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Behavioral Theory

A B C D E G H I J K L M N O P R S T Ü V W
Ba Be Bo

Behavioral Theory seeks to explain human behavior by analyzing the antecedents and consequences present in the individual’s environment and the learned associations he or she has acquired through previous experience. This entry describes the various traditions within the behavioral perspective (classical conditioning, operant conditioning, cognitively mediated behavioral theory, and functional contextualism) and the clinical applications that are derived from them. Common criticisms are discussed in light of the ongoing evolution of behavioral theory and the fit of its tenets with the field of social work.

Behavioral Theory has its roots in classical conditioning that was formalized and applied to language development by B.F. Skinner in the late 1950s. Skinner believed that all behavior, including language, was a learned response. This theory minimized the influence of mentalistic explanations of → language behavior. According to Skinner, behavior was modified or changed through forming associations with certain stimuli in the environment. A major tenet of Behavioral theory is operant conditioning which suggests that likelihood of a behavior occurring is increased or decreased as a result of reward and punishment. Behavioral theory assumed language was a special case of behavior only because it is a behavior that is reinforced solely by other individuals. As children are learning language, they try to produce language that is similar to adult language because it is rewarded through praise and response, while inappropriate language is ignored or corrected.

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