Our mind is a “tabula rasa” when we are born. Well, at least according to what behaviorists say. Behaviorists believe that we are born like a blank slate and that our behavior is determined by our surroundings and environment. The term “free will” is not something that will be shown in their dictionary. Behaviorism is divided into classical conditioning and operant conditioning.
Classical conditioning means combining two stimuli. It’s easier than it sounds. Pavlov (1873-1936) did an experiment that’s one of the best known examples of classical conditioning. Pavlov did research on saliva secretion of dogs. The provision of food resulted in saliva. The dog always got his food when the bell rang. After a while, the dog was already dripping saliva when he heard the sound of the bell. The neutral stimulus (the bell) became a conditioned stimulus that created a conditioned response.
Bell (no response from dog) --> food (response from dog) turned into
Bell (response from dog)
According to Skinner (1904-1990), learning is the emergence of observational changes in behavior. The most important element within behavioral changes is the consequence or reinforce. A reinforce is anything that strengthens the desired response. There are four types of reinforces. Skinner is not an advocate of punishing, because it doesn’t reward learners.
Positive punishment → adding something to decrease behavior
Example: Car driver drives too hard, he gets a fine.
Positive reinforcement → adding something to increase behavior
Example: Children get a dessert when eating all vegetables.
Negative punishment → subtracting something to decrease behavior
Example: Children don’t get dessert for not eating vegetables.
Negative reinforcement → subtracting something to increase behavior
Example: When you finish your homework, you don’t have to clean the dishes.
Skinner described four instruction guidelines to educate
- Make clear what has to be learned
- Educate what come first (and start with the beginning)
- Self-paced learning is important
- Program the curriculum. Skinner advocates individualist instruction. This includes pace and types of thinking. Learners can reinforce themselves.
Behaviorism and our tool
Behaviorism methods are best to use when you want to test the level of recall, understanding and applying. The first behavioral system that was being used, is called the teaching machine. It resembled a typewriter with a window that could administer questions. One window was used to show the question and the other one to fill in the answer. It’s the so-called ‘drill-and-practice’ method. Nowadays, the options are endless. Quizzes are a great tool to enhance this. It allows learners to work at their own pace. Furthermore it’s an easy way to get to know facts. You are like a sponge that soaks up information. It’s a good way for remembering stuff.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy