Essentials of Psychology

Essentials of Psychology SSC130


Psychology focuses on the study of behaviors, cognitions, and emotions. The discipline focuses on animals, human activities, and the mental processes such as alleviating mental illnesses (Feldman, 2013). There are several perspectives of psychological concepts and ideas based different fields of profession and/or career. In most cases, psychologists work in different environments including, but not limited to schools, hospitals, community health centers, legal courts, and business. Nonetheless, the role of psychology is to provide students with a different view about psychological concepts, theories, and applications (Feldman, 2013). It also helps the students to engage in critical thinking. According to the behavioral psychologists learning is a fundamental aspect that occurs in every aspect of life (Feldman, 2013). Behavior change can be initiated through the use of different learning methods such as rewards and punishments.


Behavioral psychologists have identified different learning/conditioning methods including classical, operant, latent and observational among others. The principles of classical conditioning was first experimented on animals; Pavlov’s salivation dog experiment (Feldman, 2013). In this experiment, Pavlov’s dog positively responded to the ringing bell by salivating (conditioned stimulus) in order to quench unconditioned stimulus of hunger. Therefore, Pavlov concluded that the dog was able to not only respond to food, but also learn. This was due to a combination of a neutral stimulus with conditioned and unconditioned stimuli. Classical conditioning is involuntary and comes automatically due to unconditioned stimuli for example response to food and sound among others (Feldman, 2013). Like in animals, classical conditioning can be linked to human beings through feelings of hunger, pains, and emotions among others. For instance, an insect sting may lead to insect phobia and one may even develop traumatic the experience (Feldman, 2013). However, in some cases classical conditioning is prone to extinction especially when the stimuli are not repeated over and over. This is done by terminating the association between conditioned stimulus and unconditioned one. For example, a school going child is supposed to sweep the house on daily routine in response of a parental promise of ready breakfast before going to school. There will be classical learning when the parent first honors the promise but an automatic lateness in bed upon the parent’s repeated dishonor of the previous promise. Ultimately, the parent’s repeated failure or honor to keeping the promise may lead to different conditioning called operant.  

Operant conditioning is a voluntary learning in which the response is encouraged or discouraged; strengthened or weakened depending on the good or bad consequences. Ideally, human beings and animals are able to learn better or change their behaviors through the operant conditioning (Feldman, 2013). Therefore, positive behavior change of a child in operant conditioning emphasizes on reinforcements made by the party demanding behavioral change.  Operant conditioning could be positively used supposed a parent wanted his/her child to maintain a routine cleanliness of the house (Feldman, 2013). Positive psychological analysis of the child’s responses to various directives made by the parent is important. Firstly, the parent could intentionally leave the child in unclean house so that he/she can know whether the child is able to recognize the status of the house and clean it. Therefore, whenever the house is not cleaned; the parent could suggest the untidy state of the house in the presence of the child and then set an example by cleaning the house. Next time the house is again left untidy and the child cleans it; the parent could offer an incentive/reward to the child in order to reinforce the habit of cleanliness. Alternatively, when the house is not cleaned on the second time, the parent could give a stern warning of a possible severe consequence in future and/or punish the child (Feldman, 2013). The child’s case study offers examples of both positive, negative, and punishment reinforcements that may be used to dictate the nature of the behavioral outcome. Positive stimuli might include rewards, congratulations words offered to encourage/strengthen positive behavioral response.  

On the other hand, negative reinforcers may congratulate the child or giving stern warning hoping to derive a positive response in future. Moreover, punishments are stimuli which are meant to reduce the chances of repeating previous behavior. Nonetheless, punishment cannot be used as a means to change a child’s behavior because it only presents a quick and short solution to (Feldman, 2013). For example, punishment should only be used in instances where it is the only means through which the correction on the child’s behavior can be changed.  Apart from that, very rare cases may justify punishment as the most effective for instance children suffering from autism and can brutally abuse there bodies. Such children may be punished after exhausting other corrective measures. Cognitive plays important roles in conditioning/learning process (Feldman, 2013). This is because not all learning processes are based on classical or operant conditionings.

Some psychologists perceive learning as a thoughtful process or cognition. For example one may not know how drive a car by simply taking an ignition key, getting behind the wheels, start driving and thereafter get positive reinforcements. Rather, they must be induced to some elements of information and experiences. Therefore, behavioral Psychologists recognize latent and observational learning. Latent learning is one in which cognitive aspect of the brain is used to learn a new behavior but not applied until certain incentives are provided (Feldman, 2013). On the other hand, observational learning involves imitating an act or behavior from a different party. According the case study, models were spectacularly used by Bandura to demonstrate the ability to stimulate the learning process.  Both positive and negative can be acquired through observational behavior. For instance a child is able to make keen observation of an act and emulate the same in the later stage.


Feldman, R. S. (2013). Essentials of understanding psychology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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