The Behavioral Approach To Psychology: An Overview of Behaviorism | BetterHelp (2023)

Behaviorism generally focuses on observable behavior, rather than thoughts and emotions. It often centers on conditioning and predicting behavior based on a stimulus-and-response association. Methodological and radical behaviorism are typically viewed as subtypes of the behavioral approach to psychology. Studies done in the field that exemplify behavioral principles may include Pavlov’s Dogs, The Bobo Doll Experiment, The Skinner Box, and The Little Albert Experiment. Mental health treatment approaches that involve behaviorism can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), applied behavior analysis, social learning theory, and exposure theory. If you’d like to experience the behavioral approach to mental health treatment for yourself, you may wish to try online therapy.

Try The Behavioral Approach For Yourself.

Work With A Licensed Therapist Online.

The Five Approaches To Human Psychology

Psychology is often viewed as a vast and varied field. There are generally considered to be five primary approaches, which include the biological approach, the psychodynamic approach, the cognitive approach, the humanistic approach, and the behavioral approach.

The Main Concepts Of Behaviorism

Within the behavioral approach, psychology is typically analyzed and studied using solely objective and scientific methods of observing and evaluating the human mind. Whereas some approaches to psychology may consider a person's own subjective and unique views on their mind, their feelings and emotions, and their experiences, behaviorism generally disregards this information and strictly focuses on studies obtained through "careful and controlled observation and measurement of behavior," with its primary goals usually being control and prediction of behaviors.

(Video) Behavioral theory | Behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy

Behaviorism often rejects internal concepts, such as one's thoughts and emotions, and, as the name implies, focuses strictly on observable behaviors. Those who support this approach may not deny the existence of a person using their mind to process the stimuli around them, but it is generally seen as irrelevant to their primary concerns in studying psychology, since these internal factors cannot be outwardly observed aside from relying on a person's interpretations and expressions of these factors.

This approach often strongly supports the ideas ofreductionism (reducing the whole of human behavior into smaller components to simplify and understand it more easily) and anomothetic approach(establishing generalizations applicable to all individuals).

Those who believe in behaviorism usually strongly support controlled experimentation using other living organisms, such as pigeons and lab rats, in studying cause and effect regarding behavior because of how strictly the environments and conditions can be controlled and studied. Behaviorists often see no difference between the behavioral patterns that can be learned or conditioned in humans and animals, so experimentation regarding subjects that are not human can be a great starting point when it comes to testing out behavior-related hypotheses in a more controlled situation, compared to working strictly with other people, whose emotions and subjective perceptions may affect the results of testing.

Lastly, the root of a behavioral approach to psychology can be boiled down to the belief that all behavior, regardless of complexity, can be conditioned and predicted based on a "stimulus-and-response association." This generally means that the reaction can be predicted in response to a specific stimulus, as well as the potential stimulus being determined based upon the predicted and expected responses one might observe in an individual.

What approach to psychology most resonates with you?

  • Biological (how biology affects psychology)10%

  • Cognitive (how thoughts shape behaviors)(your answer)17%

  • Psychodynamic (how inner drives affect psychology)9%

    (Video) Behaviorism, Watson, Pavlov & Skinner: Learning Theories - Approaches (5.01) Psychology AQA paper 2

  • Behavioral (how environments shape behaviors)61%

Total votes:221

Types Of Behaviorism

Behaviorism is usually viewed as being composed of two subtypes: methodological behaviorism and radical behaviorism.

Methodological behaviorism was first presented by John Watson and may be the basis of the behavioral approach to psychology. It generally consists of the beliefs that human beings are no different from other living animals in existence, and that the objective approach to studying behavior and learned conditions and responses may be the most effective method of understanding overall psychology and behavioral responses. Methodological behaviorism usually also supports the belief that living beings are born with the mind as a "blank slate" and begin learning their responses to the world around them from that point on.

Radical behaviorism typically agrees with the ideas expressed in methodological behaviorism, but builds upon them by including the ideas that all living creatures may be born with inherent behaviors and traits, rather than being "blank slates" at birth. It also usually includes the acceptance of the roles that biological factors and specific genetics play in an organism's behavior as well. B.F Skinner, the individual responsible for founding the concept of radical behaviorism, also agreed with Watson about the presence of internal psychological processes, such as thoughts and emotions, and their role in behaviors. While he may not have used them to fully explain the responses to stimuli in a person, he did conclude that they should generally be analyzed and explained in regard to any behaviors presented.

Despite the very slight differences between the two schools of behavior-related thought, both perspectives typically agree on the idea that the goal of psychology itself should be being able to both predict and control behavior in a living organism.

Behaviorism Studies

The experiment of Pavlov's dogs being conditioned to salivate when they heard a specific sound can be a prime example of a study related to behaviorism. However, there can be quite a few others relevant to this psychological approach as well.

Pavlov's Dogs – This is generally considered to be the most well-known behavioral study regarding behavioral conditioning. In the 1890s, Ivan Pavlov was studying his dogs' salivation levels in response to being fed. He discovered that they soon began to salivate in response to any stimuli they associated with knowing they would be fed soon, such as his assistant approaching, and, later on, the sound of a metronome. Pavlov devoted much of his future work to studying this concept and determined that if a conditioned stimulus (something a person or animal is trained to respond to) and an unconditioned stimulus (something naturally occurring in an organism) occur within a close enough time frame, the two will generally be connected, and the person or animal will typically be conditioned to respond accordingly.

(Video) Behavioural Psychology and Conditioning - Simplest Explanation Ever

The Bobo Doll Experiment- This was a study on conditioning in young children that showed they could mimic and learn social behaviors (particularly aggression) through observation of the adults in their presence. This generally happens in a process called observational learning. During The Bobo Doll Experiment, the children were split into even groups for experimentation purposes and shown a "Bobo" doll that they were to witness an adult abusing physically and verbally. Afterward, the children were provided with toys that were soon taken away to provoke aggression appropriate for their age range. After seeing the adults display abusive behavior toward the Bobo dolls, the children tended to exhibit the same aggressive behaviors.

The Skinner Box - The Skinner Box was an experiment supporting the idea of operant conditioning, which generally shows that behaviors rewarded tend to be repeated, while those that are punished typically deter an individual from repeating them in the future. The experiment consisted of placing a lab rat within a box, and while hungry, it learned that touching a small lever would dispense a pellet of food. Therefore, the rat usually learned to repeat the action for a positive response (often called positive reinforcement). In regard to negative reinforcement, rats were also placed within a box that would occasionally give them a small shock, but with a lever that would prevent the shock from occurring. They often very quickly learned to trigger the lever to stop the shock from happening.

The Little Albert Experiment- Though often viewed as ethically questionable, an experiment was conducted to see if the conditioning proven in Pavlov's dog experiment could also apply to human beings. This experiment involved a nine-month-old baby boy presented with a variety of objects, including a monkey, a rabbit, and a white rat.

As with most children, he had no negative reaction to the objects presented to him, but did startle and begin crying each time when a hammer was hit against a steel bar behind him. Over a few weeks, those engaging in the experiment began to hit the hammer on the steel bar every time the little boy received the white rat, and eventually, he became hysterical every time the white rat was presented, even without the sound of the hammer hitting the steel bar.

Behavioral Techniques In A Treatment Setting

The ideas supported by behaviorism may also be applied in a treatment setting for therapeutic and behavioral modification purposes.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be a great example of applying these concepts as a form of treatment. CBT generally focuses on the thoughts behind certain behaviors and helps a person become aware of their effects. The goal is usually to modify one's thought processes in reaction to certain stimuli and situations, therefore allowing them to make changes to their emotions and behaviors in the process.

Applied behavior analysis often uses behavioral techniques such as positive reinforcement to encourage replacing harmful or unhealthy behaviors in an individual with more desirable ones. It typically focuses on the aspect of behavior modification, rather than involving any sort of talk therapy, like CBT, to understand the hows and whys of a person's behavior.

Social learning theory is a concept that can be seen in cases such as the Bobo Doll Experiment: Many behaviors can be learned by observation in social situations and then imitated. In a treatment setting, this is often applied to those living with substance use disorder and in social work situations. It often involves surrounding those who have observable negative factors in their lives with positive role models and support systems to encourage more desirable behavior.

(Video) A-Level Psychology (AQA): Approaches - The Behaviourist Approach

Exposure therapycan also utilize behavioral techniques by conditioning those with phobias and strong negative responses to stimuli (such as those living with trauma and its associated effects) to be less negatively affected by certain triggers in their lives. Exposure therapy often involves safe, strategic interaction with triggers to desensitize individuals and alleviate their phobias.

Try The Behavioral Approach For Yourself.

Work With A Licensed Therapist Online.

Learn To Use The Behavioral Approach To Your Advantage

If you’d like to adjust your behavior or eliminate unhealthy habits, working with a licensed mental health professional who has experience with the behavioral approach can be helpful. While connecting with a therapist in person may always be an option, you may also wish to consider the alternative of online therapy. With online therapy, you may receive the help you deserve from the comfort of your home, eliminating the need for a commute and time sitting in the waiting room.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, may be one of the most common mental health treatments that involves aspects of behaviorism. As this study explains, online CBT can be as effective as in-person CBT. Not only can it treat a variety of mental health disorders, but it may help you replace unhealthy habits with beneficial ones.

(Video) Introduction to psychology: Skinner and behaviorism


Viewing psychology through the lens of observable behavior is generally considered the behavioral approach. This approach to psychology typically focuses on predicting and conditioning behavior, and it contains two subtypes: methodological and radical behaviorism. A few studies involving behaviorism may include The Skinner Box, The Little Albert Experiment, Pavlov’s Dogs, and The Bobo Doll Experiment. Applied behavior analysis, exposure theory, social learning theory, and cognitive-behavioral therapy may all be examples of mental health treatments involving behavioral principles. If you’d like to try any of these treatments for yourself, you might consider connecting with a licensed therapist online.


What is the behavioural approach in psychology? ›

Behaviorism, also known as behavioral psychology, is a theory of learning that states all behaviors are learned through interaction with the environment through a process called conditioning. Thus, behavior is simply a response to environmental stimuli.

What is the behavioural approach answer? ›

The Behavioral Approach brings psychological, social, and contextual explanations of human behavior to policy design and provides innovative, complementary and usually inexpensive solutions for policy improvement.

What is the behavioral approach quizlet? ›

behavioral approach. posits that human behavior is shaped by the environmental conditioning and reinforcement.

What is the main goal of behaviorism approach? ›

Behaviorism is an area of psychological study that focuses on observing and analyzing how controlled environmental changes affect behavior. The goal of behavioristic teaching methods is to manipulate the environment of a subject — a human or an animal — in an effort to change the subject's observable behavior.

What is an example of behavioral psychology? ›

Modern Behavioral Psychology, or Behaviorism, continues to explore how our behavior can be shaped by reinforcement and punishments. For example, new eye tracking experiments can develop an understanding of how we learn through positive and negative feedback.

What are the features of behavioural approach? ›

These are: regularities in human behaviour; a preference for verification and testing rather than taking things for granted; application of correct techniques for acquisition and interpretation of scientific data; emphasis on measurement and quantification for predicting a political result; belief in value-free study; ...

What is an example of a behavioural approach system? ›

An example of the behavioral activation system at work is when a student decides to answer more questions in class in order to get candy from his teacher. So the next time someone rewards you for good behavior, remember it is your behavioral activation system at play.

Who defined behavioural approach? ›

John B Watson who is also regarded as the father of Behavioural Approach, described Behaviourism in his paper “Psychology as the Behaviourist Views It”, which was published in 1913.

What is an example of a behavioral science approach? ›

Several disciplines fall under the broad label of behavioral science, including:
  • Anthropology.
  • Behavioral economics.
  • Cognitive psychology.
  • Consumer behavior.
  • Social psychology.
  • Sociology.

What are the three behavioral approaches? ›

There are three types of behavioral learning: Classical Conditioning. Operant Conditioning. Observational Learning.

What does behaviorism psychology focus on? ›

Behavioral psychology, or behaviorism, is a theory suggesting that environment shapes human behavior. In a most basic sense, behavioral psychology is the study and analysis of observable behavior. This field of psychology influenced thought heavily throughout the middle of the 20th century.

What is the goal of behaviorism quizlet? ›

The goal of behaviorism is to watch one's behavior in order to understand that person. Behaviorists believe that all knowledge worth having comes from direct, public observation. Three Kinds of Learning: Classical Conditioning: Associating a response with an outside stimulus.

Why is behaviorism important in psychology? ›

One of the greatest strengths of behavioral psychology is the ability to clearly observe and measure behaviors. Because behaviorism is based on observable behaviors, it is often easier to quantify and collect data when conducting research.

Why is behavioral psychology important? ›

Behavioral psychology helps scientists understand the relationship between behaviors and the human mind. Conditioning and other concepts that scientists develop continue to shape how we learn, teach and train both humans and animals.

What are the benefits of behaviorism? ›

Strengths of Behaviorism

It allows the learner to focus on one goal. It provides clear predictions about the behavior of learners under certain conditions like reinforcement or punishment. It sates the specific and objective outcomes for learning. It emphasizes objective measurement.

What is the behaviorist approach to problem solving? ›

Behaviorists view problem solving as a process that develops through positive and negative rein- forcement mechanisms. Cognitive psychologists view prob- lem solving as a process that includes introspection, observation, and the development of heuristics.

How is the behavioral approach used today? ›

Behaviorist principles are sometimes used today to treat mental health challenges, such as phobias or PTSD; exposure therapy, for example, aims to weaken conditioned responses to certain feared stimuli. Applied behavior analysis (ABA), a therapy used to treat autism, is based on behaviorist principles.

What is the behavioral approach to decision making? ›

Behavioral decision making is the study of affective, cognitive and social processes which humans employ to identify and choose alternatives. These processes are guided by the values, beliefs and preferences of the decision maker, produce a final choice and sway behavior.

What is an example of behavioral approach to motivation? ›

Perhaps the most common example of a conditioned reinforcer is money. A piece of paper with numbers and intricate drawings on it can motivate all sorts of behaviour if that paper has previously been associated with important reinforcers such as food, clothing, sex, and so forth.

What does the behavioral approach to management focus on? ›

The Behavioral Theory of Management, often referred to as Neo-Classical Management Theory, focuses upon individual behavior, motivations, and social interactions. Specifically, it incorporates the study of human behavior through psychology, sociology, and anthropology.

How did behaviorism impact psychology? ›

Behaviorism is largely responsible for establishing psychology as a scientific discipline through its objective methods and especially experimentation. In addition, it is used in behavioral and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Behavior modification is commonly used in classroom settings.

What are the 8 characteristics of behavioural approach? ›

The eight characteristics features of behaviouralism as given by David Easton are as follows: (1) Regularities; (2) Verification; (3) Techniques; (4) Quantification; (5) Values; (6) Systematisation; (7) Pure Science; and (8) Integration.

What are the two types of Behaviourist approach? ›

There are two main types of behaviorism: methodological behaviorism, which was heavily influenced by John B. Watson's work, and radical behaviorism, which was pioneered by psychologist B.F. Skinner.


1. Behaviorism: Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner
(Alana Snow)
2. Approaches in Psychology: Behaviourist
(RED Psychology)
3. Behavioural Approach to Personality | Personality| Psychology Entrances| Mind Review
(Mind Review)
4. What is Behaviorism Psychology | What is Behaviour | Psychology Terms & Videos |
5. EVALUATING the Behaviourist Approach | AQA Psychology | A-level
(Bear it in MIND)
6. Watson’s Theory of Behaviourism


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Frankie Dare

Last Updated: 07/30/2023

Views: 6179

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Frankie Dare

Birthday: 2000-01-27

Address: Suite 313 45115 Caridad Freeway, Port Barabaraville, MS 66713

Phone: +3769542039359

Job: Sales Manager

Hobby: Baton twirling, Stand-up comedy, Leather crafting, Rugby, tabletop games, Jigsaw puzzles, Air sports

Introduction: My name is Frankie Dare, I am a funny, beautiful, proud, fair, pleasant, cheerful, enthusiastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.