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Learning Paradigms: Behaviorism, Social Cognition, and Attachment Theory (Essay Sample)


A reaction paper on the learning paradigm in psychology. the paper looks at the works of various authors and psychologists as concerns learning including B.f Skinner and Alfred Bandura


Professors Name
Learning Paradigm
Learning simply defined is the process of acquiring knowledge through practice training and experience. Learning eventually helps people and animals to understand and eventually interact with their environment and the world. It further influences the behavior of such organisms ensuring that they can effectively operate and use such knowledge as they have acquired. For psychologists, the process that motivates or influences learning is a significant ground of study. Various scholars have advanced theories that try to explain the processes and motivations of learning. Theorists such as BF Skinner, Jean Piaget, John B Watson, John Dollard Neal Miller, Albert Bandura among others have formulated experiments and theories that seek to explain the nature and form of the learning process. This paper explores the various ideas that surround the process of learning by exploring specific theoretical grounds of learning and its influences on behavior, personality motivation, and perception.
Skinner formulated that learning can be used to isolate two different types of behavior including respondent behavior and operant behavior. He defined respondent behavior as those elicited by a determined stimulus and whose nature depends on such stimulus. He stated that it is customary to refer to any movement of the organism as a ‘response.’ The word is borrowed from the field of reflex action and implies an act which, so to speak, answers a prior event - the stimulus (Skinner). Operant behavior on the other hand is controlled by the environment which elicits a specific response and not initially dependent on known stimuli. Respondent behaviors include unconditioned behaviors and include actions such as blinking or salivating. Operant behaviors are mostly generated by the specificity of the surrounding environment and include a lot of normal human activities such as turning one’s head or even walking.
Skinner further explains that there are corresponding types of conditioning that follow the behaviors as he writes that. Conditioning, he states, is strengthening of behavior which results from reinforcement is appropriate.’ In operant conditioning, we ‘strengthen’ an operant in the sense of making a response more probable or, in actual fact, more frequent. In Pavlovian or ‘respondent’ conditioning we simply increase the magnitude of the response elicited by the conditioned stimulus and shorten the time which elapses between stimulus and response(Skinner). Operant conditioning leads to the formation of more complex types of behavior in a process Skinner refers to as shaping. This method of successive approximations leads to reinforcement of the particular behavior and eventually leads to the establishment of such behavior such as a child learning to walk. When such reinforcement is not available it leads to operant extinction. More fundamentally Skinner describes two types of reinforces, positive and negative reinforcement of behaviors. He writes that “We first define a positive reinforcer as any stimulus the presentation of which strengthens the behavior upon which it is made contingent. We define a negative reinforcer (an aversion stimulus) as any stimulus the withdrawal of which strengthens behavior.” In the context of learning positive reinforcement involves reward while negative reinforcement involves punishment (Skinner).
The Albert B Experiment
In experimenting with Skinnerrs postulations Fellow behaviorist John B Watson theorized that certain stimuli can be used to produce an emotion when such an experience is repeated several times i.e. conditioning. He developed an experiment where he used a nine-month-old child referred to as Albert B. The experiment was conducted in a manner that the child was presented with stimuli that naturally induced fear, then a white rat was introduced and such stimuli invoked when he attempted to touch it. As the experiment proceeded, the experimenters presented other similar objects such as a white rabbit. This showed a marked negative response similar to that of the rat (Watson). Watson concluded that emotional responses could be elicited by learning to react to certain stimuli and thus showing an experimental validity to the theories of behaviorism. The experiment has however been criticized for its lack of ethical considerations and methodological flaws( Harris).
Albert Bandura and Social Cognition
An alternative theoretical postulation was presented in the theories of Albert Bandura. In his work, Bandura stated that “In the social cognitive analysis of observational learning modelling influences operate principally through their informative function.” (Bandura) In essence, he postulated that behavior is constructed through reciprocal interaction between cognitive-behavioral and environmental influences. This theory seems to connect the various theories of learning into a singular model that coalesces learning into a process. The processes include attentio

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