Applications of Behavioral Theories

Theory of Bandura

Social Learning Theory

Bandura proposed a theory that learning is a process which takes place with the help of cognitions. The social environment and the society plays a major role in the development of an individual. Observations and the instructions from the environment play a major role in behavior learning. Other than the observations, learning alsooccurs by the reinforcements; both positive and negative.

Rewards and punishments play role in the learning of behaviors. Those behaviors which are rewarded are acquired and are likely to be learnt and then reproduced, while those which are followed by punishment are demolished and get out of the learnt context (Bandura, 1977). Social learning theory is combined with behavioral and cognitive theories so that it provides an extensive model which could provide with a wide range of experiences of learning.

Applications  in Education

  • A teacher can provide knowledge, skills and certain behaviors which are required to be learnt by the children
  • Effective instructions and modeling of certain behaviors like hand washing, eating and sharing habits etc. can be helpful for the child to learn them efficiently (Miller, 1941).
  • The reward followed by a certain desired behavior like attempting good in a test or sports event can motivate the child to learn more and perform better each time
  • Punishment due to any undesired behavior like fighting with any mate or misbehaving can lead to the decrease of that behavior display (Bandura, 1977)
  • When a model is interesting and according to the relevancy and motor abilities of the child he is more attracted towards it which gain its attention and the child learns it in a better way
  • Providing effective and specified feedback at the appropriate time can help the child to learn in a better way and the student has more opportunities to improve his abilities
  • A teacher models such behaviors which are very useful for the child to learn and then reproduce in certain specific situations (Miller, 1941).

Applications  in Psychology

  • This theory explains best the violent, hostile and aggressive emotions of the person
  • A therapist can get a history of the hostility and aggression by checking the behaviors and cognitive perceptions of the person (Bandura, 1977)
  • Anxiety disorders, phobias and fears are removed the use of modeling and exposing the individual to the behaviors which are appropriate for the person
  • Therapist uses the guided imagery and direct instructions to help an individual learn a particular behavior
Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory

Theory of J.B. Watson

Behavioral Theory

John Watson gave the behavioral theory in the development of a child. Child develops behaviors in different behavioral contexts and there are various factors which control this behavior. Watson believed that behaviors should be considered in an overt response rather than inner feelings, thoughts and the studies of the subconscious. The theory of behaviorism only focuses on the behaviors and not the mental cognitions and processes. Behaviorism does not give any importance to the why of the behavior, but on the “what” of behaviors. The behaviors which are displayed are only the learned ones which one gains from the behaviors displayed (Watson, 1921).

Applications in Education

  • The school and the environment in which the child is exposed to in the educational settings shapes the behavior of a child
  • The child learns from the people and the teachers who display certain behaviors in their environment
  • If the environment promotes competitive people in the society and the educational culture, the child is likely to learn from that and in doing so he also wants to have a sense of competition between the class mates and he works much harder (Watson, 1921)
  • The behaviors which are attracting to the child in the class or the teacher, he learns them more quickly

Applications in Psychology

  • The theory of behaviorism is used for the treatment of various anxiety disorders and overcoming phobias
  • A person who is fearful of heights can be helped by the theory and making him adaptable to the environment and exposing to the feared stimulus (Miller, 1941).
  • A child who is feared of any stuff toy or a dog etc. can be helped in the overcoming of the stimulus by making him believe that there is nothing to be feared of from that stuff etc.


J.B. Watson

Theory of Skinner

Skinner was one of the most influential psychologist in the history and his famous for his operant conditioning process. He proposed that the behaviors and personality of an individual are shaped by the learning processes and the reinforcements either in the positive or negative form shape the behavior and personalities of the individual (Rachlin, 1991).

Applications in Education

  • When a child scores good in a test, the teacher rewards by giving him appreciation in class and maybe a candy or chocolate
  • These behaviors motivate the child to perform at his best and keep doing hard work
  • The schedules used for the reinforcement of desired behaviors also shape positive and optimistic outlook in the child (Staddon, 1993).
  • Whenever a child is early in the class he receives appreciation from the teacher this is a predictor that the behavior followed by reward either verbal or physiological helps in the repetition of that behavior
  • Those behaviors which result in a negative outcome are excluded from the learnt context and are less likely to reoccur


Educational Theories

Applications in Psychology

  • Behaviors ca be modified by the use of operant conditioning in therapy sessions
  • The therapist provides reinforcements for the desired behaviors and undesired ones are punished (Rachlin, 1991)
  • Shaping and token economy are used for the modification of behaviors
  • Secondary reinforcements are given which help in the learning of targeted behaviors
  • In psychology sessions mostly the patients are given tokens either in the form of buttons or fake money etc.
  • Psychiatric patients are treated effectively by the use of this economy

Theory of Edward Thorndike

            Edward L. Thorndike gave the concept of ‘law of effect’ in which he stated that a behavior is more likely to be repeated that is followed by  positive or pleasant circumstances and the behaviors followed by negative or unpleasant circumstances are more expected to diminish. He also gave the ‘trial and error theory’ according to which behaviors are learned by trials and errors (Rachlin, 1991).

Applications  in Education

  • The child who is weak in studies or belongs to a backward area can be helped by this theory to get started from an easier point to the difficult one
  • The mistakes which the child makes are helpful in the learning of correct things
  • The motivation done by the teacher also helps in the performance of child in the classroom (Staddon, 1993).
  • The child is motivated to practice again and again which makes him a perfectionist in a particular task
  • The negative and hostile emotions of the child can also be controlled by the teacher
  • Teachers can also work on their method of teaching and imparting knowledge and test these by the effects of his method and can make changes for the better performance
  • Giving oral instructions and oral work can also be helpful in learning of particular task or chapter in book (Rachlin, 1991)

Applications in Psychology

  • The therapist uses techniques of behavior modification to help a client in the changing of his behaviors
  • Anger, hostility, aggression can be controlled by the help of the theory
  • Law of effect is used for the drug addicts and the rehabilitation of the clients
  • The behaviors of the person can be understood on a broader context by the use of his therapy and theory (Staddon, 1993).
Edward Thorndike

Works Cited

Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall

Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice


Miller, N. & Dollard, J. (1941). Social Learning and Imitation. New Haven, NJ: Yale University


Rachlin, H., (1991).  Introduction to Modern Behaviorism. (3rd Ed.). New York: Freeman

Santrock, J. W. (2008). Adolescence. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Sapolsky, Robert M. (1996). Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of

Individuality. Springfield, VA: The Teaching Company

Staddon, John. (1993). Behaviorism: Mind, Mechanism and Society. London: Duckworth

Todd, James T., (1995). Modern Perspectives on B.F. Skinner and Contemporary

Behaviorism. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press

Todd, James T., (1994). Modern Perspectives on John B. Watson and Classical

Behaviorism. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press

Watson, J. B., (1921). Studies in Infant Psychology. NJ: Prentice Hall

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