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Behaviorists & human development Essay

The question of whether heredity (nature) or environment (nurture) is more important in determining the course of human development has been debated throughout the centuries (Papalia et al, 2002). The advent of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution (1859), which emphasizes the biological basis of human development, led to a return to the hereditarian point of view. With the rise of behaviorism in the twentieth century, however, the environmentalists’ position once again gained dominance (Atkinson, 1993).

Behaviorists such as John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner argued that human nature is completely malleable: early training can turn a child into any kind of adult, regardless of his or her heredity. Watson stated the argument in its most extreme form which is presented the average person’s activity (Atkinson, 1993). Today most psychologists agree not only that both nature and nurture play important roles but that they interact continuously and guide development.

For example, the development of many personality traits, such as sociability and emotional stability, appear to be influenced about equally by heredity and environment; similarly, mental disorders can have both genetic and environmental causes (Atkinson, 1993). Behavior geneticists are attempting to sort out the relative importance of nature and nurture influences in the development of various behavior patterns. Psychologists are especially interested in the roles of nature and nurture in intelligence, abnormal behavior patterns such as schizophrenia, and social problems such as sociopathy and aggression (Atkinson, 1993).

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Non-genetic influence or the environment is perhaps the strongest alibi any person attributes to whenever things turn out not as good as they want them to be. We often make justifications why we tend to be mediocre; “because my parents did not try their very best to train me and provide for all that I need,” is our typical rejoinder. To what extent is this true, and where does the line end when it comes to personal responsibility, genetic predispositions, or the responsibility and accountability of people who exert immense influence on us?

The argument postulated in this paper is not so much as “drawing the line” in as much as it has evidently proven the great impact of nurture on personality and/or human development in general (Papalia et al, 2002). Parental abuse and neglect have been issues in learning because these are factors that are vital to the child’s overall performance and normal functioning as they operate as kids and later as adults in the real world. This is also true with nutritional status of children in their growing years.

Several studies have proven the effects of these factors that they are consciously observed among the educated parents; as much as possible, many actively pursue in avoiding the drastic effects of either deficiency (Papalia et al, 2002). Indeed, the environmental changes that are constantly influencing children in their early stages are established in the scientific disciplines; this despite the many arguments to the contrary. Operant conditioning, like classical conditioning, is not just an exotic laboratory procedure.

People use operant conditioning everyday in their effort to influence other people. For example, parents and peers incline children to acquire “sex appropriate” behavior patterns through the elaborate use of rewards and punishment. Parents tend to praise their children for sharing with others and to punish their children for being too aggressive. The strength of an operant response can be measured by its resistance to extinction: that is, how long it takes for the behavior to return to its original rate once the pleasant consequence following the behavior no longer occurs.

It is thus told that it is generally correct to say that for an operant response to be strengthened, the response should be rewarded (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008). But reward in ordinary language denotes things such as money, candy, or praise. There would be times, however, that a reward will not always strengthen an operant response. This is further explained in other phenomena of operant conditioning called reinforcement; the negative and positive reinforcers etc. Reinforcement is anything that increases the probability that a particular response will increase in frequency.

The presentation (positive) or removal (negative) of particular consequences may reinforce responses. Thus, reinforcement may be either positive or negative (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008). Positive reinforcer increases the probability that an operant will occur when it is applied, or it increases the likelihood that a particular response will occur. When a student gets a high grade as reward for his effective study habits, he is likely to consistently follow his rewarded behavior. This is an example of positive reinforcement.

Negative reinforcer increases the probability that an operant will occur when it is removed. People often learn to plan ahead so that they need not fear that things will go wrong. Fear acts as a negative reinforcer, because removal of fear increases the probability that the behaviors preceding it will be repeated (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008). Primary reinforcers. There are some reinforcers that are innately reinforcing. They’re powerful in increasing the chance that a particular behavior will occur.

They are usually effective because they satisfy basic physiological needs, food, clothing, and shelter are considered primary reinforcers (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008). Secondary reinforcers are reinforcers which are not innately reinforcing. Their power to reinforce behavior is acquired and not innately present. Money, grades, prize, and tokens are secondary reinforcers (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008). Punishments are aversive events that suppress or decrease the frequency of the behavior they follow.

Punishment can rapidly suppress undesirable behavior and may be warranted in “emergencies” such as when a child tries to run out into the street (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008). Case 1: Connie • Demographics (age, race, sex etc. ) Connie is in the early adolescent stage of development. After watching and observing her with the allotted time, she easily related with me some basic information about herself. She’s thirteen years old, and will be turning fourteen (14) by June this year. She had her menarche last October 2008 but she said, it is not that regular yet.

She has only one other sibling, a younger sister now three years old, and also a girl. • Appearance (clothing, approximate height and weight and other defining characteristics) Connie is tall and lanky, and seems awkward of her height (five feet and 4 inches). She dresses simply; appeared to opt for a sporty look rather than the more feminine type. She has a medium length raven-black wavy hair. Her slim body build makes her a stand out in the crowd since many of her peers in the school ground where they are seen together, are all on the bulky side.

She has a confident gait, but she appears to be very conscious at times of the stares that she gets from some of the other students strolling in the area. Her group of friends was watching something in the ipod her classmate was holding and so the mood just suddenly became serious. They were all wearing their school uniform this particular day. It comprised of a blue skirt with a white blouse, with a tiny blue ribbon to accessorize the whole get up. They donned on their IDs as well but Connie set herself apart as she was wearing a grey beret.

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