The Challenge of Behaviorism


There are two theories that are profoundly applied in the behaviorism that both the radical and psychological behaviorism. These two theories are Skinner and Staats theories, which fall under radical and psychological behaviorism respectively. These theories suggest that personality comprise of learned behaviors. Skinner’s theory presents the principles concerned with learning while Staats’s theory provides details concerning the appliance of principles in terms of behaviors to assist in understanding personality. Given that persons comes out of learning, Skinner accentuates that behavior ought to transpire after which reinforcement proceeds.

Repertoires in detail

Behavioral tendency becomes more pronounced with the frequency and urgency in which reinforcements or rewards transpire. According to Staats, the learned behaviors are categorized into language-cognition behaviors, emotional-motivational behavior and sensory-motor behaviors.  Emotional-motivational repertoires are subject to adjustments in controlling nervousness and anger. Language-cognitive repertoire concerns the cognitive.

Preview of the two theories

  • Individual differences: persons vary in behavior according to their reinforcement histories.
  • Adaptation and adjustments: people develop goods behaviors and eliminate bad ones through behavioral modifications.
  • Cognitive processes: observable behavior is a better measure of psychological processes.
  • Society: offers environment foe learning and shapes personality.
  • Biological processes and development: these influence feedback capabilities and learn the doings that lead to constructiveness or chastisement.

Overview of Skinner’s theory

Describes conduct influences by either chastisement or reinforcements. Skinner never provided the causes of conduct for the variant personalities. He considered personality as a discipline contaminated with pre-scientific theoretical statements. The approach concentrates on the forecast and control of obvious and apparent behavior. The approach argues that grounds for behavior are external to the person in question. The theorist presents the idea that personality traits cannot be the grounds for behavior given that inner grounds or reasons engage circular reasoning. Skinner concentrated on apparent behavior and external reasons for behavior. He also accentuated on the significance of management of behavior.

  • Operant conditioning: behavior is established through environmental upshots dependent on behavior. It also be considered as the choice of behavior through it outcomes.
  • Rate of responding: is considered to be the quantity of responses produced in a given period where a variation in this rate is perceived to be the substantiation of learning.
  • Skinner box is the appliance that offers controlled environment for assessing learning. The device assisted in the examination and automated recording of the operant responses.
  • Operant responses: these are behaviors that liberally generated by a living being.
  • Responses: is considered the discrete behavior presented by a living creature.
  • Reinforcement: behavior that is acclimatized to a certain environment ought to be toughened. According to Skinner, the instantaneous short-lived outcomes of behavior are prominent in comparison to the long-lived outcomes of behavior. Consequently, impetuous behavior can transpire if individuals never learn to holdup instant satisfaction.

A positive reinforce is considered any motivation that toughens the conduct on which it has been presented as the conditional element. There are secondary, as well as, primary reinforcements where the secondary are the learnt rewards while the primary reinforcements are the natural aspects.

Negative reinforcements are considered stimulus whose removal seeks to reinforce behavior. These reinforcements vary from punishments although both are not disposable and bear dissimilar upshots on behavior.

Reinforcement schedules

  • Continuous reinforcement
  • Partial reinforcement
  • Variable ratio
  • Fixed interval
  • Variable interval

Appliance of behavioral techniques

Operant behavior finds appliance in therapy and edification where it is utilized in the creation of design strategies that aim at augmenting preferred behavior and reducing redundant behavior for variant individuals (Staats 305).

Programmed instructions are utilized in education, in an attempt to prevent interruption of class by uncontrollable students.

Staats theory overview

Staats offered detailed explanations concerning human personality through the transformation of these concepts into behavioral language. This conjecture expounds on individual disparities, psychological examinations and biological influences. The foundation to human personality is established through learning. He confirms that behavior is upheld through reinforcement. The common interventions are the token-reinforcer and time-out practice. The time-out approach bears appliance in schools for disrupting students. The children are often taken into time-out rooms.

According to the conjecture, emotional responses offer encouragements that make individuals to advance or either to avoid these responses in the instances of unconstructive emotions.

Fundamental Behavioral repertoires

  • Language-cognitive such as speech, thoughts.
  • Emotional- motivational such as reactions to punishment and reward, emotional reactions to societal interactions.
  • Sensory-motor such as feeding, social abilities.


Situations present three dissimilar proposition concerning the behavior also considered the three-function learning conjecture.  According to this conjecture, situations give rise to consequences and attitudes thus offering reinforcements that can direct a certain behavior for these personalities.

Psychological adjustments

In order for a person to perform effectively concerning adjustments much learning is necessitated. Individuals with no basics concerning the behavioral repertoire usually exhibit behaviors that are estranged. Behavioral highlighting concerning circumstances of learning implies the significance of prohibition by transforming societal conditions that concentrate on society ways of existence.

Personality assessment

Psychological behaviorism reflects on personality tests as imperative in providing relevant information concerning behavioral repertoires. Dissimilar tests offer different assessments to individuals.

Act Frequency Approach (AFA) aims at quantifying personality traits through evaluation of the rate of recurrence of exemplary behaviors.


These two theories enhance individual understanding of personalities by providing detailed information from research conducted living creatures. These presumptions find appliance in various environments such as school environments.


Staats, A. W. (1996) Psychological Behaviorism and Personality: A Multilevel Unified

Approach from Basic to Applied. New York: Springer.

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