Conditioning Theories






Behaviorismis a psychological perspective concerned with human behaviors andadvanced in early 20thcentury. According to behaviorists, human behavior is influenced notonly by mental processes but also through reflexes conditioning. B.FSkinner is considered a radical behaviorist who conducted extensivestudy on the effects of classical conditioning on human behavior(McLeod, 2015). Skinner was influenced by Watson (1913) theories ofhuman behavior. Skinner believed that human behavior is far more as aresult of ‘conditioning’ in which actions results inconsequences. In his perspective, Skinner observed that humanbehaviors arises from ‘operant conditioning’ in which positivereinforces lead to positive behaviors while punishments lead tonegative behavior. In his observation, rewards improve good behaviorswhile punishment leads to weak behaviors (Watson, 1913).

Classicalconditioning and behavioral changes

Skinner’sclassical conditioning is applicable in life especially onconditioning human behaviors based on rewards and punishment. Skinnerobserved that ‘gifts’ or ‘meatballs’ resulted in a repeatbehavior in which the rat pressed the lever ostensibly for more meatball (McLeod, 2015). Similarly, in my life, I discovered that when Iwas given gifts by parents for good academic work, I improved my hardwork in school. I also noticed that students performed well in classassignments when they were promised gifts by subject teachers.

Skinnernoticed that when the rat was ‘punished’ using electric current,the rat learned to press the lever to ‘switch’ off the offendingcurrent (McLeod, 2015). In this case, punishment is aimed to ‘reducethe occurrence or repeat of an unpleasant thing.’ As such,punishment helps in controlling negative issues. To illustrate this,while in high school, I noted that severe punishments such assuspension from school minimized bad behaviors such as bullying andsmoking. On another occasion, I observed that when a kid engaged inbad behaviors such as stealing cheese, caning helped in preventingthe kid from repeating the behavior.

Inmy work career, I have observed that rewards such as good salaryincrement, welfare and health benefits helps in reinforcing employeeshard work, commitment and loyalty to their employer. Far frommaterial rewards, I noted that employees’ positive behaviors arereinforced when managers appreciate workers effort through positivewords. Similarly, in the social life, I have observed that when oneacknowledges another person by saying ‘thank you’ or ‘welcome,’this helps in reinforcing a repeat of the acknowledged behavior. Onthe other hand, lack of appreciation, low pay and abusing workersleads to poor work output. When a kid engages in bad behaviors,punishment helps in minimizing a repeat of such behaviors. Inconclusion, conditioning leads to positive or negative behaviors. Theoverriding argument is people result to positive or negativebehaviors based on the conditioning nature received.

Peer-reviewedresearch study that addresses the theory or treatment of phobias

DeJongh, A Ten Broeke, E Renssen, M R. (1999). &quotTreatment ofspecific phobias with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing(EMDR): protocol, empirical status, and conceptual issues&quot.Journalof anxiety disorders13(1–2): 69–85.

Inthis study, the authors sought understand the effectiveness of theEye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) treatment methodfor particular phobias. In addition, the study was concerned withconceptual and practical use of Eye Movement Desensitization andReprocessing (EMDR) treatment method in controlled and uncontrolledstudies. In this case, the author considered the application of EMDRover treatment phobias involving childhood spider phobia. In theirconclusion, the authors assessed that EMDR is effective when subjectwere observed in controlled conditions but the method was lesseffective in when subjects were placed in uncontrolled conditions.Furthermore, the researchers assessed that there are limited studiesin the application research of EMDR on trauma related phobias.Another observation made was that EMDR is a time bound procedure thatis only applicable when invivoexposure is inhibited. As such, the conclusion was that EMDR requiresfurther clinical research attention.

Howbehaviorism can still be relevant today

Behaviorismis relevant today in innumerable ways. In particular, the behaviorismperspective can be used in skill development and learning. At home,behaviorism is effective in instilling discipline among the children,enhancing good morals and encouraging personal development.Similarly, behaviorism is effective in school in promoting goodacademic performance, discipline and morals. At work, behaviorismperspective could be applied to motivate employees to work hard,enhance commitment and loyalty to the organization, similarly,behaviorism perspective is effective in enhancing education inharmful practices such as stealing (McLeod, 2015).

However,behaviorism has limitation in that it may lead to rebellion orencourage a culture of performing certain behaviors based on rewardsor punishment. The rationale for this is that, young people maydevelop ‘dependence behaviors’ that are only influenced byrewards or punishment as depicted by Skinners rat experiment (McLeod,2015). The rat got used to pressing the level when it felt hungry orfelt uncomfortable when the electric current was set in.

Farfrom this, the behaviorism perspective is ineffective in explaininghow human learn some behaviors such as language. Behaviorism does notenhance language development. Some aspects such as language learningare interplay of social, psychological and biological transformationand thus cannot be enhanced by rewards or punishment. Behaviorismperspective of rewards and punishment is only applicable in moldingbehavioral aspects that are ‘external’ such as social relations,bowel control among others (Watson, 1913). However, some behaviorssuch as sex or language learning arise from interplay of biological,psychological and social influencers.


DeJongh, A Ten Broeke, E Renssen, M R. (1999). &quotTreatment ofspecific phobias with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing(EMDR): protocol, empirical status, and conceptual issues&quot.Journalof anxiety disorders13(1–2): 69–85.

McLeod,S. A. (2015). “Skinner – Operant Conditioning.” Retrieved

Watson,J. B. (1913). Psychologyas the Behaviorist views it.PsychologicalReview, 20,158–177.