Types of Behaviors sample essay

Description: In this assignment, you will apply the principles of classical and operant conditioning, as well as the notions derived from cognitive explanations of learning. You will write a paper on one of two types of behaviors that can be readily explained from a learning perspective.

Using a Microsoft Word document, write a 500- to 750-word paper that explains the development of one of the following behaviors. (Be sure to specify the behavior you are discussing in your paper.)

*Fear-driven reactions to insects

*Cigarette smoking


For the chosen behavior, use the models of learning to explain how the behavior may develop and be maintained, so that it seems to occur automatically. Learning is the only perspective considered so do not attempt to use other explanations (i.e., the psychodynamic or biological approach) in your answer.

When preparing your paper, consider the following questions:

* How might classical conditioning principles apply to the origins of the behavior and maintenance of it? Clearly indicate what the unconditioned and conditioned stimuli are in your answer.
* How might the principles of reinforcement discussed in operant conditioning apply to the behavior? Don’t forget that reinforcement can be either positive or negative in nature.
* How do cognitive principles apply to the behavior? Specifically consider Albert Bandura`s ideas regarding imitational learning.

Your paper should be well-written, original, free of grammar and spelling errors, and follow APA format.

Behavior can be defined as the sum total of all the actions and reactions performed by an individual in a given circumstance or situation in the environment. Aggression is a behavior intended to cause harm or pain to others or the self. It may be in the form a physical action or verbal. The models of learning attempt to describe the manner in which an individual learns a particular behavior. Some of the models of learning through which an individual develops aggressive behavior include classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning theory.

Classical conditioning was a model of learning defined by Pavlov following his studies on dogs. Pavlov found that when dogs were shown food their salivation increased (Braslau-Schneck, S., 1998). Food in this case was an unconditioned stimulus that produced an unconditioned response (salivation) (Braslau-Schneck, S., 1998). He then repeatedly presented a stimulus to the dogs which was slowly associated with food (such as footsteps). Slowly the dogs began to associate the footsteps (which after constant repetition became a conditioned stimulus) and began to produce a conditioned response (salivation).

In this way several other emotions such as fear and aggression can be conditioned in an individual (Braslau-Schneck, S., 1998). In the famous JB Watson’s experiment over little Albert, Watson initially presented a loud sound (unconditioned stimulus) that made the body frightened and cry (unconditioned response) due to fear. He then presented two stimuli simultaneously, that is a rat and a loud sound. Over a period of time the boy began to associate the rat with the loud sound. The rat with repetition became a conditioned reflex producing a conditioned response (symptoms of fear).

A good instance of this with relevance to aggression includes presentation of an artificial hand that snatches away the food whilst a hungry dog is eating. The dog would exhibit an aggressive reflex (such as barking which is an unconditioned response) to the artificial hand (unconditioned stimulus). The dog is then presented a high-frequency sound (audible only to dogs followed) by the appearance of the hand. Following repetitions, the dog would bark (conditioned response) after it hears the high-frequency sound (conditioned stimulus), and would not wait until it is presented with the unconditioned stimulus.

According to Skinner’s operant theory, the individual when performing an action in the environment, experiences a stimulus (that encourages or discourages such behavior) which will directly affect the performance of such actions again in the environment. It consists of a action and the results. If positive reinforcement occurs following the action, the individual will perform the similar action again in the environment, and will also increase its frequency (Boeree, G. C., 1998).

However, if the action is followed by an aversive stimulus or negative reinforcement, there will be reduced chances of performing the same behavior in the future. A good example of aversive stimuli is punishment, which can follow several aggressive acts. Rigorous imprisonment can be pronounced for several criminal activities so that it can act as a negative reinforcement.

Albert Bandura discovered the ‘social learning theory of behavior’ (Isom, M. D., 1998). He considered that aggressive behavior is usually learned through a process known as ‘behavior modeling’, which can occur in different ways (especially by observing elders perform in case of children) (Isom, M. D., 1998). A child may become aggressive and certain reinforcements may be experienced such as financial gains, rewards, praises from parents, reduction in internal stress, etc. Parents and family members were often considered as models by the children, and acts performed by them were likely to be imitated. The child will only perform the action of its model if the model was successful or is rewarded.

A classical experiment to demonstrate the social learning theory is the famous Bobo doll experiments in which the children observed elders attacking a doll, and later imitated the action of the elders. This type of observational learning was known as ‘modeling’. Children who have a tendency to demonstrate aggressive behavior should be identified immediately in order to prevent aggressive behavior and criminal activity, later in life (Isom, M. D., 1998).

Bandura’s theory was comparable to Skinner’s theory because observational learning (as the child would learn only the actions that were successful or were being rewarded) is similar to a positive reinforcement. An individual is most likely to learn criminal behavior during the adolescent stage. Children tend to follow the actions of the same sex parents (Bjorkqvist, K., 1997). Studies have shown that children who tend to watch TV (especially those programs that show violence) are at a higher risk of demonstrating aggressive behavior later in life.


Bjorkqvist, K. (1997). Learning aggression from Models: from a social Learning toward a Cognitive theory of Modeling. In Feshbach, S., & Zagrodzka, J. (Ed), Aggression: Biological, Developmental, and Social Perspectives, New York: Plenum Press. http://www.vasa.abo.fi/svf/up/articles/Learning_Aggression_From_Models.PDF

Boeree, G. C. (1998). Albert Bandura: Personality Theory. Retrieved December 26, 2006, From Shippensburg University Web site: http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/bandura.html

Boeree, G. C. (1998). B. F. Skinner: Personality Theory. Retrieved December 26, 2006, From Shippensburg University Web site: http://www.ship.edu/%7Ecgboeree/skinner.html

Braslau-Schneck, S. (1998). An Animal Trainer’s Introduction to Operant and Classical Conditioning. Retrieved December 26, 2006, Stacy’s Wag and Train Web site: http://www.wagntrain.com/OC/

Isom, M. D. (1998). The Social Learning Theory. Retrieved December 26, 2006, FSU College of Criminology and Criminal Justice Web site: http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/bandura.htm