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University of San Carlos

Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies

A Critique on Burrhus
Frederic Skinners Behaviorist View of Man

A Course Requirement in PHIL 603: Advanced Philosophy of Man

Gerard Thadeus G. Sarchez

Outline: B.F. Skinners Behaviorist View of Man
The Operant Conditioning or Behaviorism
Exposition of the Theory
o Types of Behaviorism
Classical Behaviorism
The Model
Operant Behaviorism
The Model
Cases of Operant Behaviorism
1. In Teaching Methods
Applied Operant behaviorism
2. Medical Related Cases: Traumas
II. Criticism
1. Positive Side of the Theory
2. Arguments against to the Theory
III. Conclusion
Researchers Views
IV. References

I. The Operant Conditioning or Behaviorism

What is Behaviorism?
"Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own
specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any
one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I
might select -- doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes,
even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants,
tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors."
--John Watson,

First, the researcher shall clarify that on this study there will be constant interchanging
between the words conditioning and behaviorism since both words are of the same
In terms of historical background this school of thought has been founded by John B.
Watson. It is based on a theory that behavior can be measured, trained and changed.
Behaviorism as known in psychology in the realms of its behavioral aspect it is also
known as a theory of learning that posits the idea that an individuals behavior can be
acquired through conditioning. Through an individuals reaction through interaction in

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its environment. Therefore it is through these responses to the environment that shapes
the individual behavior.

According to the behaviorist school of thought, behavior is systematic and observable
without considering an individuals mental states. As Watson suggests in his quote that
any individual has a potential, to be trained to perform any task, personal traits and
internal thoughts all it takes is the right conditioning.

Behaviorism by definition, according to Papalia, Feldman, and Duskin in their book:
Experience of Human Development it is a theory that describes observed behavior as a
predictable response to an experience that posits the idea that the environment is more
influential by reacting to the conditions or aspects of their environment that they find
pleasing, painful, or threatening.

In summary the idea of behaviorism is that it is the environment that shapes the
behavior of the individual and not biological factors.
Types of Behaviorism
Classical Conditioning
Classical Conditioning is a technique used in behavioral training in which a natural
occurring stimulus is paired with a response. Next a previously neutral stimulus is paired
with the naturally occurring stimulus. In the long run the previous stimulus comes to

Diane E. Papalia, Feldman, Ruth Duskin, Experience Human Development, Mc Graw-Hill International edition,
Inc.,1221 avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. 2012.
evoke the response without the presence of the naturally occurring stimulus. The two
components are named as the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response.
The Model
The experiment was conducted by Pavlov goes as follows: A dog is on a mechanism that
measures the amount the saliva of the dog. A bell is rang just before the dog is given
meat. After several times, conditioning occurs and the dog will salivate without the
meat and only the bell alone.

Pavlov found out that there are four components in the Pavlovian classical conditioning.
First is the unconditioned stimulus and it is natural and innate and it produces a
response. In the experiment is the meat and because of the meat the god salivates, this
act of salivation is the second component which is called the unconditioned response.
Before conditioning happens is the introduction of a neutral stimulus, in the experiment
is the bell. During conditioning the bell is paired with the unconditioned stimulus in the
experiment is the bell. Then after sometime and after conditioning the neutral stimulus
will be considered as the third component, the conditioned stimulus which will trigger a
conditioned response, the last component.

Operant Conditioning
Operant conditioning also known as instrumental conditioning. This is a method that
when behavior is shown this is positively reinforced through rewards and negatively

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reinforced through punishments for behavior to increase and decrease. Through
operant conditioning, an association is established between a certain behavior that
occurred during the conditioning and a consequence for that behavior.

The Model
The experiment conducted by skinner consists of the box in such a way that it can be
pressed and by pressing food pellet is dropped into a tray. A rat will be placed in inside a
box and it will soon press the bar thus releasing a pellet into the tray. Since the behavior
is rewarded thus increasing behavior towards pressing the bar.
The experiment Skinner introduced consists of a box with a bar attached to one wall in
such a way that it can be pressed, by doing so, food pellet is dropped into a tray. A rat
will be placed in the box and will soon press the bar, releasing a pellet into the tray. This
action, resulting from the bar press, increases the strength of behavior towards the bar-
pressing operant. Suppose that release of the pellet is conditional to the flash of the
light. Then the rat will be conditioned to press the bar only when the light flashes. The
rat will then come to press the bar in the required way.

Examples of the Operant Behaviorism
In Teaching Methods

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Discipline is very important in a students life in terms of success and
development. As a teacher and other teachers would swear to that. As a teacher also,
believe me, discipline is a very hard thing, shouting and slamming things on the table.
A good application of operant behaviorism is not just in terms on asserting
discipline but also in encouraging students in participation.
Discipline is important for a child's success and development - most teaching
staff would vouch for that. It's easy to think that discipline is always a form of
punishment, but in truth, this doesn't have to be the case. But this, in reality, is not
always the case. In operant behaviorism it is not always Punishment but there is what
you called Reinforcement, which can be applied in term of the classroom setting to get
the good behavior you wanted and needed from your pupils
Applied Operant behaviorism
During Discussion or the time when students listen to the teacher students are
required to remain quiet and put their hand up when they want to make a contribution
to the class. When a Students manages to follow what exactly the teacher has instructed
in the right way, the teacher may say, 'Great effort' or, 'Well done, just like I asked'.
Without question, students will feel pleased with themselves after getting a positive
response. The feeling of pride and self-satisfaction is one they are going to want to
emulate in the future, and so they are likely to behave well during discussion from here

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In the example the teacher was able to manage and educate the students on
what type the teacher expects it to be, which is to listen, this is through B.F. skinners
Operant Behaviorism in the form of reinforcement, the student will do it the next time
around and since being encouraged, they will be determined in do so by out-shining
each other. In conclusion, there is a positive outcome for both parties: the teacher, and
the student.
In the conventional learning situation it applies largely to issues of class
and student management, rather than to learning content. It is very relevant to shaping
skill performance.
A simple way of giving positive reinforcement in changing behavior is in
providing compliments, approval, encouragement, and affirmation; compliments for
every one complaint is generally seen as being the most effective in changing behavior
in a desired manner.

However reinforcements has a weird side effect at times if a student is too
dependent on it. They may become dependent too much that instead of acting as so it
may be otherwise. Therefore rewards may be used occasionally for a similar effect, but
shouldn't be overused, as it is important to prevent the child from developing a
dependency. If they become too adjusted to getting reward, they may eventually
struggle to act in the same way without being presented with such a treat.
about too much of the dependency of the stimulus presented and as it is presented to
an individual there is always but a response and this is severe trauma.

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Medical Related Cases: Trauma
The researcher has to clarify first the differences between a phobias to a trauma.
According to one of the researchers student Phobias are the innate or the natural fear
of a thing or a person or an event. Trauma is the fear of a certain experienced event.

In clarification, trauma is a discreet event, or series of events, that cause harm to a
person. It can be physical and or emotional harm.

A phobia is the ongoing, and irrational, fear of something specific, whether it actually
occurs or not. You could have a phobia of zebras even if you have never actually seen
one, much less have been harmed by one.
In short as the researcher understands the idea of trauma as a type of fear in which
horrific or tragic experienced is triggered by the same circumstance. However phobia is
a kind of fear that is not necessarily caused by some sort of any experience but at times
it is a natural fear whether the circumstance occurs or not the individual has still the
fear of the certain event, experience, even animals and even individuals.
II. Criticism
Positive Side of the Theory
In teaching of course, as presented, it brings about proper behavior in
any circumstance that the students are present as of the moment. Because it

Christine Mission. 2014.
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encourages the desired behavior to the students and if it is otherwise so operant
behaviorism applies punishment to decrease behavior to acquire desired behavior.
Not just in the perspective of teaching but also in pet training. We are aware Pets that
are conditioned are easier to handle and be trained. In both examples, the obvious is
that there is the convenience of the agent who induces conditioning to the subject.
Arguments in Contrast to the Theory
First, the question of freedom, are we still free if we are under the influence of
conditioning? No because an individual is expect to react immediately upon sensing the
stimulus. Are we determined then? If there is the constant exposure to conditioning,
then there is a large probability of you being determined and you being mind-
controlled. Thus our actions is subjected to the stimulus that the agent has conditioned
to us. Second, the question of Humanity, Are we still humans after conditioning? Well
scientifically yes, however if based upon that our humanity is dependent on our
rationality or reason and operant conditioning depicts otherwise then philosophically
No. Since actions are done without the promethean thinking or rather actions are done
without prior thinking. A psychology teacher has said, that behaviorism did not consider
the brain, so there is no reasoning at all.
Since it is reason that distinguishes or
separates us from animals. Third is, the question of slavery, are we in slaved when we
are conditioned? The possibility of slavery is inevitable because if conditioning is done
on a large scale, which more likely impossible and most likely done by evil men. But if

Kristine D. Tariman.2014.
assumed that it can be done then it is more likely possible. Men would be slave, for
example, to a Bell. Just imagine a community that is controlled by the bell, mindlessly. If
considering that it is so, that we are controlled by a bell, anytime when we hear the
sound of the bell ringing without the agent or master ringing it, for example
accidentally. We are Force to act even without masters. WE ARE SLAVES WITHOUT

III. Conclusion
As a student of philosophy, I did not see Behaviorism as a Mind-Controlling theory,
however I realize that there is no perfect theory. Considering that it is not, so there is a
room for the improvisation of the theory and now is the advent of the cognitive theories
in psychology. These cognitive theories perfect it may seem has also its imperfections.
So all in all there are negative and positive reactions.
Since I am a teacher, I cannot deny that in teaching it is effective to use
conditioning to the student. Pet lovers also believe that this is right. Operant
conditioning can serve us convenience. But considering and touching important
factors such as Freedom and being Determined, Humanity and Slavery since the
theory can be applied to such topics presented. There are always harsh critics.
In Summary I believe that It is in the Hands of the agent who Uses Operant
behaviorism that holds how he/she uses it. So as an agent who uses Operant
Behaviorism must have Great Responsibility in applying it.

Thomas Szasz, Psychological Notes No.5: Against Behaviorism, Libertarian Review, No.111, 1974.
IV. References
Diane E. Papalia, Feldman, Ruth Duskin, Experience Human Development, Mc Graw-Hill I
nternational edition, Inc.,1221 avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. 2012.
Thomas Szasz, Psychological Notes No.5: Against Behaviorism, Libertarian Review,
No.111, 1974.

Kristine D. Tariman.2014.
Christine Mission. 2014.

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