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A brief overview…
What is behaviorism all
• Behavioral psychology is the study of
external behavior
• Behavior is objective and observable,
where as what goes on in one’s mind
can never really be known or measured
(the mind is a “black box”)
• Behavior is the response of an
organism to stimuli
History of Behaviorism

• Pavlov (1927),
a Russian
conditioning in
“Give me a dozen healthy
infants, well-formed, and
my own special world to
bring them up in and I’ll
guarantee to take any
one at random and train
him to be any type of
specialist I might select
– a doctor, a lawyer,

-Watson 1924
Classical Conditioning
• Explains some learning of involuntary
emotional and physiological responses.
– Dog drooling when it smells food and later when it
hears a bell
• It’s important for us as teachers to understand
since school is often the cause of unintentional
learning through classical conditioning,
especially anxiety.
– Test anxiety conditions us to have general school
Ivan Pavlov's Classical Conditioning

Before Conditioning

Unconditioned Unconditioned Response


Neutral Stimulus No Response

Ivan Pavlov's Classical Conditioning
During Conditioning

Unconditioned Neutral
Stimulus Stimulus
Ivan Pavlov's Classical Conditioning
After Conditioning

Conditioned Conditioned

Stimulus Response
Examples of Classical
• Kids who often get strep throat, after much
swabbing of their throat, begin to gag as soon as
they see the doctor with the swab.
• Hearing a teacher, roommate, boyfriend/girlfriend
say to you, “We need to talk”. Upon hearing this
phrase your stomach “flutters”.
• The point is, we learn to associate a stimulus
with a response, and eventually our body does
this automatically in the presence of the stimulus.
Our response is involuntary.
Classical Conditioning …..
• Classical conditioning can face “extinction”,
where the learning is undone.
– This can happen naturally (the dog stops getting
meat when music is played)
– Or can happen through some type of therapy in
the case of severe anxiety reactions
• Ex: people who are afraid to fly….
• Remember: Classical conditioning is more
than forming an association – it is an
involuntary, physiological response
Classical Conditioning in
the Classroom
• Playing soothing music, dimming the
lights to calm and relax students
• Unintentional classical conditioning:
– Test anxiety
– Math anxiety
– Public speaking anxiety
– General school anxiety
B.F. Skinner (1904 –1990)
• American psychologist - influential from the 1930’s -
60’s – developed operant conditioning
• Skinner was interested in education
– He believed that behavior is sustained by
reinforcements or rewards, not by free will.
• Famous for the skinner box & the teaching machine
• Often worked with pigeons
& rats and applied what he learned
with these animals to human learning
Operant Conditioning
• This involves conditioning voluntary,
controllable behaviors, not the automatic
physiological responses in Classical
• With Operant Conditioning the Response
comes before the Stimulus (the opposite of
Operant Conditioning
• Teachers can deliberately use operant
conditioning with their students (training)

• How someone reacts to our behaviors

determines whether or not we continue
the behavior
– if we are rewarded for something we will
likely do it again - do you do this as a
Skinner’s Operant Conditioning

Positive Presence of Pleasant

Reinforcement Stimulus Behavior
Negative Absence of Unpleasant
Reinforcement Stimulus

Presence of Behavior
Punishment Unpleasant Stimulus Decreases
Consequences for Behaviors
• Positive Reinforcement – You behave in a certain
way that results in a reward, and as a result, you are
more likely to repeat that behavior

• Negative Reinforcement – You behave in a certain

way that results in the removal of something
unpleasant, and as a result you are more likely to
repeat that behavior (ex: doing a paper early)
– In both cases, something happened that you saw as
“good” and as a result, you exhibited the behavior more.
Consequences for Behaviors
• Punishment – A consequence that follows a
behavior so that you do the behavior less
often in the future.
– Punishment can involve adding something
(paying a fine, staying after school) or involve
removing something you like (losing recess
time, leaving your friends)
– In both cases, adding something or removing
something, you perceive it as “bad” and as a
result, you exhibit the behavior less.
Differences Between Negative
Reinforcement & Punishment
• Negative reinforcement: Something
unpleasant is removed & as a result you are
more likely to do it again
– Something happened that was “good”
• Punishment: A consequence happens that
you don’t like and you are less likely to do it
again. The punishment can add something
or take something away.
– Something happened that was “bad”
Shaping New Behaviors
• Shaping is a process of reinforcing a series of
responses that increasingly resemble the
desired final behavior
• When a desired behavior occurs rarely or not
at all, we use shaping
– First reinforce any response that in some way
resembles the desired behavior, then one that is
closer etc.
– Think of animal training or the hyper kid who
can’t sit in his chair in class – do things in small
Critiques of Behaviorism
• External rewards may diminish intrinsic motivation
–Studies where participants work on an interesting task
(ex: puzzles) - experimental group is given a reward
when finished while the control group is not.
– After initial period, during a non-rewarded time
participants are given a choice between continuing to
work on the task or switching to another activity. Typical
result is that participants in the experimental group spend
less time on the activity than the control group. This is
taken as indicating that reward reduces intrinsic
motivation. Pizza Hut used to give away free pizza to kids
who read a certain number of pages. This practice was
discontinued as it actually eroded students intrinsic
motivation to read!
More Critiques …
• Behaviorism doesn’t account for anything
that isn’t an observable behavior
– There has to be more going on than what is
observable - doesn’t there?
• Behaviorism only accounts for learning
through direct experience with the
environment (not observational learning)
Check yourself…
• Can you come up with classroom examples
– Classical Conditioning (use all the right
– Operant Conditioning (again, use all the
right labels)
– Positive and Negative Reinforcement
– Punishment