Behaviorism: Its Strengths and Weaknesses

Behaviorism_WordleAs we’ve studied before in our experimental psychology class, the history of psychology as a distinct profession and field of science is very interesting.  In line with this, the different theories were given emphasis on how so many of these were developed by different experts. There came the psychodynamic theory, behavioral, cognitive, interpersonal, and so many more.

To relate with our previously discussed module on Behaviorism, let me focus on its strengths and weaknesses as a theory explaining ones behavior and adaptation to learning.

Strengths of Behaviorism

  • Behaviorism is based upon observable behaviors, so it is easier to quantify and collect data and information when conducting research. Since research and experiment is a very powerful tool in providing explanations and clear evidences about a certain phenomenon, early theorists and proponents of behaviourism took pride in initiating the studies of  observable behaviors rather than those that cannot be observed and measured (like unconsciousness and repressed sexual desires as the bases for psychodynamic  theory).
  • Effective therapeutic techniques such as intensive behavioral interventionbehavior analysis, token economies and discrete trial training are all rooted in behaviorism. These approaches are often very useful in chbehaviorismanging maladaptive or harmful behaviors in both children and adults. Much has been said about the values of reinforcements like rewards, punishments, Premack principle and others when it comes to facilitating learning. In conclusion, when these techniques are properly used and considered, it will aid in learning things. Otherwise, it will be counter-productive.

Criticisms of Behaviorism

  • Many critics argue that behaviorism is a one-dimensional approach to understanding human behavior and that behavioral theories do not account for free will and internal influences such as moods, thoughts and feelings. As my professor told us, behaviourism tends to be “superficial” or shallow in explaining behavior and learning. It only considers what is observable and measurable, well in fact there are various unseen aspects of an individual that are very vital in his or her personalities and learning capabilities.
  • Behaviorism does not account for other types of learning, especially learning that occurs without the use of reinforcement and punishment. As can be inferred from the theory presented, much of the human behavior and learning abilities were attributed to the effects of external factors that serve as reinforcers or punishers. As contested by other proponents like Albert bandura, not everything can be explained by outside influence as mentioned. Still, there are many different ways.
  • People and animals are able to adapt their behavior when new information is introduced, even if a previous behavior pattern has been established through reinforcement.  It only says that regardless of what behavior an individual learned in the past through the system of reinforcement, he can still be able to modify and/or change it when new circumstances offer new information. I believe that this is true as we also have the process of extinction. As we continue to live, we will encounter many more opportunities for learning.

Comic chickenBehaviorism in general provided us much influence in the field of education and psychology. We can never just deny the fact that some of our beliefs and approaches to life are rooted in this body of knowledge. In the end, I have to say that no any single theory could ever explain fully how we behave and learn in the context of a changing environment. Other theories were purposively developed because proponents did find significance. It is now imperative for us, to go out of the box, incorporate and synthesize the impacts of these many theories.

God bless everyone! Happy Learning!   😀  😀  😀


Kendra, Cherry. Learning Study Guide: Behaviorism. Retrived June 23, 2013 from


2 thoughts on “Behaviorism: Its Strengths and Weaknesses

  1. Nice post Rhed!
    Perhaps schools could apply behaviorist strategies more effectively if they incorporate them with the more human approaches of the other existing theories. Schools may combine the good points of Goleman’s EQ, Gardner’s Existentialisms and Skinner’s Voluntary responses when formulating strategies that will deal with their students’ behavior.

    • Spot on classmate! 😀

      When your suggestion is incorporated to the classroom setting,surely there will be a big difference in the learning outcomes of the students. It may be a breakthrough! 😀 Keep going!

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