For many years, scientists have been interested in various aspects of human behavior. For these purposes, a new concept was introduced into psychology, which is called behaviorism. This section of science deals with the study of people’s responses to various situations occurring with them. Some of the most important studies on this topic are the works of Harlow, Rosenhan, and Skinner. A detailed study of these scientific papers and an assessment of their contribution to research on human behavior is of particular value. They are essential both for the development of new works and for the complete understanding and development of strategies for managing behavior.
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Monkeys Attachment Theory
The first experimental survey that needs to be mentioned as making a notable contribution to the science of human behavior is the study of Harry Harlow. This scientific work was completed in 1958, and it consisted of the study of the relationship of newborn monkeys with their mothers. Hence, Harlow argued that the attachment between them is formed as a result of tactile contact. Vicedo (2020, p. 2) emphasized that “the attachment theory has become one of psychology’s most influential theories about early child development and its impact on an individual’s subsequent emotional life and adult relationships.” Furthermore, the scientist noted that newborns directly need touch since this process provided them with emotional comfort.
In a series of experiments, Harlow tried to prove his theory about attachment. So, he separated newborn monkeys and their mother, placing them at the same time as the so-called surrogate mothers. It is worth noting that these were not real animals but figures created by their wire and terry material. A monkey made of wire also imitated feeding with a bottle attached to it. During the study, it was noted that the cubs spent more time around a soft artificial monkey. It was also their hiding place when the researcher imitated a dangerous situation.
The scientist was able to come to several conclusions after the experiment. Therefore, Harlow emphasized that for proper development, the cub needs contact with a particular object, in this case, a monkey made of tissue. This factor plays a unique role during the critical period of development, that is, during the first few months. Another conclusion is that premature separation from the mother leads to emotional damage. Furthermore, the scientist concluded that maternal affection is not the primary source of stress but rather the social aspect of this kind of interaction.
This study is a valuable source of knowledge, as it contributes to the development of knowledge about the premature separation of children from mothers. Moreover, the data obtained during the experiment are applicable to the study of such topics as neglect and child abuse. Both of these factors affect the feeling of comfort and security. Therefore, the knowledge gained will help develop strategies and policies to prevent these problems and help reduce the percentage of children who will not be able to adapt to life in society in the future. However, it is worth noting that the scientist’s experiment is quite fierce and, in some ways, unethical. This is due to the fact that the baby monkeys, in any case, experienced fear and stress due to separation from their mother.
On Being Sane in Insane Places
The experiment conducted by David Rosenhan is one of the most mind-shaking in the history of psychology. The study was conducted in 1973 and was called “On being sane in insane places.” The main result of this experiment was the generation of doubts about the situation in psychiatric institutions (Bryant, 2020). It is worth noting that sometimes it is difficult to understand whether a person is insane. This is since it is often the mental hospital that creates such conditions in which the suppression of the individual and the aggravation of the psychological state occurs.
The essence of the study was to select thoroughly psychologically healthy volunteers whose task was to get into psychiatric hospitals in different US states. Under the pretext of seeing hallucinations, participants were placed in institutions for the mentally ill, but when placed there, they began to behave as completely healthy, showing good nature, decency, and behaved respectfully. Despite the same complaints, patients were often diagnosed with different diagnoses.
as little as 3 hours
The second stage of the experiment with pseudo-patients was also carried out. At this stage, the researcher was studying whether psychiatric specialists would be able to identify and distinguish a mentally suffering person from a completely healthy one. An important aspect was that the scientist warned about the possibility of meeting people who had been selected in advance for the study, but there were none. During the experiment, doctors evenly distributed sick and healthy patients, which made Rosenhan come to the conclusion that the methods of diagnosing a mental illness are incorrect and unreliable.
However, it is worth noting that not all medical specialists fall under Rosenheim’s withdrawal characteristics. Therefore, it is noted that the treatment being developed is based entirely on the patient’s testimony. In addition, it is impossible to talk about the complete incorrectness of psychiatric institutions in which pseudo-patients got, since their explanations of the illness were obviously false. Nevertheless, such aspects as the biased attitude of the medical staff of mental hospitals, negligence, and neglect were proved by the researcher during the experiment.
The last important discovery for the psychology of human behavior was the establishment of such an understanding as operational conditioning. The promoter of this phenomenon was Berres Skinner, who deduced its main principles. According to the scientist, the behavior followed by favorable consequences can most likely be repeated. Moreover, the behavior followed by negative consequences may manifest itself again with the most negligible probability. It can be concluded that the results of an action determine its repeatability; that is, they are based on past experience.
Skinner also emphasized that it is necessary to study the manifestations of human behavior, not inner feelings. Cherry (2020, p. 1) states that “as a behaviorist, Skinner believed that it was not really necessary to look at internal thoughts and motivations in order to explain behavior.” Additionally, the researcher believed that all psychological knowledge existing at that time was too simplified to justify people’s behavior fully. Skinner saw the primary tool for studying this aspect of personality in the analysis of the causes and consequences of specific actions. In 1948, the scientist conducted an experiment with animals, which he placed in special equipment, which was called “Skinner’s box.” It was an equipped device for recording the behavior of an animal in a compressed time frame. For certain actions, it was either rewarded or punished.
During the experiment, the researcher identified three main types of reactions that can result from a particular behavior. First, the neutral operand consists of environmental reactions that in no way affect the repetition of eating. The second is reinforcement, which is characterized by a response to an action that increases the likelihood of repetition. The latter is considered a punishment that negatively affects the re-occurrence of certain behavior. Moreover, Skinner noted the importance of the external environment as a factor in the formation of skills and behavior.
The discovery of the concept of operant conditioning has contributed to the development of an even greater study of the processes of human behavior formation. It is noted that conditioning consists in creating the necessary conditions for managing and modifying people’s behavior. Therefore, Skinner deduced specific patterns that also influenced the development of behaviorism. They can also be used in solving social problems, defining and implementing behavioral technology. This aspect can contribute to the development of policies and strategies for managing negative behavior and translating them into positive ones.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the importance of such a science as behaviorism is vital. It helps first of all to explain the patterns of human behavior and to form strategies to change them. Scientists such as Harlow, Rosenheim, and Skinner have made an outstanding contribution to this science. The scientists considered such topics as an attachment, stigmatization towards the psychologically ill and incompetence of medical institutions, and the process of repeating actions depending on their consequences. These scientific works are of critical importance as they contribute to a better understanding of human nature and expand existing knowledge about psychology.
Bryant, K. (2020) ‘On being sane in insane places: Building communities of care’, Griffith REVIEW, (67), pp. 186-193.
Cherry, K. (2019) ‘What is operant conditioning and how does it work. How reinforcement and punishment modify behavior’, Verywell Mind, pp. 1-5.
Vicedo, M. (2020) ‘Attachment theory from ethology to the strange situation’, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology.