Nov 17, 2021 in Psychology

Traditional Behaviorism

Every century in the history of humanity is marked with the attempts of scientists to understand the way a human being functions in this world. Though, it became obvious in the twentieth century that in order to comprehend this fact, more complicated methods have to be employed. Researchers put a human being in the center of their studies that reflect different points of perception of the main subject. The two most prominent approaches in physiology and psychology are traditional behaviorism and rational emotive behavior therapy. The paper analyses and compares these two conceptions for the purpose of determining the common and distinctive features of each approach and explaining their effectiveness.

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The two notions have different ways of development. Behaviorism appeared before the grounds for rational emotive behavior therapy have been established. In the year 1913, John Broadus Watson published his work “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views it”. In this work, he states that behaviorism has certain effective methods for understanding the behavior of animals and human beings, which psychology has never used before. The author makes the purpose of his studies quite clear: “to gain an accurate knowledge of adjustments and the stimuli calling them forth. My final reason for this is to learn general and particular methods by which I may control behavior” (Watson, 1994, p. 251). This is not nearly enough for Watson to find and explain various states of consciousness; he aims at affecting them in the right way. This statement is contrary to the purposes and methods that rational emotive behavior therapy operates.

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) “represents a compilation of years of theoretical and clinical insights distilled into a specific theory of disturbance and therapy and deductions for specific clinical strategies and techniques” (Ellis, 2007, p. 6). The founder of the conception is Albert Ellis. He first published his works in the middle of the fifties of the last century. The theory appeared from Ellis’s desire to help people with various psychological disorders. After years of practice, he found the following: “Humans are happiest when they establish important life goals and purposes and actively strive to attain these goals” (Ellis, 2007, p. 4). The task of therapy is to change the basic irrational beliefs that people have so they could be disposed of disorders that provoke them.

The information presented above suggests that traditional behaviorism and REBT are two very different branches of psychology and physiology. The most crucial difference is in the subject matter of the studies that serves as a basis for the development of the approaches. Traditional behaviorism is founded on years of experiments on animals. According to Watson (1994), there is no dividing line between a human being and an animal. It is obvious when one studies a scheme of responses that living organisms have. All the complexity of men fails when it comes to describing responses because they turn out to be no more than basic animal reactions. Ellis took into consideration the problems of real people whom he knew and with whom he worked. The theory proposed by the author “takes a definite humanistic-existential approach to human problems and their basic solutions” (Ellis, 2007, p. 4). Another difference between these approaches finds its particularization in the object of studies. Traditional behaviorism deals with stimuli and reactions to them while REBT primarily focuses on disturbed feelings, behaviors, and emotions people have.

Traditional behaviorism and REBT have different purposes. Behaviorism aims at changing reaction of a living being to stimuli. Thus, when a subject achieves it, he/she learns. REBT changes irrational beliefs that people have along with cognitive attitudes. The results of two approaches are slightly different. The appliance of traditional behaviorism methods stimulates successful learning processes and leads to behavior modifications while the consequences of REBT are the changed behavior of a person and abolition of psychological disorders.

The deeper look into the methods of the theories helps find other differences the two theories have. First, traditional behaviorism rejects introspection as mental states and reactions of organisms in the environment are mostly observed, inspected, and carefully calculated. Behaviorism does not use subjective experience, but it is a proper topic of study for REBT (for example, A-B-C model). Second, behaviorism establishes general laws, which could be applied to everyone with no regard to individual factors. This can be seen in the learning-behavior principles of animals (rats, dogs, cats) that constitute all types of human behavior. REBT is focused on a human being, rational and irrational beliefs, emotions and behaviors. Third, controlled experiments play a great role in traditional behaviorism while REBT “theory of personality and personality disturbances begins with people trying to fulfill their goals” (Ellis, 2007, p. 8). Finally, REBT takes the biological basis of human beings into consideration. At the same time, traditional behaviorism considers the biological basis to be a matter of no importance as it does not have an influence on the way people react to certain stimuli. Watson (1994) believes that any living organism (animal or a human being) could be trained to do any task, and genetic background has no power to affect it. The key term here is “conditioning” that is based on the working system of predicting and controlling responses, though REBT uses models, frameworks, and even hypnosis to influence cognitive attitudes.

Traditional behaviorism and REBT, being the two prominent theories, have a few things in common. These two approaches are focused on the result that makes certain changes in behavior in order to teach something (behaviorism) or get rid of psychological disorders (REBT). These conceptions are relatively new as they were founded only in the twentieth century. Traditional behaviorism and REBT manage to overstep biological factors, no matter whether it is due to the complete rejection of them or persistent work with rational and irrational beliefs. The most important thing is that these conceptions are effective in practice.

Traditional behaviorism is a practical approach that could be used in various situations. According to Watson (1994), behaviorism should be applied in order to improve a human being and, above all, to help with some physiological disorder. The psychologist studied the senses of perception, and he believed that the results would “give an excellent picture of what each organ stands for in the way of function” (Watson, 1994, p. 252). Traditional behaviorism could be a form of scientific control over people with disorders. The methods that traditional behaviorism has at disposal might influence a human being in a way that one would learn things faster and better. To illustrate, stimuli that affect individuals with mental retardation, for example people who have autistic disorder, could provoke the reaction that would allow them to learn something new. Traditional behaviorism is successful when it comes to motivation that ensures behavior modifications that are required. Personal experience suggests that one could train himself/herself for doing everything, using the methods of punishment. This helps become more aware of the personal schemes of behavior and illuminate unwanted patterns, leading to self-improvement as a result. REBT could be utilized in varied circumstances as well. REBT is clinically effective, when it is used at individual, couple, group, and family levels. What is more, REBT could teach the basic principles of self-acceptance. REBT has positive results when it comes to sex therapy. REBT is known to be successful when treating anxiety disorder (for example, panic disorder). It has been a personal experience with hypnosis that has helped banish the fear of planes.

Addressing the issues of effectiveness and focusing on numerous distinctive and common features of traditional behaviorism and rational emotive behavior therapy in the paper determines an important role that these two approaches have. The conceptions are rather different because they operate with distinctive methods and consequently achieve different results. Though there are other forms of behaviorism nowadays, traditional behaviorism influenced the scientific view on a human being. Rational emotive behavior therapy has had a long way of development, and it is still working on new methods. The analysis and comparison of traditional behaviorism and REBT illustrates that these approaches will be successfully used in the future in order to help people with behavior modifications and treat various psychological disorders. Physiology and psychology use the theories in practice in order to understand and describe human behavior, as well as to improve it.

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