There are many paradigms and theoretical currents that have existed in psychology throughout history, all of which have focused on the study of the psyche and human (and animal) behavior from a wide variety of approaches. Among these currents, probably the most prominent and well-known are the cognitivist, behavioral and psychoanalytic currents and the psychodynamic currents (others such as systems theory, Gestalt, and humanistic and integrative currents).
But within each of these paradigms, we can find several theories, which allow to differentiate the subtypes of the theoretical current in question. As for behaviorism, one of its variants, although continuing with the ideas of operative behaviorism, is empirical behaviorism and behavioral analysis of Bijou’s development.
Behaviorism: what is it?
Before entering into an assessment of what we call empirical behaviorism, it is necessary to do a little recap of what behaviorism in general is and its main characteristics.
Behavioralism is one of the main streams or paradigms in psychology, And emerged as a reaction to the then predominant psychoanalysis.
This stream is based on the premise that the only verifiable and demonstrable part of our psyche, the only thing that we can truly see without a doubt, is the conduct or behavior being performed. In this sense, behaviorism emerged as a discipline that wanted to be as scientific and objective as possible, with a mechanistic view in which all behavior occurs on the basis of specific laws.
The basic element in explaining the performance of behaviors is the ability to associate or link stimuli. Nevertheless the subject is a passive being in this process, considering less important and sometimes even non-existent aspects such as will or cognition.
Within behaviorism multiple perspectives have emerged that seek to explain the why of the behavior, An explanation often conceptualized as conditioning processes in which two stimuli are associated in such a way that one of them, neutral, manages to acquire the properties of another which is appetitive or aversive on the basis of the repetition of its association (classic conditioning), or in which this relation occurs between the performance of the behavior and its appetitive or aversive consequences (operational conditioning).
One of these perspectives is empirical behavioralism, advocated among other authors by Bijou.
Bijou’s empirical behaviorism
The concept of empirical behaviorism refers to one of the branches of behaviorism, which considers that psychology should be devoted to the study of observable and overt behavior. In the case of Sidney W. Bijou, part of the procedures and bases of operative conditioning of BF Skinner and the philosophy and concept of development and the need for application in the Kantor domain.
Bijou’s empirical behaviorism is particularly characterized by a focus on the process of human development and the acquisition of learning throughout growth, and is in fact a pioneer in the essay. bring behavioral theory closer to human evolution and in the educational process during the first steps of life.
It is an orthodox model and to a certain extent quite continuous with Skinner’s procedures and theory of behaviorism, in which the main point in explaining the behavior is the reinforcement and the consequences it has for the subject, l ’emission or non-emission of a behavior.
The author has proposed a model based on behavioral analysis in which the child has been modeled for what is happening in the environment but can also model this environment in turn with his actions, receiving different responses from the environment according to its behavior.
Learning and developing involves following this model associations made during the evolution and growth of the person. Development itself is seen as the accumulation of associations, which are carried out continuously and always according to the same rules and laws.
The change during development is explained by analyzing both the context and the consequences of the child’s behavior, being possible to control the stimuli presented to the learning situation.
The three empirical stages of development
Bijou and other representatives of empirical behaviorism and developmental behavior analysis develop from their theory, from a point of view which they consider to be totally empirical, the existence of a total of three major phases of development.
1. Foundation stage
Bijou and other authors have identified this early period with everything from birth to language learning.
Behavior at this time is basically explained by biology, genetics, and innate reflexes, and is generally equal or very similar in all subjects. Conditioning will gradually emerge depending on when the child experiments and makes associations. It will be these that will allow him to learn to control his own body, to move, to walk and to speak.
2. Stage or base stage
Between the onset of the language and adolescence, in this period, there is an increasing importance of the associations made by experience when interacting with the environment.
Behavior is increasingly governed by its appetitive and aversive consequences, which will cause the child to increase or decrease the behavior in question. The skills acquired are refined with use, And the game behavior is added as a behavior test.
3. Social status
This last step appears in adolescence and lasts the rest of the subject’s life, And in him arise the social responses of the environment as the main and determining cause of behavior and are increasingly important.
It is here that more or less regular habits and styles of behavior emerge, resulting from operative conditioning, the main reinforcer of which is the social one. Also included is old age, in which behavior changes to compensate for the difficulties associated with aging and the deterioration of the body.
Application in the field of education
Bijou’s empirical behaviorism focuses largely on the evolutionary process and human development, so it has been particularly linked to childhood and has found applicability in the field of education. In fact, Bijou’s work was largely based on the use of behavioral methods and conditioning to encourage children’s learning at schoolAs much in the cases in which they could follow the ordinary schooling as in those that presented / displayed difficulties for it.
It was based on the idea that it is necessary to constantly monitor the performance and development of learning, as well as the idea of the importance of the teacher as a transmitter of knowledge and the need to decide what, how and when to apply -los (remember that for most behaviors the subject is passive in generating the association).
They must also be taken into account the context and consequences of the subject’s behavior and seek control of stimuli in order to direct the learning of behaviors. It is also proposed to work with parents to encourage them to provide educational guidelines and nurturing environments for the child.
Although this view does not take into account the existence of cognitive and volitional aspects, or the role of motivation and the search for meaning in what has been learned, and as a theory has been overtaken by others currents that have them. the truth is that Bijou’s empirical behavioralism contributed to the generation of one of the first educational models aimed at the basis of what was considered a learning methodology based on the scientific study of human behavior.
- Mills, JA (2000). Control: a history of behavioral psychology. New York University Press.