Learning Theory: Behaviorism

John Watson: (1878-1958)
While Freud was proposing his Psychoanalytic theory, others were interested in making the study of psychology more of a science. They did not like the fact that most of Freud's concepts were abstract and unobserveable, and as such could not be measured and studied. The desire was to focus on concepts that could be observed and measured.
Behaviorism (1913) was an attempt to move in that direction, to focus on behavior and learning.

Some concepts of Learning Theory were originally proposed by Ivan Pavlov in 1903. Pavlov's experiments with dogs (YouTube) and the digestive process showed that they could learn, and behavior could be modified through a process of conditioning called "Conditioned Reflex". This process later became known as Classical Conditioning. Pavlov received a Noble Prize in 1904 for his work in this area.

Pavlov's concept of Classical Conditioning was utilized by John Watson to describe how humans learn and how behavior can be influenced by controlling the stimulus in the environment. His famous experiment with "Little Abert" (YouTube) was a demonstration of how human behavior can be conditioned. Watson viewed all behavior as learned, and urged parents to teach "correct" behavior to their children. Scheduled feeding and the avoidance of bad habits (incorrect behavior) were some issues addressed in the pamphlets produced to help parents raise their children. In 1920 he left John Hopkins and entered the advertising industry. By 1924, he was vice president at J. Walter Thompson, one of the largest ad agencies in the United States.
Watson is recognized today as the "Father of Behaviorism".


B.F. SKINNER (1904-1990)
Skinner added his perspective on learning (1938) by introducing his concept of Operant Conditioning, (YouTube) with emphasis on the power of reinforcement in learning. He continued to focus on observable behavior and scientific study of how humans learn behavior. Skinner supported the premise that all behavior is learned and that behavior is goal directed. That goal is basically to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. In other words, a particular behavior increases when the result is pleasurable; and the behavior will tend to decrease when the result is painful or unpleasant. A pleasant outcome refers to a reinforcement, and a unpleasant outcome refers to a punishment.

More information on Reinforcement and Punishment - CLICK HERE

Social-Cognitive Learning Theory:

Albert Bandura: (1925-1987)
Blends cognitive
elements and social influences to the learning theory perspective. The primary emphasis here is in the power of the MODEL to influence behavior and learning. Bandura's famous study on aggressive behavior with a "Bobo doll" in a preschool lab setting is classic. It demonstrated the power of watching a model being aggressive and how it influenced preschool children to imitate the modeled behavior in a lab setting.
See Modeling theory and the "Bobo doll" video on YouTube ... HERE

Bandura proposed that direct reinforcement was not needed to change behavior (as prosposed by Skinner), but rather that individuals had cognitive ability to process events in their life, to appreciate what they saw happen to others, and to anticipate or expect that a similar consequence would happen to them if they performed the same behavior.
In other words, if I see your behavior (model) lead to a reinforcement, my behavior will likely change and I am likely to imitate the observed behavior in anticipation of a reinforcement. Although I have not experienced the reinforcement, my behavior has been influenced and I have learned from the experience. From this we understand concepts of "Observational Learning" and "Vicarious Reinforecment".