sees the significant factors affecting learning and development as being outside the child.