Ch. 6: Learning & Behaviorism Discussion.
h. 6: Learning & Behaviorism (Chapter 6): This chapter covers principles of learning and the concepts related to a major psychological theory – Behaviorism. Discuss the following after you read the chapter and watch the associated film Learning and Behavior (26 min)
1) In the text, Kalat outlines the assumptions made by behaviorists. Considered together, two of these assumptions clearly challenge the notion of free will (discussed in Ch. 1, free will vs. determinism). Behaviorists assume determinism, that every behavior has a discoverable cause; they also assume that mentalistic explanations are not good explanations for behavioral phenomena. These assumptions question our typical everyday explanations for our behavior: “Because I wanted to…”, “Because I felt it was the thing to do…” These all imply that we freely chose to engage in the behavior. According to the behaviorists, our behavior was molded by our “reinforcement histories”—we have little choice in the matter.
- How do you feel about the behaviorist assertion that free will is an illusion? What arguments can you make for or against this assertion? How might a behaviorist counter-argue? Explain your response.
2) Learning plays a prominent role in human experience. Share with your classmates an example from your own life where learning has occurred. The example can reflect some form of Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning, or Social Learning. Describe and explain your experience in behavioral terms. For example, if the experience seems to reflect Classical Conditioning (associative learning), what would you identify as the unconditioned stimulus, conditioned stimulus and conditioned response? If your example reflects Operant Conditioning, what are the identified reinforcers or punishers that shaped your behavior? If the example is one of social learning, what influenced you to act or not act in a particular way? (The example you share does not need to be something personal – learning can occur in a variety of circumstances – so you can be selective about what you choose to share.)
3) Post any questions you have or additional reflections in association with the material in Chapter 6.