Origins and Development of Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral psychology focuses on the behaviors of individuals, combining varied theoretical, methodological, and philosophical elements. It takes the behaviors as learned via either classical or operant forms of conditioning (Skinner, 1974). ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) refers to the processes of methodically employing learning theory-based interventions in enhancing particular socially essential behaviors. OBM (Organizational Behavior Management) emphasizes on focusing on ABA. It is a critical management element that applies experimental behavioral analyses and organizational behavior principles to particular organizations to enhance staff safety and group, as well as individual, performances. This paper explores the behavioral psychology’s conceptual foundations and origins and analyses the development of ABA from the behavioral theory. Besides, the paper examines how OBM developed from ABA.

Behavioral Psychology’s Conceptual Foundations and Origins

Behavioral psychology emerged as a response to various traditional types of psychology, particularly depth psychology, in the early decades of the 20th century. The various traditional types of psychology had challenges in making observable, hence testable, predictions. From the early 1800s to early in the 20th century, the behaviorist thought school thrived alongside the Gestalt and psychoanalytical psychology movements. The school shared marked commonalities with the movements. Notably, then, there were obvious differences between the school and the then Gestalt psychologist-fronted mental philosophy (Malott & Trojan, 2004).

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The principal influences on the early development of behavioral psychology include Ivan Pavlov, John Watson as well as B.F. Skinner. Pavlov studied classical conditioning. Classical conditioning relies on particular stimuli in establishing reflexes as well as respondent conducts, or behaviors. Notably, classical conditioning is one of the chief conceptual bases of behavioral psychology. Pavlov took every human behavior as being reflexive rather than instinctive or motivated. He indicated that every form of learning stems from classical conditioning. To date, classical conditioning is a significant behavior-analytic happening, or process, which does not necessarily refer to any internal processes, including mental processes.

Watson took up the classical conditioning idea from Pavlov and developed it further in his work aimed at establishing the mechanisms via which individuals acquire particular behaviors. In 1914, Watson wrote that psychology, as a science, has no place in the mind and is hinged on phenomena that are objective. He opined that actual psychological explanations can only be present in an individual’s central nervous system (Malott & Trojan, 2004). Watson, unlike Pavlov, succeeded in convincing psychologists that the behavior’s actual explanation was in the system. That convinced many psychologists that conditioning was markedly critical in learning particular behaviors. Watson was keen on demonstrating that only individuals’ behaviors, or public events, are observable, and that consequently individuals’ feelings and thoughts, private events, ought not to be considered by psychologists. Overall, Watson rebuffed introspective methods and was keen on restricting psychology to recognizable, or observable, behaviors only.

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Notably, the early behaviorists such as Pavlov and Watson based their studies on the connections between stimuli and responses as they typified learning. Unlike the behaviorists, Skinner sought to determine the ways in which learning was impacted on by particular stimuli availed following the execution of specified acts. Skinner studied operant conditioning extensively. Notably, operant conditioning is one of the chief conceptual bases of behavioral psychology. Skinner established that when reinforcement is supplied systematically, particular behaviors can be shaped in specific directions. Over the years, operant conditioning has been applied in controlling, as well as motivating, the behaviors of particular populations such as students (Skinner, 1974).

Overall, operant conditioning relates to operant, or voluntary, behavior. It operates on specified environments and its effects, or consequences, maintain it. Its critical tools are punishment and reinforcement. The tools are taken as positive when they are delivered after specific responses. They are deemed negative when they are withdrawn after specific responses. That means that operant conditioning utilizes consequences, as well as antecedents, in changing specified behaviors (Skinner, 1974). While Watson rebuffed introspective methods and was keen on restricting psychology to public events only, Skinner emphasized that psychologists should focus on private events when analyzing particular human behaviors.

Development of Applied Behavior Analysis from Behavioral Theory

Essentially, ABA derives from the same philosophy as behavior modification but seeks to appreciate the corresponding environmental contingencies as well. Particularly, those who developed ABA sought to analyze behaviors’ functions such as the antecedents and promoting consequential strategies and replacement behaviors (Malott & Trojan, 2004; Michael, 2004). They used data in assessing the functions precisely and discovering procedures that generate quantifiable behavioral changes.

The original studies that led to the development of Applied Behavior Analysis based on behavioral theory considerations were executed by several University of Washington researchers and faculty. The researchers and faculty put efforts into the development, as well as perfection, of ABA applications to solve varied human problems. Ole Løvaas developed several standardized teaching methods based on several priory-developed behavioral principles to enhance autistic children’s lives (Malott & Trojan, 2004). He developed an ABA system for coding observed human behaviors and investigated the roles of superimposed consequences and behaviors in maintaining specified problem behaviors. He demonstrated how nonverbal children could be taught how to speak in a study geared towards establishing societal reinforcers.

How Organizational Behavior Management Developed From Applied Behavior Analysis

To date, psychologists have developed varied OBM interventions. OBM derives its principles, or foundations, from diverse fields, including ABA (Dickinson, 2000; Mills, 2000). An article authored by Dr. Alyce Dickinson in mid-2000 demonstrated that OBM emerged from ABA. Prior to the emergence of Organizational Behavior Management as a psychology field, behavioral principles were already being applied in an organized manner as programmed instruction in industry and business (Malott & Trojan, 2004). The principles were clearly derived from the ABA field, which emerged earlier than the OBM field.

One of the earliest OBM programs was put in place in 1975 by University of Notre Dame researchers, including Martin Wikoff, a pioneer OBM scholar. Previously, Wikoff had conducted one of the earliest ABAs in business. He had collaborated with two University of Washington researchers who had ample ABA background as well, Prof. Bob Kohlenberg and Prof. Terrance Mitchell. The 1975 OBM program was aimed at enhancing the performances of grocery clerks (Gazzaniga, 2010).

Conclusion

Human behaviors are learned. Consequently, persons can unlearn or substitute any of them. Essentially, behaviorism relates to the measurable, as well as observable, human behavior aspects. Behaviorism takes human development as going on continually. This paper has explored behavioral psychology’s conceptual foundations as well as origins. Behavioral psychology emerged as a response to various traditional types of psychology, particularly depth psychology. The paper has analyzed the development of ABA from the behavioral theory. The original studies that led to the development of ABA based on behavioral theory considerations were executed by several University of Washington researchers and faculty. Besides, the paper has examined how Organizational Behavior Management developed from ABA. OBM derives its principles, or foundations, from diverse fields, including Applied Behavior Analysis.

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