Explain and evaluate the methodology used by the behaviourist approach (12 marks)
Behaviourists believe that we are all born a blank slate “tabula rasa”. Their theory is that all behaviour is learned and determined by the environment we live in as we have learned to respond to stimuli in particular ways through conditioning. Behaviourists also assume that the process of learning is similar amongst all species; therefore humans learn the same way as animals do.
One of the methods that behaviourists use to do research is lab experiments. The approach is regarded by scientists and a good and solid approach to studying behaviour because extraneous variables can be carefully controlled. There is the independent variable (the cause) and the dependent variable (the effect). For example, in Bandura’s experiment of the social learning theory, the independent variable was whether the children saw the aggressive role model’s behaviour towards to bobo doll being punished or reinforced. The dependent variable was then how the children acted towards the bobo doll themselves. Lab experiments are the best way to study casual relationships as the extraneous variables can be controlled to give internal validity which shows whether the researchers are really measuring what they are claiming to measure. Experiments can also easily be repeated to show validity and the results are therefore easy to analyse and compare to each other to diminish any outlier results.
However the downfall to lab experiments is the ecological validity is generally low. This is because the people taking part are in an unnatural environment so their behaviour is generally unnatural to how they would behave in real life. Participants may try and assume the purpose of the study and behave how think the researchers think they want them to behave. On the other hand, participants may act totally opposite to how they think the researchers want them to act to spite the experiment; this is the ‘screw you’...