PSY404 Abnormal Psychology Assignment Solution Fall 2012

A. Watson, a renowned behaviorist, is known as founder of behaviorism. He claimed “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well -formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist— doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar and thief, regardless of his t alents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors”
1. According to your point of view, on what grounds he was claiming this? Critically analyze Watson’s claim by keeping in view behaviorist perspective. You are also required to add your personal opinion regarding veracity of his claim. (4+2)

Behaviorists also claim that you can change any habit or behavior in yourself that you would like to change .

Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in, and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select — doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and, yes, even beggarman and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.

In the beginnings of the behaviorist movement in America, Watson disregarded genetics, and innate personality predispositions and capacities. He was saying, in effect, that the newborn child was a tabula rasa, or blank slate, which could be molded into any type of person given the right conditioning experiences even though little was known at that time about how to set up conditioning procedures.

We know today certain changes in behavior may indeed be effected through “behavior modification techniques.” A retarded child might learn, for example, that keeping his room clean results in tokens or candy. An autistic child might learn that banging his head results in a mild shock. But these “accomplishments” are very circumscribed. The procedures have been set up in response to very specific and delimited problems.

Sixty years ago, Watson proposed that he could discern and establish all of the conditioning experiences — moment-to- moment, day-to-day — that would be necessary to produce the long-range goal of doctor, lawyer, artist, and so on. Although Watson never had the opportunity to sculpt his “dozen healthy infants” into adults, he did carry out numerous experiments on newborn babies in which he explored whether “instincts” ascribed to human beings are truly inborn, or are actually a result of learning (conditioning). He concluded that only a very few responses — such as sneezing, crying, sucking, hand-grasping, and eye-blinking — are innate. All others, he stated, were learned responses.

To show how new emotional reactions could be learned, Watson performed his famous experiment establishing “conditioned fears” in an 11-month-old boy. At the beginning of the experiment, the little boy had no fear of animals. Watson’s procedure was to bring a small white rat into the boy’s reach. Just at the moment the child touched the rat, a loud noise was sounded behind him. Watson’s intention was to show how a basic genetic responses, such as a fear of loud noises, could be conditioned to a previously neutral stimulus (in this case, a white rat) so that it was then feared. His own description of the experiment is noteworthy (and chilling):

(1) White rat suddenly taken from the basket and presented to Albert. He began to reach for rat with left hand. Just as his hand touched the animal the bar was struck immediately behind his head. The infant jumped violently and fell forward burying his face in the mattress. He did not cry however.

(2) Just as his right hand touched the rat the bar was again struck. Again the infant jumped violently, fell forward, and began to whimper.

…In order not to disturb the child too seriously no further tests were given for one week…

(1) Rat presented suddenly without sound. There was steady fixation but no tendency at first to reach for it. The rat was then placed nearer, whereupon tentative reaching movements began with the right hand. When the rat nosed the infant’s left hand the hand was immediately withdrawn. He started to reach for the head of the animal with the forefinger of his left hand but withdrew it suddenly before contact. It is thus seen that the two joint stimulations given last week were not without effect. He was tested with his blocks immediately afterwards to see if they shared in the process of conditioning. He began immediately to pick them up, dropping them and pounding them, etc. In the remainder of the tests the blocks were given frequently to quiet him and to test his general emotional state. They were always removed from sight when the process of conditioning was underway.

(2) Combined stimulation with rat and sound. Started, then fell over immediately to right side. No crying.

(3) Combined stimulation. Fell to right side and rested on hands with head turned from rat. No crying.

(4) Combined stimulation. Same reaction.

(5) Rat suddenly presented alone. Puckered face, whimpered, and withdrew body sharply to left.

(6) Combined stimulation. Fell over immediately to right side and began to whimper.

(7) Combined stimulation. Started violently and cried, but did not fall over.

(8) Rat alone. The instant the rat was shown the baby began to cry. Almost instantly he turned sharply to the left, fell over, raised himself on all fours and began to crawl away so rapidly that he was caught with difficulty before he reached the edge of the table.

In Systems and Theories of Psychology (1974), Chaplin and Krawiec go on to explain that “Watson went on to demonstrate that Albert, though originally conditioned to fear a rat, generalized his fear to a variety of furry animals and also showed fear of a fur coat and Santa Claus whiskers. Watson suggests that many adult aversions, phobias, fears, and anxieties for which the individual has no rational explanation may well have arisen years before by a process of conditioning.”

Here we see an infant made to jump violently, bury his face in the mattress, whimper, withdraw, fall over, start violently, cry, and almost fall off the table in terrified flight. The ethics of such an experiment are certainly questionable — an experiment that reveals the behaviorist movement’s mechanistic oblivion to the realities of human experience. Moreover, to say that phobias and neurotic fears stem from environmentally-conditioned events is to say very little. For centuries mankind has known that pairing one thing with another results in learned association.

We make a logical error when we see an irrational fear and assume its origin is as arbitrary and non-meaningful as the random pairing experienced by Albert.  Watsonian conditioning can and does happen, of course.  However, I believe that the irrational fears that bring people in for psychotherapy are much more often symptomatic of a clash between traumatic imprints and repression.

Another beacon of behaviorism established by John Watson is the concern over the issues of behavioral prediction and control. Recall that Watson issued the “call to arms” when he declared that the “sole task of psychology is the prediction and control of behavior.” Interestingly, Watson was not only shifting the focus of psychology away from consciousness and onto behavior, but shifting it specifically and exclusively to the areas of behavioral control and prediction.  Prediction and control constitute the philosophical framework for behaviorism and set a tone that has become a very real part of the American psychological gestalt.

2. Your task is to develop a simple model of reward and punishment which will help you
to change any of two your habit or the habits of any two persons around you. (6)

Note: You have to give atleast two strategies for each model to support your answer.
Following step s you should follow while developing this model:
• Identify the ba d habit.
• Implement two strategies of reward that will help you to change the bad habit.
• Implement two strategies of punishment that will help you to change the bad habit

Solution 2 is in this Attachments at page 1147 🙂

3. Which of your models of reward and punishment was most effective and why? (3)

check your handouts.