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Behaviorists On The Learning Process

Behaviorists on the Learning Process

Learning is a lifelong process, but learning is also nearly impossible to define. How do we learn? This is question that has plagued social scientist for centuries. In an effort to understand how people learn, especially when dealing with adult education, it is important to have a basic understanding of at least three learning theories explained by Merriam and Caffarella. For the purpose of this discussion, the behaviorist orientation, cognitive orientation, and the humanist orientation will be analyzed. Behaviorists on the Learning Process research papers have been written by psychology experts. We can produce a custom written project following your guidelines.

The Learning Process

Merriam and Caffarella identify behaviorism as a sort of umbrella that encompasses the work of several theorists. John B. Watson laid the groundwork in the early decades of the 20th century, but B.F. Skinner is perhaps the most famous behaviorist. All behaviorists hold three key assumptions in common:

  1. Observable behavior, as opposed to internal thought processes, is the focus of study. Learning is manifested by a change of behavior.
  2. The environment shapes learning. What one learns is determined by external elements in the surrounding environment, and not by the individual.
  3. Central to explaining the learning process are contiguity (how close in time two events must be for bond to be formed) and reinforcement (any means of increasing the likelihood that an event will be repeated).

Thorndike, Pavlov, Skinner and other behaviorists would argue that behaviorist techniques produced substantial and visible results. Skinner, who developed operant conditioning, the definition of which is quoted by Merriam and Caffarella as "reinforce what you want the individual to do again; ignore what you want the individual to stop doing", would argue that his theory holds practical application for adult education; that positive reinforcement will lead to learning.


According to Simply Psychology,Behaviorism is an interesting theory and remarkable to watch in action. Most of Skinner's experiments were done on pigeons and one can see how these animals learned from the stimulus of lights and the reinforcement of food. Pavlov's dogs are perhaps the most famous example of behaviorism, to the extent that the experiment has entered popular culture. One cannot help feeling, however, that using behaviorism to teach human beings removes any mental processes from the student. Indeed, Skinner was wholly unconcerned with the mental state; he was focused on outward behavior.

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