Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy is also known as behavioral modification. It is a psychological method based on the principle that one can change the badly adjusted, maladaptive, observable, specific and self destructive behavior, through learning new and more suitable behaviors (Skinner, p 194). The origin of this theory can be traced

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back to the school of behaviorism which indicates that one can scientifically study psychological matters through observation of overt behavior without necessarily involving interior psychological states.

Skinners theory of behaviorism accepted and supported that internal state could be part of a certain kind of behavior without necessarily being the main cause; however, he declared that through environmental manipulation, one could improve on them. The behavioral theorists include Hans Eysenck, Joseph Wolpe, Harry Solomon, Ogden Lindsley and B. F Skinner and they all had different ways of looking at behavioral problems. Eysenck’s perspective saw behavioral problem as connection between one’s behavior, the environment and personality characteristics. For the sake of this study, I will focus on B.

F skinner’s behavioral theory (Skinner, p 198). Origin of behavioral therapy Edward Thorndike did experiments to discover the ability of dogs and cats to solve problems. He constructed wooden crates and he would cage the animals each in their own crate. The animals would escape from the crates. Though initially he just wanted to show that dogs and cats’ achievement could be controlled, he realized that he could measure the intelligence of these animals using his tools (Lindsley, p 34). He would set the animals for the same kind of task and observe how long it took to complete the given task.

He learnt that there was no difference in performance between the animals that started an assignment and the ones that first observed the others performing (Skinner, p 89). He also learnt that when an animal did something that made it to successfully get out of the box; the animal was likely to repeat that action when faced by the same kind of problem. He concluded that reward reinforces the relationship between stimulus and action. He later

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formalized it to be called the law of effect (Skinner, p 199). Classical conditioning theory then came to explain that there is an association between reflex and the neutral stimulus.

Watson used rats in his experiments to improve on the law of effect and apply it in behaviorism. He made a maze which the rats were supposed to follow. Once they had mastered the routes, he started putting blocks at different points of the maze (Skinner, p 94). If a route was blocked, the rats would then follow another route indicating that they had memory. Once the second route was blocked they would follow the other available route. He observed that when the reward for an action done was less, then the rats performed the task more slowly (Lindsley, p76). B.

F Skinner came to improve on Thorndike and Watson’s work by studying objectively behavior sequences over a prolonged period of time. He came up with the concept of operant conditioning which related the operant response and the reinforcement. This theory is based on the proposal that learning could help in change of overt behavior. People change their behavior as a result response to the occurrences in their surroundings. A given response leads to a certain outcome. When one reinforces a certain pattern of Stimulus-Response, a person’s response becomes conditioned (Skinner, p 97).

The key element in this theory is reinforcement; this is anything that supports the response that is desired. Reinforcement could be positive or negative. Positive reinforcement makes one be encouraged to do more of the action that led to positive results. It includes attaining satisfaction after doing something, being recognized, being praised for work well done among others. Negative reinforcement on the other hand involves the actions that make one increase the frequency of responses once a certain stimulus is withdrawn. Aversive stimulus results to the reduction of responses (Skinner, p 200).

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