Behavioural Psychology

I am going to discuss the behavioural approach and the therapy that behaviourists use.

First of all I am going to explain what the behavioural approach is. The behavioural approach is based on the concept of explaining behaviour through observation and the belief that our environment is what causes us to behave differently or suffer illnesses. (

Behaviourists believe that we can understand people by observing their behaviour. I do not think that this is a good way to go by it as people can always change their behaviour when they know that they are being observed and people also act diferently depending on where they are and who they are with. So observing people’s behaviour may not help you to understand them that well as they constantly change their way of behaving. The cognitive approach oppose this theory as it looks at thought processes and other unobservable activities. (

Behaviourists believe that we are a blank slate at birth.I believe that they may be right with us being a blank slate at birth because we learn from our surroudings and by the people that are around to teach us things. We copy what grown-ups do and we always try again when we have failed. There is a girl called Oxana Malaya; a feral child began her life with dogs, she lasted six years living in a kennerl with dogs as she was abandoned by her mother and father. She had no social interaction so when she was found living with the dogs and she acted liked a dog not like a human, she barked and drank water and ate food like dogs do. She had no humans to look up and copy so she ended up copying the dogs and they took care of her. This is the link to the video on youtube.

There are many more cases like this and people aren’t sure if scientists have done enough to know what to do. Oxana was put into a care home at the age of 6. What this the best thing for her? She had no idea how to act like a child and they put her in with loads of other children and she was so different and couldn’t act like them. Would it have been best to leave her with th kennel with the dogs, somewhere she was used to and her way of living? It is going to be really hard to get her out of the way she is. She is now 22 years old but her future still hangs in the balance. She didn’t have any abnormalities when she was born.

They believe that it is environmental factors rather than genetic or biological differences that makes us behave differently. Behaviourists represents the nature aspect of the nature-nuture debate.  So with the story about Oxana, this seems to be a good way to look at it as she was bought up by dogs and she acts like one and the environmental factor of living in a kennel helped her become this way. I believe that the environmental factors does make us behave differently.




9 Responses to “Behavioural Psychology”

  1. I do understand that behaviour that is observed may be changed by the person themselves, however there are ways around this by carrying out covert observations. Then the participant under analysis is unaware that they are being observed and then there is no change in their natural behaviour. Psychology is the study of human mind and behaviour, it is important that the behaviour we look at is natural so that it can be generalised and is reliable.
    In relation to the Dog girl, this is a good source of evidence where the tabula rasa exists as her behaviour has been learnt from her environment. However, I can’t help but be slightly concerned about the harm that was enforced upon her. However, this is a very good case study for feral behaviour and has shown the behaviour can be changed depending on your environment.

    • Regarding the Dog girl, I am slightly concerned about the harm that was enforced upon her as well. I still think that it was strange for them to put her straight into a care home though as this may cause her more emotional pain as the other children would not understand why she was different to them and this may of caused them to bully her. I think that it may have been better if they just weined her out of the environment slowly instead of straight away.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    As Psychology is a study of the human mind, and of human behaviour, so when observing people it is important that we get their natural behaviour and not behaviour that is changed in any way. This can be done with the use of a covert observation, as mentioned in another comment. The use of covert observations are a good way to get reliable data from participants and makes it easier to generalise behaviour.
    The dog girl is a good example of tabula rasa, although I too m concerned about the harm that could have been caused to her. It suggests that our behaviour very influenced by our environment, as opposed to another approach to behaviour, such as the biological approach which says that human behaviour is explained through hormones, genetics or the nervous system.

  3. A very good blog, looking at different aspects of behaviourist Psychology. Firstly, you have focused on ways in which behaviourist psychologists collect data, through observations. In addition to what you said, observations can vary depending on which type, for example, a covert observation can aquire natural behaviour through observing a person who is unaware that they are being observed. However, as you state, when a person knows that they are being observed they may change their behaviour to suit the needs of the researcher. In your blog, you then go on to say that behaviourists believe that we are born a blank slate and that we learn from our environment. Although, the behaviourist approach believes completly in this theory, there exists, on the opposite end of the scale the Biologists who believe that we have biological pre-disposed behaviours that make us who we are. Despite this, the evidence that you provided shows that we do learn from our environmental surroundings, through imitation and role models (Social learning theory) as well as through classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

  4. I think observation is the perfect way to observe behaviour as it is in its most natural form; self reports ect give the participants choice to how they want people to perceive their behaviours whereas the behaviourist perspective can see it for themselves. For example Piliavin (1969) observed the bystander effect on a busy train to see how people react in helping one another. Any other method there would be high chance the participants would lie. Inter-relater reliability can always be used to check the understanding for the behaviours being observed with behavioural categories also to keep research reliable and valid as everyone will be looking for the same traits.
    I agree with you point looking at the feral child as it would be very distressing to be put into such an unfamiliar situation and not being able to interact with anyone. She took comfort in the dogs and so she should have been kept close with them and as you said it would have been a lot better to use a method of desensitisation to reintroduce her to human interaction like Wolpe’s study shows systematic desensitisation in phobias with young children.

  5. I find the story about Oxana fascinating as it is shocking how a human can be brought up to act as a different animal dependant on the animal that has raised them. This case proves that Piaget’s theory that children develop in stages and develop regardless of others influence is incorrect as clearly Oxana did not have any human like qualities. This shows the importance of others in childhood and how experience can shape a person (John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov and B. F. Skinner). To answer your question of what was the best thing for Oxana, I would say that she should have been left to live a life in the wild as she came to no harm and living as a dog was her comfort zone and all she had known. A similar case to this is Shamdeo, a young boy who in 1972 was discovered with the characteristics of a wolf cub. He was taken away from them and weaned of raw meat however he spent his entire life unable to speak. If the boy was happy being raised by wolves why should he have been taken away and spend a life unable to talk and communicate with other humans? This is a very interesting blog and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    • I agree with you there. I think that it is best to leave them in an environment that they are use. It would be the same if we were taken from our families and put with dogs then how will that affect us. I feel that they should just leave them be as it has been the way they have been brought up and it is what they are use to and other children are not going to understand and the children that have been bought with dogs/wolfs are not going to be able to stand up for themselves as they are not able to talk and they are most unlikely not going to understand what the other children are saying and are not going to understand what they are doing when they are playing or eating as they have had a total different of doing this.

  6. I agree with you that people learn from others around them. This immediately makes me thing of the Social Learning Theory which states that people learn through immitation of models. A study which illustrates this Bandura Ross&Ross on agresssion where (in short) children where the children were more likely to display agressive behaviour is their model had done so. e.g punching the BoBo doll. This would support the case of the little girl you mention oxana. As she would learn through immitation of the dogs ( which would be her role models) I also agree that observation may cause some validity issues due to demand characteristics. However overt observation would not pose these problems. Although this does break some ethical guidelines as the participant would not know they are being observed and technically has not consented. Basically, there is always going to be aspects of a perspective or approach which are problematic. This is why i think that using multiple approaches tends to balance it out, and this is what a lot pf psychologists are doing today.

  7. Interesting Blog. I have two things to mention which you may want to consider when discussing behavioural therapy and the treatment of people such as the girl in your video. Firstly I can understand why some people may believe that we are clean slates at birth however there is evidence which disproves this idea. For example there are incidence of twins who have been separated at birth and were brought up in different environments, who reunite later in life to discover they have a lot in common. The following link is to a video of such an event.

    If you watch this video you will notice how the twins share mannerisms and speach patterns.
    Also when it comes to the treatment of people such as the girl in your video I think that it is important to recognise how the person feels and what attachments they may have made, despite how those attachments may be seen by the public. For example the girl in your video may have formed attachments to the dogs she had grown up with, therefore being separated from these dogs so suddenly may have done her more harm than good. Bowlby (1961) came up with the maternal deprivation hypothesis which suggested that if a child were to be separated from his/her mother, the child would go through distress which could impair them in later life, this could also be applied to a child being separated from anything (animal/object) which they have developed an attachment with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: