A.W. Staats and Psychological Behaviorism

Discover what psychological behaviorism is and how it explains behavior, emotion and human personality.

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Psychological behaviorism holds that personality can be explained through observable behavior. It was in 1912 that Watson first developed behaviourism, the general theory that includes psychological behaviorism. Subsequently, Skinner further expanded the theory with his formulation of radical behaviorism. The most recent approaches of A.W.Staats speak of a psychological behaviorism; the same that emphasizes the personality and the inner world of a person.

The psychological behaviorism of Arthur W. Staats extends behaviorism to the field of psychology. It postulates that psychology can be explained through observable behaviors. The components of psychology include personality, learning and emotion.

In this sense, Staats was the first to propose that personality consists of a repertoire of learned behaviors that arise from the interaction of the environment, biology, cognition and emotions. This theory of personality is the main component of psychological behaviorism. Therefore, it separates it from the theories of behaviorism that preceded it.

Psychological behaviorism and personality

According to Staats’ theory of personality, there are three behavioral repertoires that contribute to a theory of personality.

  • The first is the sensory-motor repertoire, which includes sensory-motor skills and attentional and social skills.
  • The second is the cognitive-linguistic repertoire
  • The third is the emotional-motivational repertoire.

At birth, a baby lacks all these repertoires. Later he acquires them through complex learning and becomes capable of handling various situations. An individual experiences life, to a large extent, according to his baggage, and as he grows up, he develops a basic behavioral repertoire.

The basic behavioral repertoire of an individual and their life situation will shape their behavior, which in turn will profile their personality. According to this model, biology interacts with the environment and contributes to the formation of personality.

On the other hand, psychological behaviorism considers that the study of personality is very important. Personality tests are considered essential insofar as they allow predicting what behaviors people will show and if they will be at risk.

The tests also help identify the behaviors and the contexts that facilitate them. What helps to design environments that produce the desired behaviors, while avoiding the development of unwanted behaviors.

Psychological behaviorism and education

Psychological behaviorism argues that, as children develop, they learn basic repertoires on which other more complex repertoires are built. This is called cumulative learning. According to psychological behaviorism, this is a type of learning exclusive to humans.

According to this model of cumulative learning, when children learn a repertoire such as language, they can build on that repertoire with other repertoires, such as reading and grammar. From there, learning those repertoires of reading and grammar lead to the acquisition of additional complex repertoires.

Staats’ research with his own children and in his studies emphasized the importance of parenting. He showed that early training of children in language development and cognitive development led to more advanced language development. The demonstration of greater intelligence in the intelligence tests made it clear. Many studies conducted on this topic in the field of behavioral analysis support their findings.

Psychological behaviorism and language

Staats indicates that we have a large number of words that provoke a positive or negative emotional response based on the previous classical conditioning. As such, they can transfer their emotional response to whatever they are matched to.

The basic theory of psychological behaviorism learning also states that emotional words have two additional functions. They will serve as rewards and punishments to learn other behaviors; also to cause approximation or avoidance behavior.

Psychological behaviorism deals with various aspects of language. From its original development in children to its role in intelligence and abnormal behavior. In fact, it supports this basic and applied studies. For example, the article Staats published in the journal Behavior Therapy in 1972 helped introduce cognitive behavioral therapy (language) in the field of behavior.

Psychological behaviorism and behavior disorders

Instead of accepting the concept of mental illness, psychological behaviorism argues that behavioral disorders are simply poorly learned behavioral repertoires; or, in any case, a lack of repertoires of conduct. This would prevent the individual from managing the events of life.

In fact, the theory of psychological behaviorism rejects the concept of mental illness. In contrast, behavioral disorders are composed of learned repertoires of abnormal behavior. Behavioral disorders are associated with a lack of assimilation of the basic repertoires that are needed to adjust to the vital demands.

Thus, psychological behaviorism suggests an approach associated with associations and behavioral consequences to treat behavioral disorders. It also suggests prevention by identifying and intervening about the conditions that create them.