In this post we are going to talk about the very important behaviorist paradigm. It has been very popular in the sciences that study human behavior and in education. Hence the relevance of it.

What is the behaviorist paradigm?

Educational Psychology has a multi-paradigmatic nature . And precisely, one of its most prestigious paradigms is the behaviorist.

The behaviorist paradigm focuses on behavioral analysis applied to education. To this end, it is a formal structuring model , which is based on behavior as a discernible object, according to environmental causes. The model rules out subjectivity and internal mental processes, which are not observable, measurable, and quantifiable.

The disposition of psychological research (associated with education), in pursuit of scientific status, brought it closer to the behaviorist paradigm. And it is that mental processes by themselves cannot be evaluated by scientific instruments. Through this model, behavior becomes its object of study due to its evident exposure and visibility.

Foundations and characteristics of the behaviorist paradigm

That said, it is worth delving a little deeper into the fundamentals of the behavioral model.

The search for answers regarding the knowledge of behavior leads researchers in the area of ​​psychology to want to discover the principles and laws by which the context intervenes in behavior .

Therefore, the purpose of behaviorism is the exploration of the principles that determine the behaviors of individuals . In such a way, its description, prediction and control is achieved. Its most relevant characteristics are highlighted below:

  • The behaviorist paradigm is a model to educate, based on the stimulus-response scheme.
  • It questions the scientific nature of introspection as a method of analysis of a science.
  • It focuses on behavior to avoid the restrictions produced by the analysis of consciousness, the nature of which cannot be subjected to the scientific method.
  • Starting from the previous points, he is interested in the study of human behavior using a deductive method and understanding that it is observable, measurable and quantifiable.
  • There are no qualitative differences between a lower level of knowledge and a higher one, what does exist is a quantitative change.
  • Changes in behavior depend on learning.

This is how a paradigm has been formed whose transcendence is of enormous importance. It is even known that it has reached the forefront of political science.

Basic principles of the behaviorist paradigm

The behavioral researchers (see Kratochwill, Bijou, Reynolds, Tortella), based on the analysis of the mediations between environmental (physical and social) and behavioral events, proposed several principles, which were scientifically demonstrated in humans.

  • Reinforcement principle. According to this principle, a behavior increases its frequency of presence if it is reinforced by the positive consequences it produces.

The reinforcing stimulus is understood in both directions, if by its repeated presence or absence it is capable of stimulating the probability of a response appearing For this reason , reinforcers are said to be positive or negative; however, both act in increasing the appearance of the behaviors that precede them.

Another factor to consider is that the reinforcer is defined as such by the consequences it produces in the individual’s behavior.

In this sense, the positive reinforcer is a stimulus that generates a high probability that it will occur again in the preceding behavior. Examples of these incentives are flattery, privilege, money, and social reinforcement.

Meanwhile, the negative reinforcer is an adverse stimulus that reduces the probability that the behavior that precedes it will appear.

Reinforcers are also classified as primary and secondary. Stimuli that reinforce behavior without the need for the individual to have experienced them are primary, such as sexual activity or the intake of some type of food. Secondary reinforcers, which are considered neutral, act in conjunction with primary reinforcers, thereby reinforcing behaviors. For example, a primary reinforcer like food plus a secondary reinforcer like money reinforce behaviors related to eating.

On the other hand, there is a wide range of reinforcers, ranging from physical objects, through caresses, to recreational activities, sports, etc. In addition, the reinforcers can come from the individual himself, as a process of self-reinforcement.

Extinction is another method that is used in the opposite direction to reinforcement. That is, the link between the positive reinforcement stimulus and the derived behavior is blocked, leading to its gradual extinction.

Punishment is another method that works to reduce the frequency of the behavior. In this case, an adverse stimulus is responded to after the behavior to be abolished. It is one of the most viewed in teaching practice. For example, have the children make flat with the phrase or sentence “do not shout during class because …” Thus, bad behavior can be redirected to good behavior behaviors

  • Stimulus control principle. In addition to the fact that reinforcement works to increase the presence of an operant behavior, it is possible that this behavior is under the control of stimuli.

These stimuli, called discriminative, can exert control over behavior. This is the case of individuals who allow themselves to be guided by specific stimuli, leaving out many others of the same or dissimilar nature. The use of memos in the classroom of any kind seeks, for example, to guide certain behaviors, such as studying.

  • Beginning of reinforcement programs. A reinforcement program is a concrete plan to provide reinforcing stimuli for the behaviors of individuals. The continuous reinforcement program seeks to reinforce operant behaviors. On the other hand, the intermittent reinforcement program seeks to reinforce some behaviors, according to a certain time and number of behaviors.

Intermittent reinforcement programs are in turn divided into interval programs and reason programs.

Interval programs (fixed or variable) define the time of implementation of the reinforcing stimuli. For example, waiting minutes are scheduled to reinforce the expected behavior, strictly following the timing. In reason programs (equally fixed or variable), behaviors are reinforced by lot or group.

  • Cumulative complexity principle This principle defines that complex behaviors respond to a series of concatenated responses.

Complex behaviors, such as speaking, writing, reading, drawing, are the result of the succession of responses. In other words, behind all these complex behaviors the same response chain learning system is present.

From the outlined principles derive various procedures and behavioral strategies, much more concrete, which have been put into practice in social settings and educational contexts.

In fact, depending on the interest that one has in carrying out some kind of behavior modification in students, apart from positive reinforcement as the central axis, the procedures for teaching behaviors are used.

These principles are the foundation of behaviorism in general. However, it happens that it also has a range of procedures that we describe in the next section of this post.

The procedures of the behaviorist paradigm

Finally, some of these procedures will be defined. Keep in mind that behaviorism works on people . That is, its mission is to shape certain types of behaviors. Therefore, it must be understood that their procedures are aimed at these kinds of objectives.

  • The molding. It is a process of reinforcing behaviors close to those desired until they are fully consolidated.
  • The chaining. It is used to consolidate complex behaviors, such as writing, drawing or speaking. Starting from the backward or forward chaining, it relies on the succession of simple behaviors until the goal behavior is achieved.
  • The modeling . The subject starts from an exemplary model to develop a series of simple or complex behaviors. It also consists of the reinforcement of the behaviors acquired from the prototype model.
  • The Premack Principle. This principle seeks to attract less recurrent behaviors to more recurrent ones, in order to strengthen them. For example, the young man who ends up practicing soccer more and better because he first did it in video games.

There are many other relevant procedures in behaviorism . However, we have only indicated the most common ones. It must be borne in mind that its influence is more than remarkable in recent times.

Influence of the behaviorist paradigm

There is no doubt that its influence is enormous . Especially in the social sciences. Needless to say, psychology absorbs much of the concepts of behaviorism. Likewise, disciplines such as sociology and political science have taken into account many of the ideas of this paradigm.

Likewise, in such everyday matters as advertising and marketing . Content marketing precisely seeks to influence people to have a certain behavior . Thus, the behaviorist paradigm is interspersed with many scenarios of our daily life.

It is worth saying that this paradigm has been embedded in the study of the great human masses. People inhabit congested metropolises, crowded with people . Therefore, more than worrying about the way in which individuals can be influenced from now on, there is concern about influence on the basis of behaviorism understood as a discipline of great plurality.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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