Behavioural Therapy


Behavioural Therapy

We are going to look at how habitual habits are formed and how behavioural patterns can be altered with reinforcement. I would just like to inform everyone that up until this lovely piece of information was typed up off slides from you class I had no idea I was spelling Behaviour wrong in every way possible: Behaivour – I know what was I thinking. But I am from Australia so I spell it with a U.

Conditioning: occurs when stimuli and response become linked.

v  Classical Conditioning: when an individual is conditioned to associated a neutral stimulus with a meaningful stimulus. Linear and Short Term

v  Operant Conditioning: When behaviours are increased or decreased dependent on their consequence. More complex, behaviours are influenced by past actions and the consequences.

Ian Pavloc:

v  1849-1936

v  Studied: function of nerves on the heart, function of the primary digestive glands and the thing we are looking at , Conditioned Reflex (classical)

v  Accidental Discovery of Classical Conditioning when studying dogs and the digestion.

Formal Experiment:

  • Food (unconditioned stimulus) naturally made the dog salivate (unconditioned stimulus)
  • Pavlov introduced a bell (conditioned stimulus) to call the dogs for the food
  • After some repetitions the dogs would start to salivate at the sound of the bell alone (Conditioned response)
  • = Classical Conditioning
  • After a while of ringing the bell and not presenting food the response will cease (extinction of conditioned response). But the conditioned response can return spontaneously or when reactivated. Reactivation will also happen when returning to an environment where the conditioning took place, This is the renewal effect, it makes it hard to eliminate conditioned behaviour, especially fear.

John Watson (1878-1958)

  • Ambitious but insecure
  • Became rich through advertising although he had a doctorate through Chicago Uni
  • His theoretical Perspective was that Humans = Animals, He rejected concepts of soul and consciousness. He believed you could predict human behaviour.
  • Watson’s Bio-Psyco-Social View: He minimized biological factors (assumption childhood environment is what is important not hereditary traits) and that Psychological   issues were resulting from learned conditioning. He also thought Socio-cultral factors very important, and believed society should not be based on myths or customs, but instead based on scientific knowledge and human behaviour should be controlled on the outcomes of research.
  • He dreamed of a more rational, new and better soicety
  • Watson’s Human Reseach:
    • He studied babies and introduced the classical condition of learned fear,  “Little albert” – a emotionally stable baby with not much fear. Through the conditioning using loud noises (Uncontrolled stimulus) which made albert afraid (Uncontrolled reaction), Watson was able to induce a controlled fear of white rats. Albert was not afraid of rats (uncontrolled stimulus).
    • Each time albert reached for the rat, Watson made a loud noise.
    • Albert associated the rat (controlled stimulus) with loud noises (uncontrolled stimulus) and the rat began to scare albert.
    • This study shows conditioned emotional response in humans.
    • After the learned behaviour Albert became afraid of all white fury things (so there is a ethical implication here)

Edward Lee Thorndike:

  • 1874-1949
  • Believed psychology should study behaviour not the conscious experience.
  • He developed a theory of learning that was later developed
  • Connectionism: association between stimulus and response > Connection more likely to form if reinforced > Response unit= simple element of behaviour.
  • Theory of Learning:
    • Through research with animals: putting a cat in a puzzle box and inorder to get food the cat would have to escape, he found that the cat got the food only through trial and error. He measured the errors and the time.
    • Law of Effect:
    • Behaviour produces a good outcome is associated with a specific situation
    •  Behaviour> Better state of affairs> increased probability of behaviour occurring again
    • Behaviour> Worse state of Affairs>decreased probability of doing the behaviour again
    • Therefore the better outcome will promote that behaviour more.

B.F. Skinner

  • 1904-1990
  • Edward Lee Thorndike’s student
  • Father of Operant Conditioning: future behaviour is determined by consequences of past behaviour.
  • Focuses only on behaviour
  • Believed we are shaped by our environment and genetic heritage
  • Believed consciousness and emotions are learned behaviours: occurs due to reinforcement and punishment.
  • Operant Response: if consequences are good> repeat behaviour. But if consequence is bad> less likely to repeat.
  • Skinner used both a mouse and a pigeon in a box hooked up to a electric shock and a lever with food. The idea was to positively reinforce target behaviour with the intention of the target behaviour increasing, while the negative target was to punish the bad behaviour so that favourable behaviour was more common.
  • Reinforcing Escape or Avoidance in a situation where anxiety is present:
  •  Run from a brown snake – helpful
  • Cold feet about marriage? Running is not so helpful
    • What affects Operant Conditioning?
    • Reinforcement vs Punishment (positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment)
    • Primary (satisfies biological needs – no training needed as it is instinct) vs Secondary (learned or conditioned, associated with primary) reinforcer
    • Immediate vs Delayed reinforcer ( people want it now, this is true in animals)
    • Small vs Large (perceived benefit must be equal or greater than perceived cost)
    • Shaping (rewarding successful approximations of the target behaviour) : For example you want to teach your cat to play piano. 1. Positively reinforce any behaviour that resembles the target (cat goes near piano). 2.Then the animal is only positively reinforced is a closer approximation is given (the cat puts paw on keys or sits on piano seat). 3. Ultimatly animal is only positively reinforced for doing target behaviour (gato puts paw on key)

Real Life Examples of Our Conditioning:

  • Fear Response: flashing lights in the rear-view mirror while driving
  • Emotional Response: seeing a partner do a common behaviour they use when angry – we react strongly automatically
  • Physiological Response: oven timer goes off predicting dinner, people will feel more hungry
  • Drug Response: smell of coffee may make a habitual drinker feel more alert


  • Preparedness
  • Species Specific Predispositions: cats aversion to water, people generally afraid of snakes.


Characteristics of Behavioural Therapy:

  • Based on scientific research using mainly animals
  • Focuses on how present behaviours relate to present problems
  • In order to reduce problem, client must take action, it is also dependent on clients conditioning
  • Treatment is practical and based on individual needs.

Goal of Behavioural Therapy:

  • Increased positive/helpful behaviours
  • Decease unhelpful behaviours
  • Increase client control though new skills and new situations
  • Creates better conditions for learning
  • Goals should be SMART (Hope you read my other posts on psychology)and mutually agreed on

ABC Model: The way symptoms are maintained by a functional model of behaviour

  • Antecedent – the event that precedes the behaviour – when and where does this behaviour occur?
  • Behaviour –Actual Behaviour: what is the behaviour and why do they do it and what is the function?
  • Consequence – Effect of the Behaviour : what perpetuates the behaviour and what could result in setbacks?

Building Wellbeing:

  • Reinforcement, conditioning and counterconditioning help individuals overcome unhelpful behaviours and increase more productive behaviours.
  • Training provides more options to respond to a stimulus. – increase in control and choice.


  • Insight into effecting learning factors
  • Tailored to each individual
  • Scientific evidence
  • Evidence based therapy


  • Treats symptoms not cause
  • Ignores feelings and emotions
  • Therapist manipulates client
  • Over dependence on animal research – dehumanizing

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