William D. Timberlake’s Biological Behavioralism

Behavioralism is one of the main theoretical currents that have explored and attempted to explain human behavior. From a perspective that seeks to work solely on the basis of contrasting and objective empirical data, this approach was a great revolution at the time and was a remarkable step forward in the development of new perspectives and the improvement of existing ones. .

Over time, different subtypes of behavioralism have emerged, focusing on different elements or making various relevant theoretical contributions. One of the subtypes of existing behaviorism is William David Timberlake’s biological behaviorism.

    Basics of Biological Behavioralism

    Behavioralism, as a science that studies human behavior from empirically obvious objective elements, has analyzed human behavior in terms of the ability to associate between stimuli and responses and between the emission of behaviors and their consequences. they will cause reinforcement or inhibition of the behavior.

    However, although it has various applications of great utility, behavioral practices and techniques have traditionally been implemented in unnatural contexts, located in a controlled environment in which other multiple facets that may reach affect.

    In addition, the subject is generally considered to be a merely reactive being, who it receives the properties of the stimuli and reacts accordingly by producing a learning. It usually does not take into account that the subject exhibits characteristics that influence behavior, being the characteristics and abilities rather the result of learning. Several neoconductive authors have varied this approach, taking into account the subject’s own abilities and the inheritance of partially innate behavioral patterns and abilities.

    Timberlake’s take on biological behaviorism proposes that learning is a biology-based phenomenon that occurs from patterns of behavior and constitutional arrangements that are innately given and tied to niche or environment in the environment that the subject develops.

    It is a version of behaviorism that combines both functional and structural behavioral factors. Natural selection has engendered the evolution of perceptual dispositions, The skills and behaviors which make it possible to generate conditioning and certain ways of understanding or acting to learn more or less easily. In other words, Timberlake argues for the existence of brain variables and structures that help explain behavior.

      The role of context

      The niche or functional context is the place where the subject develops and allows the organism to evolve. This niche has a structure and properties that allow, through learning, to generate modifications in the elements already pre-existing in the subject.

      like that, the experience and activity of the individual generate a modification of the responses to the environment and a change in the preference and perception of stimulation. In other words, we learn from experience to generate alterations in the body. The characteristics of the stimulus will be perceived differently depending on the acting subject.

      In this regard, biological behavioralism is innovative, as it assumes that the behavior is not generated by the stimuli themselves but only causes a change in pre-existing conditions. It is the subject that actively generates structural changes that allow it to react to reality in certain ways, but it is taken into account that there are elements that are relevant to the environment and to learning.

      Behavioral systems

      Timberlake’s biological behaviorism proposes the existence of behavioral systems, Groups of independent functional diagrams organized hierarchically and describing the organization of basic functions for the survival of the individual even before learning, which will vary this structuring.

      This system is configured by several behavioral subsystems, which specify a part of the function that usually explains the type of action being taken.

      These subsystems in turn are configured by the ways or ways in which each action is performed or the perceived reality is part of the various behavioral subsystems. Of these modes modules or categories are derived which group together several actions. And in each module, there are specific responses that can be elicited by environmental stimulation.


        Although the biological behavioralism of William D. Timberlake is part of an ecological design that takes into account the existence of internal aspects that guide learningThe truth is, Timberlake maintains that learning is always an effect of behavior itself. And do different systems need behavioral learning to be able to develop and modify effectively?

        Each organism comes with a set or set of skills that allow it to learn certain behaviors in the face of certain stimuli. For example, if we had no perception of pain, we would not turn our hand away from the fire. But having this perception of pain won’t stop us from reaching the bonfire. We will not learn to do this if we do not realize by experience or by learning the set of associations between stimulus and response.

        Biological behaviorism is a subtype of behaviorism that is part of BF Skinner’s radical behaviorism and that he studies the behavior by operant conditioning, but takes into account the existence of an exploratory contact of the elements of a system before the association begins to take place. In order for the subject of study to achieve real conditioning, it is necessary to adjust the environment and the subject so that the learner can adapt to the possibilities of the subject and the subject can learn.

          Bibliographical references:

          • Cabrera, F .; Covarrubias, P. and Jiménez, A. (2009). Behavioral systems resulting from an ecological approach. Behavioral studies and applications. Flight. 1. Guadalajara.
          • Timberlake, W. (2001). Motivation patterns in behavioral systems. In RR Mowrer and SB Klein (Eds.), Handbook of Theories of Contemporary Learning (pp. 155-209). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
          • Timberlake, W. (2004). Does contingency operate enough for a science of intentional behavior? Behavior and Philosophy, 32, 197-229.

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