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Psychologists and sociologists

There were a lot of psychologists and sociologists who studied human behavior with the aim of helping man to learn and grow into a more desirable being. These people believed that behavior can be altered and/or modified to produce more pleasing outcomes and they had formulated several theories and arguments supporting their beliefs. Edward Lee Thorndike proposed the “Simple Learning Theory”. He conducted controlled experiments on animals and observed their simple learned responses.

Thorndike showed how a specific response occurred and recurred followed by a stimuli called a “satisfier”. Based on these studies, he formulated the “the law of effect”. This included the concept of “trial and error” as well as the “law of exercise” – more commonly referred to as “practice makes perfect”. (Pear, 2007) Furthermore, Thorndike’s reports focused on how animal studies were viewed as more than a mere source of basic information but as a basis for discovering general principles of learning as well.

Unlike most scientists, Thorndike explored deeper on the animal behavior and eventually called it intelligent. The principles that Thorndike ventured were further studied and were eventually used widely in the education community. Burrhus Frederic Skinner authored the theory on “operant conditioning”. It stated the role that the environment played in controlling human behavior. He also developed his ideas through his experimentation on animal behavior.

He conducted several experiments to observe how behavior is “learned” after the doer is given a reward and how a behavior is “omitted” after the doer is punished. It introduced the concept of positive and negative reinforcement and illustrated how it affected a recurrence or an omission of behavior. Positive reinforcement should be provided if a certain attitude was desirable while negative reinforcement should be used when a particular behavior should be eliminated. (Klein & Mowrer, 1989)

Clarke Leonard Hull also proposed a study similar to that of Thorndike and Skinner’s in that it generally focused on learning. He emphasized the role of internal arousal as a major factor in eliciting behavior. His studies were slightly different or improved since he acknowledged several variables, like habit, affecting behavior. (Mills, 2000) The Functionalist Theory centered on the fact that human beings react due to the input and output of data to the brain. It likened the human brain to a computer system in terms of its functions.

The debate over this theory was mainly focused on the differences of the human brain to that of the computer system. Most people believed that, unlike human beings, computers are completely and precisely logical that it could not really fall into the errors in behavior or “output” like people do so the two could not really be compared to each other. (Jarvis, 2005) These various studies and theories were not formulated to trivialize man’s motivation for learning nor were it pursued to delimit the causes of his behavior.

The theorists aimed to interpret these data to help man understand his potential for learning and improvement. With these studies, we’re better equipped to handle and control undesirable behaviors and promote more pleasing actions. Works Cited Jarvis, P. (2005). Towards a comprehensive theory of human learning. Routledge. Klein, S. B. , & Mowrer, R. R (1989). Contemporary learning theories. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Mills, J. A. (2000). Control: A History of Behavioral Psychology. NYU Press. Pear, J. (2007). A Historical and Contemporary Look at Psychological Systems. Routledge.

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