John B. Watson's Theory Of Behaviorism And Child Development

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Behaviourism, also known as behaviourist theory is an approach to developmental psychology which concerns more with observable behaviour as compared to internal mental states. This theory which began with the work of an American Psychologist, John B. Watson focus primarily on stimuli and response while emphasising on the relative influence of nurture. Ever since he suggested a relationship between behaviourism and child development, the impact of behaviourist theory on the field of developmental psychology has grown significantly. The first behaviourist perspective, classical conditioning which is the learning of association between two different things can be applied in the case where one’s objective is to decrease the frequency of a typical…show more content…
For instance, in the study by Shenger-Krestovnika in 1921 (cited in Cherry, 2005), dogs learn the association between taste of meat (UCS) and the sight of a circle (NS) through classical conditioning. Eventually, the dogs would salivate (CR) whenever they saw the circle (CS). When the researcher presented to the dogs an eclipse instead of a circle, they would salivate too because both of the shapes looked similar to them. Therefore, stimulus generalisation had occurred because every time the dogs saw not only a circle but any circle-like shape, they would salivate and expect to have some meat. Nevertheless, behaviourists have deduced that classical conditioning can sometimes result in negative impacts such as phobias in an organism. Using Watson and Rayner’s experiment in 1920 as an example, Little Albert had learned the association between the rat and the loud noise which upset and evoked anxiety in him. This response was then generalised, causing the boy to get anxious not only whenever he saw a rat but any type of objects similar to it such as a Santa Claus mask or fur coat (Watson and Rayner, 1920). In other words, Little Albert had developed a phobia which is a common mental disorder that will affect an organism’s development…show more content…
This type of conditioning has been accepted and well-known to be used in treatment of autism which in this context, the therapy is referred to as applied behaviour analysis (ABA). ABA uses basic principles of operant conditioning such as positive reinforcement in educating children with autism (Granpeesheh, Tarbox & Dixon, 2009). Based on the example by Granpeesheh et al. (2009), a therapist would wait for the chance for a child with autism to point out that he wanted his favourite toy car. When the opportunity came, the therapist would request the child to say the word “car” and only if he did it successfully, he was given his toy car as a reward for that desired behaviour. In other words, the reward had acted as a positive reinforcement which was able to stimulate the learning of language and strengthen that desirable behaviour of the child (Granpeesheh et al., 2009). Study has shown that ABA delivers favourable effects on the development of children with autism because they are reported to have gain an increase in their IQ level while some have even manage to receive normal classroom education without any special aid (Lovaas, 1987). To sum up, operant conditioning like positive reinforcement is effective in treating children with autism since the effectiveness is displayed through the

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