What Is Behavioral Learning? | BetterHelp (2023)

Behaviorismis the theory that behaviors are a response to a stimulus or stimuli in the environment. It emphasizes external behaviors and responses to the outside world as opposed to internal feelings and emotions.

While those in education are likely to be familiar with behavioral learning, it is a way of learning used in many areas of life. Behavioral learning theory has a long history and is significant to learning and in the field of psychology.

John Watson And Behaviorism

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Behaviorismis an approach to psychology based on studying behaviors that can be observed rather than on internal feelings, emotions, thoughts, or consciousness. Behaviorism began as a theory of psychology by the American psychologist John Watson in 1913. At the time, the psychoanalytic theory ofSigmund Freudand his student Carl Jung ruled the psychological landscape.

Psychoanalysis stresses the importance of the unconscious mind, which can be interpreted through internal occurrences like dreams and past early childhood experiences. In contrast, behaviorism stresses the external—what is happening in the environment—rather than the internal—what is in mind.

Behaviorists like Watson believed that if psychology—then increasingly popular but still a fairly new science—were to be taken seriously, it would need to emphasize the study of observable behaviors and data.

Pavlov, Classical Conditioning, And Behavioral Learning

Behavioral learning is a school of study that focuses on how individuals learn and how an individual’s learning can be measured. One of Watson’s early tenants of behaviorism was that humans learn in the same way animals do. This opened the door to some of the earliest animal studies and animal experiments in psychology.

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“Pavlov’s dogs” and “Pavlovian response” are terms that may sound familiar. Pavlov’s dogs were the subjects of Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov’s famous behavioral experiments. Pavlov found that he could train dogs to associate sounds with feeding. He calculated the degree to which dogs associated food with the sound of a bell based on the volume of saliva that dogs produced when they heard the sound. This satisfied the behaviorism priority of measuring the response through observation rather than through a hypothesis or theory.

Associating a concept (like, in the case of Pavlov’s dogs, food, or being fed) with repeated exposure to a stimulus (like the sound of the bell, for instance) is called “classical conditioning.” Classical conditioning is one of the main concepts in the theory of behavioral learning.

B.F. Skinner, Operant Conditioning, And Behavioral Learning

Another early contributor to behavioral learning theory was B.F. Skinner. While his term “operant conditioning” may not sound familiar, positive and negative reinforcement components may be. Positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement are sometimes confused with “rewards” or “punishments.” Whilepositive reinforcement involves someone receiving something in response to a behavior, negative reinforcement involves taking something away in response to a behavior. Both types of reinforcement can strengthen or encourage behaviors.

A practical example of negative reinforcement involves seat belt warnings in cars. Once you buckle your seat belt, the loud and bothersome beeping noise stops or is taken away. As a result, positive behavior (wearing a seatbelt for safety) is reinforced. In the future, the behavior of putting on the seatbelt may become more regular because of the motivation to avoid hearing the beeping.

Another example of negative reinforcement is that a child might be reprimanded for not doing their homework. When they do their homework, the reprimands are taken away, which reinforces the behavior of doing their homework. On the other hand, positive reinforcement would involve offering verbal praise to a child for doing their homework, increasing the likelihood of positive behavior in the future.

Albert Bandura and Observational Learning

Classical and operant conditioning are forms ofassociative learning, which involves a response associated with an outside stimulus. Associative learning involves the direct experiences of the subject. However, a later psychologist, Albert Bandura, proposed that a subject doesn’t’ need to experience a stimulus to learn a behavior directly. According to Bandura’s theory, a subject can learn behavior by watching someone else perform that behavior. This process is called “social learning” or “observational learning.”

(Video) Behavioral theory | Behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy

Observational learning is not completely different from associative learning. The behavior that a subject learns by observing someone else (whether in person or the media, for instance) can serve as a model for behavior. That behavior may then be encouraged or discouraged in ways that are similar to classical or operant conditioning. This may sound not very easy, but it happens in everyday life. For example, a child may learn behavior from watching a certain tv show or observing someone else. This is an example of observational learning. Let’s say a young child observes a tv character being silly and throwing food, which prompts the young observer to laugh. Through observation, the laughter may reinforce or encourage the child’s behavior. The child may decide to throw food at dinner to make the family laugh. If the family does laugh, the behavior may be reinforced further. However, if praise for the child is removed temporarily, this negative reinforcement may strengthen or reinforce the child’s motivation to refrain from throwing food. If the child does not throw food the next night, praise from the parents may further positively reinforce the child’s more appropriate dinnertime behavior. If siblings see the behavior and the positive and negative reinforcements, they may learn about behavior and consequences from their observations, another example of social or observational learning.

Behavioral Learning as an Educational Tool—In and Out of the Classroom

In several areas of life, behavioral learning is used:

Behavioral learning at school:Behavioral learning has been influential in education, especially in early childhood education. Positive and negative reinforcement are often used to teach children how to behave and encourage modification of behaviors. Schools may also utilize observational learning; for instance, a student’s success, other behaviors, and the subsequent consequences, whether negative or positive, are often used as examples for other students.

Behavioral learning in person and virtually:Of course, behavioral learning isn’t’ only used in the classroom. Behaviors and social norms can result from observing others throughout life. Behaviors may be observed in person or, in our increasingly connected world, maybe observed virtually. For example, consider the number of people whose behavior may be influenced by watching how-to videos or following “influencers” on social media.

Behavioral learning and criminal justice:Behavioral learning is employed in the criminal justice system, where undesirable actions earn undesirable consequences. This is an example of operant conditioning. Prisons are also often used for social learning. Legal consequences given to a criminal can serve the purpose of discouraging illegal actions by the public and giving the offender a legal punishment or penalty.

The twentieth-century philosopherMichel Foucaultturned the idea of observational learning in criminal justice on its head with his “panopticon” theory. This theory suggested that the average person is so afraid of being observed doing something undesirable that creating the illusion that being observed is enough to prevent that behavior.

Behavioral learning and biology:Operant conditioning is often used to teach lessons, but it is also used in animal experiments about topics like memory and learning. The idea is that if a subject can perform an action that results in an award, it’s’ probably safe to assume that the subject has learned that it can get a reward by performing that action. If the subject doesn’t respond to rewards, it is often assumed that the subject is cognitively incapable of forming connections between the action and the reward.

(Video) Behavior Analysis | An Overview

Behavioral learning and psychology:Behaviorism has contributed to understanding how we and other living beings on earth learn, but it isn’t’ limited to educational psychology. Behaviorists have also contributed to understanding how the mind works, why we do what we do, and adjusting our behaviors.Cognitive-behavioral therapyis one of the most common kinds of talk therapy. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, the patient or client understands the internal and external motivations that drive their behavior, feelings, and thoughts. This can be helpful to them as they strive to develop them to positive behaviors, thoughts, and feelings and work on stopping or coping with the negative in their lives.

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For help learning to manage behaviors or if you or a loved one has a mental health concern, please reach out for support. Licensed mental health professionals are available to connect with you online throughBetterHelp. Online cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as other types of therapy, are very effective. A recentpublication looked at more than 350 peer-reviewed studies. Through BetterHelp, you can connect with a counselor wherever you’re comfortable.

(Video) 2: Learning about Cognitive behavior therapy


What Is Behavioral Learning? | BetterHelp? ›

Behavioral learning is a school of study that focuses on how individuals learn and how an individual's learning can be measured. One of Watson's early tenants of behaviorism was that humans learn in the same way animals do.

What are examples of behavioral learning? ›

A common example of behaviorism is positive reinforcement. A student gets a small treat if they get 100% on their spelling test. In the future, students work hard and study for their test in order to get the reward.

What is the meaning of behavioral learning? ›

Behavioral Learning Theory is a school of thought that believes humans learn through their experiences by associating a stimulus with either a reward or a punishment. This learning theory is instrumental in understanding how to motivate humans—your employees—to learn.

What are the 3 major types of behavioral learning? ›

There are three main types of learning: classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning.

What are learning behaviors in psychology? ›

In general, a learned behavior is one that an organism develops as a result of experience. Learned behaviors contrast with innate behaviors, which are genetically hardwired and can be performed without any prior experience or training. Of course, some behaviors have both learned and innate elements.

What are the two main types of behavioral learning? ›

Classical conditioning and operant conditioning are two important concepts central to behavioral psychology. There are similarities between classical and operant conditioning. Both types of conditioning result in learning and both suggest that a subject can adapt to their environment.

What is an example of behaviorism in the classroom? ›

An example of behaviorism is when teachers reward their class or certain students with a party or special treat at the end of the week for good behavior throughout the week. The same concept is used with punishments. The teacher can take away certain privileges if the student misbehaves.

What is the difference between cognitive learning and behavioral learning? ›

Cognitive learning theory refers to the way consumers learn about the product through analysis and evaluation. Behavioral learning theory refers to the way consumers learn about the product through behavior repetition.

What is cognitive behavioral learning? ›

CBT treatment usually involves efforts to change thinking patterns. These strategies might include: Learning to recognize one's distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then to reevaluate them in light of reality. Gaining a better understanding of the behavior and motivation of others.

What are the 4 basic behavioral types? ›

All that we can see and deal with is a person's behavior. There are four major behavioral styles: analytical, amiable, driver and expressive.

How do you apply behavioral learning theory in the classroom? ›

How can you apply this?
  1. Teacher leads the class through a topic.
  2. Students listen silently.
  3. Teacher then sets a task based on the information.
  4. Students complete the task and await feedback.
  5. The teacher gives feedback, then sets the next task.
  6. With each round of feedback, the student is being conditioned to learn the material.
Feb 13, 2020

What are the four stages of behavioural learning? ›

Bandura's theory of social learning

Bandura proposed that this type of learning involved four different stages – attention, retention, reproduction and motivation.

What are 5 learned behaviors? ›

The five types of learned behavior are classical conditioning, operant conditioning, habituation, insight learning, and imprinting.

Why is learning behaviour important? ›

Positive Behaviour for Learning habits enable students to engage in learning, make good academic progress and sustain good relationships with both adults and peers. Establishing Positive Behaviour for Learning habits helps students make smoother transitions into college, employment and adult life.

Why are learning behaviors important? ›

Additionally, Learning Behaviors help with understanding and managing emotions, establishing and maintaining positive relationships, and making responsible decisions are essential life skills.

What are the principles of behavioral learning? ›

What are some principles of behavioral learning? Principles of behavioral learning include the role of consequences, reinforcers, punishers, immediacy of consequences, shaping, extinction, schedules of reinforcement, maintenance, and the role of antecedents.

What are the components of behavioral learning theory? ›

There are several concepts that define principles of behavioral learning. Some of these concepts are stimulus, behavior (response), and reinforcement (negative or positive). In general terms, behaviorists believe that learning can be objectively measured only through a learner's response to a certain stimulus.

Who developed behavioral learning theory? ›

Though Pavlov and Wundt were primary precursors, later psychologists would formalize their work into the behaviorist learning theory we know today. A pioneer in this regard is the American psychologist John Watson.

What are good learning behaviours? ›

Effective learning in the classroom is promoted by: activity, with reflection and sense-making • collaboration for learning • learner responsibility for learning • learning about learning. Active engagement with materials, people and ideas are needed, together with active reflection, enquiry and sense- making.

What is the role of the teacher in behaviorism? ›

The role of the teacher is to manipulate the environment in an effort to encourage the desired behavioral changes. The principles of behaviorism were not formed overnight but evolved over time from the work of multiple psychologists.

What are the advantages of behaviorism in the classroom? ›

Strengths of Behaviorism

It allows the learner to focus on one goal. It provides clear predictions about the behavior of learners under certain conditions like reinforcement or punishment. It sates the specific and objective outcomes for learning. It emphasizes objective measurement.

What is an example of a behavior? ›

Examples: breathing, walking, crying, reading, etc.) Example in everyday context: Opening a door is an example of a behavior because it is an interactive condition between an organism (you) and the environment (the door).

What is cognitive learning examples? ›

Examples of cognitive learning strategies include:

Encouraging discussions about what is being taught. Helping students explore and understand how ideas are connected. Asking students to justify and explain their thinking. Using visualizations to improve students' understanding and recall.

What are the behavioral methods of training? ›

Behavioral Skills Training

Several variations of BST exist, but the general model includes 1) verbal instruction, 2) modeling, 3) rehearsal or role-play, and 4) feedback. In other words, the therapist first explains the skill to the learner. Then the therapist models how to do it.

What is behavior vs cognitive activity? ›

Behavior is an action that can be measured or observed (e.g., walking down the street). Cognitive activity involves the mental processes of each person (e.g., what we think about as we walk down the street).

What is cognitive behavioral approach in school? ›

What are cognitive behavioral therapy programs to prevent depression and anxiety symptoms? School-based cognitive behavioral therapy programs help students develop strategies to solve problems, regulate emotions, and establish helpful patterns of thought and behavior.

What are the 5 components of cognitive behavioral therapy? ›

In CBT, problems are broken down into 5 main areas:
  • situations.
  • thoughts.
  • emotions.
  • physical feelings.
  • actions.

What are cognitive learning strategies? ›

Cognitive learning strategies are strategies that improve a learner's ability to process information more deeply, transfer and apply information to new situations, and result in enhanced and better-retained learning.

What are four behavioral functions? ›

What are the Four Functions of Behavior? The predominant four functions of behavior are attention, escape, access, and sensory needs. These four functions allow us to understand and categorize someone's actions, as well as determine why behaviors occur.

What are the four behavioral characteristics? ›

The four behavioral styles are typically referred to as:
  • Dominance (or “D-Type”)
  • Influence (or “i-Type”)
  • Steadiness (or “S-Type”)
  • Conscientiousness (or “C-Type”)

How can we teach students with behavioral problems? ›

Effective General Teaching Strategies for Behavior Issues
  • Provide a calm environment.
  • Minimize distractions.
  • Emphasize routine.
  • Behavioral expectations should reflect behavioral abilities.
  • Focus on assisting student rather than disciplining.
  • Provide a time out/study area away from the group.
  • Make sure the student feels safe.

What is the behavioral child development theory? ›

Behavioural child development theories

Child development theories focus on how children learn through their interactions with their environment. According to behaviourists, learning and development result from associations, rewards, and punishments.

What is Skinner's behaviorist theory? ›

The Behavioral Psychologist B. F. Skinner's learning theory states that a person is exposed to a stimulus, which evokes a response, and then the response is reinforced (stimulus creates response, and then reinforcement). This finally leads to the human behavior conditioning.

What are the 5 behavioral learning theories and approaches to learning? ›

There are five primary educational learning theories: behaviorism, cognitive, constructivism, humanism, and connectivism. Additional learning theories include transformative, social, and experiential.

How do children learn behaviors? ›

Children learn and imitate behaviors by watching and listening to others. This is sometimes called “observational learning,” when children can learn things simply by observing others. The models do not have to be people that the child directly interacts with.

Is behavior learned or inherited? ›

Human behavior is subject to genetic variations. The ways in which individuals differ in their intellectual abilities, personalities, and mental health are, to a large extent, functions of their inherited genetic predispositions.

How do you develop behaviour? ›

Tips to encourage positive behaviour
  1. Give your child positive attention and spend quality time together. ...
  2. Be a role model. ...
  3. Tell your child how you feel. ...
  4. Catch your child being 'good' ...
  5. Get down to your child's level. ...
  6. Listen actively. ...
  7. Keep promises. ...
  8. Create an environment for positive behaviour.
Mar 7, 2023

What are positive behaviors of students? ›

These nine character strengths are: perseverance, self-regulation, prudence, love of learning, hope, gratitude, perspective, teamwork, and social intelligence. Firstly, we expect perseverance to be robustly related to the educational outcomes measured.

How does learning affect our behavior? ›

Learning can be defined as the process leading to relatively permanent behavioral change or potential behavioral change. In other words, as we learn, we alter the way we perceive our environment, the way we interpret the incoming stimuli, and therefore the way we interact, or behave.

What are 4 examples of behavior? ›

Examples of human behavior include conflict, communication, cooperation, creativity, play, social interaction, tradition, and work.

What are some examples of behaviorism in teaching and learning? ›

An example of behaviorism is when teachers reward their class or certain students with a party or special treat at the end of the week for good behavior throughout the week. The same concept is used with punishments. The teacher can take away certain privileges if the student misbehaves.

What are some examples of behavioral development in children? ›

They might include doing homework, being polite, and doing chores. These actions receive compliments freely and easily. Other behavior is not sanctioned but is tolerated under certain conditions, such as during times of illness (of a parent or a child) or stress (a move, for instance, or the birth of a new sibling).

What are the five behavioral theories of learning? ›

There are five primary educational learning theories: behaviorism, cognitive, constructivism, humanism, and connectivism. Additional learning theories include transformative, social, and experiential.

What are the 4 most common behavioural styles? ›

There are 4 main behaviour styles, which fall under various headings depending on what training method is used. DISC is a widely used method; these behavioural styles are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance.

What is an example of behavioral psychology in everyday life? ›

It is often behavioral psychology that shapes how people break bad habits or create new ones. For example, many books, articles, and tips that you read about making or breaking habits are based on behavioral psychology.

What is an example of behavioral psychology? ›

Modern Behavioral Psychology, or Behaviorism, continues to explore how our behavior can be shaped by reinforcement and punishments. For example, new eye tracking experiments can develop an understanding of how we learn through positive and negative feedback.

What are the most common childhood behavioral problems? ›

The most common disruptive behaviour disorders include oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These three behavioural disorders share some common symptoms, so diagnosis can be difficult and time consuming.

What is an example of a behavioral strength in a child? ›

Social and Behavioral Strengths

Social and behavioural strengths are all about how your child interacts with others. Examples of social strengths include being a good listener, a good friend, being truthful, following rules, resisting peer pressure, respecting personal space, and comforting others.

What are the six types of learned behavior? ›

Types of learned behaviour
  • Habituation. Habituation may refer to an organism's decreased response to a stimulus after repeated exposure to it. ...
  • Imprinting. ...
  • Classical conditioning.
  • Operant conditioning. ...
  • Cognitive learning. ...
  • Learned behaviour in psychology. ...
  • Learned behaviour in education. ...
  • Learned behaviour in business.
Sep 30, 2022


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