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The Strengths and Weaknesses of Behaviorism

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Nowadays, when psychologists speak about different states of consciousness that are possible to achieve it is especially important review all the strength and weakness of behaviourism. Mental events in behaviorism are not considered suitable for any scientific study and for getting any data from them. All the assumptions made by behaviourists are to be supported with a practical experiment and as mental processes cannot not, therefore they posses no interest for the behaviourists.

Weaknesses. Behaviourism examines human and nonhuman beings from the point of view of the behaviour they demonstrate. The base of behaviourism lies in understanding the behaviour of people and animals as a combination of movements, verbal and emotional answers (reaction) to the influences (stimulus) of external ambience corresponding to these movements. In other words it is the simple scheme S > R. The main weakness of behaviourism lies in its attempt to explain all the actions of a person only through visible phenomena, claiming the impossibility to directly observe the phenomenon of consciousness.

So the main opposition that behaviourists face from the psychological world is that behaviour of a person cannot by any means be interpreted leaving aside the mental activity. So behaviour remains a learned association that was once supported or punished. Seems rather hard to explain all of the behavioural acts of a person in terms of his past experienced. At this point behaviourist starts neglecting the innate abilities of every person. Sometimes the reactions people demonstrate have nothing to do with their experience therefore they have another source – mental activity.

Environment certainly plays a great role in the life of people, but nevertheless it is very hard to interpret the behaviour of people only focusing on the environmental factor. Behaviourism in some way neglects the individualism of every person making general behavioural patterns for everybody. Behaviourists assume that people are not responsible for what they do and how they act and are similar to “machines reproducing old records”. Behaviourists need to realize the importance of inner processes and start asking the question: Do we cry because we feel sad, or do we feel sad because we cry?

And may be convert the weakness of their theory into its strength. Another very important thing is the impossibility to explain creative activity from the point of view of behaviourism, thought these achievements do not fit the general scheme presented by behaviourism. It is possible to manipulate people through behaviourism and the responses one needs from them which can be viewed as the violation of human rights. Strengths. Of course all these statements above can be argued but nevertheless it would be unfair not to mention the strength of behaviourism.

Behaviourism tends to predict the behaviour in certain circumstances. The possibility to predict gives the key to controlling the behaviour and therefore to avoid unnecessary reactions. Behaviourism has changed, understanding the impossibility to neglect the cognitive processes. So nowadays the scheme S > R is complemented with an “intermediate variable” between them which represents collection of different cognitive and stimulating factors. This changed makes behaviourism more suitable for the contemporary psychology.

Another strength to mention is the orientation on positivism presented so strongly in behaviourism. The idea of rewards and punishment of behaviourism can be sometimes useful in order to “shape” the required behaviour, especially with kids in order to make their reactions socially acceptable. Therefore if used professionally right it may help to help a person adjust in the society. Conclusion. It goes without saying that behaviourism has made a enormous contribution into the development of psychology. And as every psychological theory it has its strengths and weaknesses.

Of course, the denial of the importance of mental processes in a person’s conduct is a very serious defect from the point of view of different groups of psychologists. Nevertheless, as behaviourism as its positive and negative aspects it is very important to outline the meaning of a professional using the “tools of behaviourism”, because in the right hands it may bring good results and help people. And through this theory causes a lot of disputes it does have certain aspects that other theories can learn from.

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