As experimental behavioural psychology is related to behavioral neuroscience, we can date the first researches in the area were done in the beginning of 19th century. Later, this essentially philosophical position gained strength from the success of Skinner’s early experimental work with rats and pigeons, summarized in his books The Behavior of Organisms and Schedules of Reinforcement.
Of particular importance was his concept of the operant response, of which the canonical example was the rat’s lever-press. In contrast with the idea of a physiological or reflex response, an operant is a class of structurally distinct but functionally equivalent responses. For example, while a rat might press a lever with its left paw or its right paw or its tail, all of these responses operate on the world in the same way and have a common consequence.
Operants are often thought of as species of responses, where the individuals differ but the class coheres in its function-shared consequences with operants and reproductive success with species. This is a clear distinction between Skinner’s theory and S–R theory. Skinner’s empirical work expanded on earlier research on trial-and-error learning by researchers such as Thorndike and Guthrie with both conceptual reformulations
Thorndike’s notion of a stimulus-response “association” or “connection” was abandoned; and methodological ones—the use of the “free operant”, so-called because the animal was now permitted to respond at its own rate rather than in a series of trials determined by the experimenter procedures. With this method, Skinner carried out substantial experimental work on the effects of different schedules and rates of reinforcement on the rates of operant responses made by rats and pigeons.
He achieved remarkable success in training animals to perform unexpected responses, to emit large numbers of responses, and to demonstrate many empirical regularities at the purely behavioral level. This lent some credibility to his conceptual analysis. It is largely his conceptual analysis that made his work much more rigorous than his peers, a point which can be seen clearly in his seminal work Are Theories of Learning Necessary? in which he criticizes what he viewed to be theoretical weaknesses then common in the study of psychology.
An important descendant of the experimental analysis of behavior is the Society for Quantitative Analysis of Behavior. As Skinner turned from experimental work to concentrate on the philosophical underpinnings of a science of behavior, his attention turned to human language with his 1957 book Verbal Behavior and other language-related publications; Verbal Behavior laid out a vocabulary and theory for functional analysis of verbal behavior, and was strongly criticized in a review by Noam Chomsky.
Skinner did not respond in detail but claimed that Chomsky failed to understand his ideas, and the disagreements between the two and the theories involved have been further discussed. Innateness theory, which has been heavily critiqued, is opposed to behaviorist theory which claims that language is a set of habits that can be acquired by means of conditioning. According to some, the behaviorist account is a process which would be too slow to explain a phenomenon as complicated as language learning.
What was important for a behaviorist’s analysis of human behavior was not language acquisition so much as the interaction between language and overt behavior. In an essay republished in his 1969 book Contingencies of Reinforcement, Skinner took the view that humans could construct linguistic stimuli that would then acquire control over their behavior in the same way that external stimuli could. The possibility of such “instructional control” over behavior meant that contingencies of reinforcement would not always produce the same effects on human behavior as they reliably do in other animals.
The focus of a radical behaviorist analysis of human behavior therefore shifted to an attempt to understand the interaction between instructional control and contingency control, and also to understand the behavioral processes that determine what instructions are constructed and what control they acquire over behavior. Recently, a new line of behavioral research on language was started under the name of relational frame theory.
Health behavior refers to a person’s beliefs and actions regarding their health and well-being. Health behaviors are direct factors in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Health behaviors are influenced by the social, cultural, and physical environments in which we live. They are shaped by individual choices and external constraints. Positive behaviors help promote health and prevent disease, while the opposite is true for risk behaviors.
Health behaviors are early indicators of population health. Because of the time lag that often occurs between certain behaviors and the development of disease, these indicators may foreshadow the future burdens and benefits of health-risk and health-promoting behaviors. Health behaviors impact upon individuals’ quality of life, by delaying the onset of chronic disease and extending active lifespan.
Smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, gaps in primary care services and low screening uptake are all significant determinants of poor health, and changing such behaviors should lead to improved health. For example, in US, Healthy People 2000, United States Department of Health and Human Services, lists increased physical activity, changes in nutrition and reductions in tobacco, alcohol and drug use as important for health promotion and disease prevention.
Any interventions done are matched with the needs of each individual in an ethical and respected manner. Health belief model encourages increasing individuals’ perceived susceptibility to negative health outcomes and making individuals aware of the severity of such negative health behavior outcomes. E.g. through health promotion messages.
In addition, the health belief model suggests the need to focus on the benefits of health behaviors and the fact that barriers to action are easily overcome. The theory of planned behavior suggests using persuasive messages for tackling behavioral beliefs to increase the readiness to perform a behavior, called intentions. The theory of planned behavior advocates the need to tackle normative beliefs and control beliefs in any attempt to change behavior.
Challenging the normative beliefs is not enough but to follow through the intention with self-efficacy from individual’s mastery in problem solving and task completion is important to bring about a positive change. Self efficacy is often cemented through standard persuasive techniques.
- “Behavioural biologists do not agree on what constitutes behaviour”
- Wayback Machine.
- “Definition of ethology”.
- “Definition of behaviorism”.
- The Regents of the University of California”.
- Trends in Consumer Behavior Changes. Overview of Concepts”.
- Consumer Behaviour”.
- Six Degrees of Bob Cialdini and Five Principles of Scientific Influence”
- Health behaviours”.
- Goal Achievement: The Role of Intentions”
- Human behavior at work : human relations and organizational behavior
- Workplace sexual harassment at the margins”
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