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Chapter 10

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Chapter 10

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  1. Chapter 10 BEHAVIORISM AND LEARNING APPROACHES TO PERSONALITY

  2. QUESTIONS TO BE ADDRESSED IN THIS CHAPTER • Can principles of learning discovered through animal research provide the basis for a theory of personality? • Is our behavior controlled by events (stimuli) in the environment? • If abnormal behavior is learned like all other behavior, can one build therapies on principles of learning? • If behavior is determined by the environment, do people have free will?

  3. BEHAVIORISM’S VIEW OF PERSONALITY • Two basic assumptions of the behavioral approach: • Behavior must be explained in terms of the causal effect of the environment on the person • An understanding of human functioning can be built upon controlled laboratory research involving humans or animals

  4. BEHAVIORISM’S VIEW OF PERSONALITY ENVIRONMENTAL DETERMINISM AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR PERSONALITY • Humans are subject to physical laws that can be understood through scientific analysis • Thoughts and feelings are "behaviors" that are caused by the environment • If behavior could be explained in terms of the general laws of learning, it would eliminate the need for the field of personality psychology • The concepts presented by other personality theories are merely descriptions of response patterns caused by the environment

  5. BEHAVIORISM’S VIEW OF PERSONALITY ENVIRONMENTAL DETERMINISM –ADDITIONAL IMPLICATIONS • Behavior is situation specific • Causes and treatment of psychopathology • “Abnormal" behavior is caused by maladaptive environments to which the person has been exposed • Therapy should not attempt to resolve unconscious conflict or promote personal growth, but instead provide opportunities for corrective or new learning

  6. BEHAVIORISM’S VIEW OF PERSONALITY EXPERIMENTATION, OBSERVABLE VARIABLES, AND SIMPLE SYSTEMS • If behavior is determined by the environment, then • Manipulate environmental variables in controlled laboratory settings to discover how they influence behavior • Study psychological phenomena that are observable

  7. BEHAVIORISM’S VIEW OF PERSONALITY EXPERIMENTATION, OBSERVABLE VARIABLES, AND SIMPLE SYSTEMS • Challenge - it may be impractical and/or unethical to manipulate environmental variables that affect everyday behavior • Human actions are determined by many complexly related variables • It is difficult to establish lawful relations between any one environmental factor and behavior

  8. BEHAVIORISM’S VIEW OF PERSONALITY EXPERIMENTATION, OBSERVABLE VARIABLES, AND SIMPLE SYSTEMS • Solution - study simple responses by simple organisms, such as rats and pigeons • Simple systems contain features that are similar to the functional properties of complex human systems • There is enough similarity between animals and humans that animal studies can provide valuable information • Do the results of laboratory experiments on animals generalize to humans in the social world?

  9. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING • Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, studied gastric secretions in dogs • Food powder was placed inside the mouth of a dog and salivation was measured • After several such trials, the dog began to salivate at certain stimuli before the food was put in its mouth (e.g., the sight of the food dish, approach of the lab assistant who brought food) • This observation led Pavlov to conduct research on the process known as classical (respondent) conditioning

  10. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING Unconditioned Response (UR; salivation) Unconditioned Stimulus (US; food) Pair with Conditioned Response (CR; salivation) Conditioned Stimulus (CS; bell)

  11. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING • Conditioned withdrawal = through classical conditioning, one also can learn to avoid a stimulus that initially is neutral • A dog is strapped in a harness with electrodes attached to its paw • Delivery of an electric shock (US) to the paw leads to the withdrawal of the paw (UR) - a reflex response • A bell is repeatedly presented just before the shock • Eventually the bell alone (CS) elicits the withdrawal response (CR)

  12. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING • The experimental arrangement designed by Pavlov to study classical conditioning allowed him to investigate generalization • A response that had been conditioned to a previously neutral stimulus (CR) also becomes associated (generalized to) with similar stimuli • Similarly, a withdrawal response to the bell (CS) generalizes to sounds that are similar to the bell

  13. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING • Discrimination = if repeated trials convey that only some stimuli are followed by the US, one comes to recognize differences among stimuli • Generalization leads to consistency in responding across similar stimuli whereas discrimination leads to greater situational specificity in responding

  14. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING • Extinction = if the originally neutral stimulus (CS) is presented repeatedly without being followed at least occasionally by the US (reinforcement), conditioning weakens • For a dog to continue to salivate at the sound of the bell, there must be at least occasional presentations of food powder following the bell

  15. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING APPLICATION TO HUMANS • Consider a child bitten by a dog • The child’s fear may be extended to all dogs (furry animals) through generalization • In behavior therapy, the child learns through discrimination to fear only certain dogs • Over time, the child may have enough neutral or positive associations with dogs to experience extinction of the learned fear

  16. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING Noise (US) Fear (UR) Pair with White lab rat (CS) Fear (CR)

  17. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING MALADAPTIVE BEHAVIOR AND BEHAVIOR CHANGE • Little Albert’s fear generalized to other white furry objects, including the white beard of a Santa Claus mask • Watson & Rayner concluded that many fears are conditioned (learned) emotional reactions • On this basis, they criticized the less parsimonious and empirically supported psychoanalytic explanation of fears

  18. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING MALADAPTIVE BEHAVIOR AND BEHAVIOR CHANGE • Systematic Desensitization • Designed to reduce fear through counterconditioning • The client learns an alternative response (relaxation) that is physiologically incompatible with an existing response (fear)

  19. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING MALADAPTIVE BEHAVIOR AND BEHAVIOR CHANGE • Systematic Desensitization • The therapist trains the client to relax via progressive muscle relaxation • The client lists stimuli that evoke anxiety, ordered from least to most disturbing (hierarchy) • The therapist has the client relax as s/he imagines the least anxiety-evoking stimulus • The client is asked to imagine the next stimulus in the hierarchy while remaining relaxed • Ultimately, the client is able to remain relaxed while imagining all stimuli in the anxiety hierarchy • Studies show that systematic desensitization is effective in modifying phobias

  20. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING RECENT DEVELOPMENTS • Classical conditioning can explain the development of prejudice toward others (Krosnick et al., 1992; Ohman & Soares, 1993) • A stimulus, such as a word having positive or negative affective value, is presented subliminally in association with another photo • The viewer will come to like the photo subliminally associated with positive emotion and dislike the photo associated with negative emotion

  21. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING RECENT DEVELOPMENTS • Baccus et al. (2004) - expressions of self-esteem are responses that can be modified through classical conditioning • Participants took part in a conditioning task in which words and pictures appeared on a computer screen • Experimental condition - self-relevant words appeared in combination with pictures of smiling people • Control condition - self-relevant words were paired with a variety of pictures (smiling, frowning, neutral faces) • Participants completed a self-esteem measure

  22. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING RECENT DEVELOPMENTS • Baccus et al. (2004) found that classical conditioning increased feelings of self-esteem • People who saw smiling faces paired with self-relevant words displayed higher self-esteem than that for control subjects

  23. OPERANT CONDITIONING • The core of operant (instrumental) conditioning - control behavior through the manipulation of rewards and punishments • Belief in the laws of learning and interest in mechanical design led B. F. Skinner to build a "baby box" to mechanize infant care, teaching machines that dispensed rewards for mastering school subjects, and a device whereby pigeons could be used to guide rockets and missiles • Committed to the view that a science and technology of human behavior must be developed to serve humankind

  24. OPERANT CONDITIONING • Skinner's approach deemphasized the importance of structural elements of personality for 2 reasons: • Behaviorists view behavior as a specific adaptation to specific environmental conditions • Behaviorists wanted to build a theory based on observable data • Inferring the existence of “hidden” personality structures was neither scientific nor useful

  25. OPERANT CONDITIONING STRUCTURE • Response = Structural unit • Ranges from a simple reflex (e.g., salivation to food) to complex behavior (e.g., solving a math problem) • Represents observable behavior that can be understood in relation to environmental events • Distinction between responses evoked by known stimuli (respondents - eye-blink reflex to a puff of air) and responses not associated with any stimuli • The latter are emitted by the organism and are called operants

  26. OPERANT CONDITIONING PROCESS • Reinforcer = an event that follows a response and increases the probability of the response occurring again • If a pigeon’s pecking at a disk is followed by the provision of bird seed, and if the pigeon then pecks at the disk more frequently, bird seed is a reinforcer • A reinforcer in any given situation is defined by its effect on behavior

  27. OPERANT CONDITIONING PROCESS • Laws of learning were discovered by varying the nature of reinforcement and observing the effects on behavior - schedules of reinforcement • In a time-based schedule, known as an interval schedule, reinforcement appears after a certain period of time elapses regardless of the number of responses emitted • In a response-based schedule, known as a ratio schedule, reinforcement appears after a certain number of responses are emitted regardless of elapsed time

  28. OPERANT CONDITIONING PROCESS • Another distinction is whether reinforcement schedules are fixed (reinforcement occurs the same way all the time) versus variable (reinforcers vary randomly) • Ratio schedules generate higher levels of responding than interval schedules • Variable schedules produce higher rates of responding than fixed schedules • The highest response rates occur under ratio schedules that are variable (e.g., gambling)

  29. OPERANT CONDITIONING PROCESS • Shaping complex behavior through successive approximationsor shaping • Reinforce increasingly complex behaviors step-by-step until the final behavior that is desired is learned • To train a rat in a Skinner box to run in circles • Reinforce a simple response, such as running • Wait until the rat starts to run in a curved path and reinforce it only then • Wait until the rat runs in at least a half circle and reinforce it only then • Eventually, you can train the rat to run in circles

  30. OPERANT CONDITIONING GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT • As children develop, they learn more and more responses due to naturally occurring reinforcements • This process is no different from a rat that learns more and more responses as a result of shaping • Practical applications • Parents should attend to how and when they reinforce their child’s behavior • Selectively reinforce progressive behavior immediately after it occurs • The number and complexity of behaviors a child can perform increases gradually as s/he receives more systematic reinforcement (like accumulated book knowledge) • Unlike traditional personality theories, development does not occur in a set sequence of stages

  31. OPERANT CONDITIONING MALADAPTIVE BEHAVIOR • Maladaptive behavior is a response pattern that is learned according to the same laws as all other response patterns • Individuals do not have psychopathology; rather, they respond inappropriately due to faulty reinforcement contingencies • Either they • Fail to learn a response (behavioral deficit) • Learn a maladaptive response (behavioral excess)

  32. OPERANT CONDITIONING MALADAPTIVE BEHAVIOR • When someone learns a maladaptive response, the problem is that this learned response is not effective and/or socially acceptable • Superstitious behavior develops because of an accidental relationship between a response and a reinforcement • Pigeons given bird seed at regular intervals, regardless of what they were doing, associated the response that was “coincidentally” rewarded with systematic reinforcement

  33. OPERANT CONDITIONING BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENT • Emphasizes the identification of specific • Behaviors, called target behaviors or target responses • Environmental events that cue and reinforce target behaviors (functional analysis) • Environmental conditions that can be manipulated to modify behavior

  34. OPERANT CONDITIONING BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENT • Behavioral assessment of a child's temper tantrums should include • A clear objective definition of tantrum behavior • A complete description of the situation that cues tantrum behavior • A complete description of the reactions of others that may reinforce tantrum behavior • Analysis of the potential for eliciting and reinforcing alternative non-tantrum behavior

  35. OPERANT CONDITIONING BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENT • ABC assessment – measures the • Antecedents of behavior • Behavior and its topography • Consequences of behavior • ABA research design • Measure behavior at one point in time (the “A” period; baseline) • Introduce reinforcement and measure behavior at a second point in time (the “B” period) • Remove reinforcement to determine whether behavior returns to its initial, baseline level (its level during the “A” period)

  36. OPERANT CONDITIONING BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENT • Illustrates the difference between sign and sample approaches to assessment • In a sign approach, a test response is viewed as an indicator (i.e., a sign) of some internal characteristic of the person • Trait theories embrace a sign approach • Behaviorists adopt a sample approach • Behavior is observed and measured in relation to environmental conditions

  37. OPERANT CONDITIONING BEHAVIOR CHANGE • Token economy - behavioral technicians reward behaviors that are considered desirable with tokens • Tokens (secondary reinforcer) can be exchanged for tangible products (primary reinforcer) • Used with hospitalized psychiatric patients to strengthen such behavior as self-care and basic job skills • Used at home to decrease aggressive behavior in children and marital discord

  38. OPERANT CONDITIONING FREE WILL? • If the environment determines our actions, then we ourselves cannot cause our own behavior • If we are not the authors of our behavior, then we are not free to choose our actions • Is free will, then, just an illusion?