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Some behaviorist theorists have emphasized that attaining information or learning new things is possible without applying introspection (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2018). Furthermore, since human beings are defined by their activities, studying human behavior is necessary for understanding various concepts, including learning. John B Watson argues that such things as thinking and language are forms of behavior and have nothing more to them (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2018). Language is considered an overt behavior and thought as a sub-vocal or internal speech. Subsequently, since overt speech occurs from significant movements of the larynx and tongue, Watson assumed that small larynx and tongue movements accompanied the thought. Watson also believed that emotions such as love, rage, and fear arise from basic reflexes and structure, which can be learned. For instance, among infants, the feeling of love can be obtained through patting or stroking the infant, fear elicited through loss of support like falling or loud noise, and rage by a restriction of the freedom of movement of the child (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2018).

Generally, behavioral theorists dispute independent mental activity and focus on observable behaviors as the key driver behind learning. Behavioral learning focuses on stimulus and response and observable behaviors. Whereas the arguments made by the behavioral theorists are strong, there has been a lot of criticism regarding them. Human beings are not just defined by how they behave. The human mind has to be engaged in the process of learning. For instance, classical conditioning can train the mind to evoke a new response to an introduced stimulus. This is covered in the cognitive-behavioral theory, which focuses on the mind’s role in individuals’ behavioral patterns. Cognitive activity influences behavior, and a behavior change can be altered through a cognitive change (Hersen & Gross, 2018). These arguments help inform the cognitive-behavioral theory that has recorded significant success in the treatment of various mental health problems, such as depression and eating disorders. Some behavioral theorists like Bandura acknowledged the critical link between behavior and cognition and claimed that cognitive variables like self-efficacy play a crucial role in human activity.

Behaviorists’ approaches can be considered ethical. The fact that behavioral theory does not support internal events such as emotion and thinking does not imply that it is unethical. Learning can indeed occur through observation and association with the external environment. This has been proven through various experiments like the Bobo Doll experiment. The experiment demonstrated that the type of reinforcement received, either positive or negative, after showing aggressive behavior determined the future behavior of the observer (operant conditioning). This demonstrated that children are likely to learn aggressive behaviors simply through observation and modeling the behaviors observed. However, this must involve cognitive processes like recalling and mimicking observed information.

Ivan Pavlov was a critical behavioral theorist. He claims that organisms react to their environment through conditioned and unconditioned reflexes (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2018). An unconditioned reflex is intrinsic and triggered by an unconditioned stimulus. Accordingly, behavior can be altered through the concepts of unconditioned and conditioned reflexes. One can learn or unlearn to fear something. Therefore, I would recommend this process to a loved one. For instance, I can condition a loved one to stop having a fear of the police. In this case, one of my cousins was stopped for speeding. The police siren is the unconditioned stimulus, and the unconditioned response is calm. However, when my cousin heard a police siren, controlled, and was given a ticket for speeding, he would have a conditioned response of fear. After the incident, a police siren became a conditioned stimulus that led to a conditioned response of fear. Over time, I would like to prepare him to overcome this fear as it will be evident to him that not every time he will get stopped whenever he hears a police siren.


Hergenhahn, B. R., & Henley, T. (2018). An introduction to the history of psychology. Cengage Learning.

Hersen, M., & Gross, A. M. (Eds.). (2018). Handbook of clinical psychology, volume 2: children and adolescents (Vol. 2). John Wiley & Sons.



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Unit 7 Discussion
Behaviorism focuses solely on behavior. For most behaviorists, thought is not part of the learning process. If there is no thought, are people mindlessly programmed to learn? If so, are behaviorist approaches ethical? Please choose one of the behavior theorists and explain their approach to working with people. Would you approve of this process for a loved one? Why or why not? Use at least two key concepts in your explanation.

TEXKBOOK: Henley, T. (2018). Hergenhahn’s An Introduction to the History of Psychology (8th Edition). Cengage Learning US.

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