Behaviorist, Humanistic, and Cognitive Theories Comparison

Various theoretical approaches exist in the framework of contemporary education and learning. Among them are behaviorist, humanistic and cognitive theories. An approach may be outlined as an assumption, which tends to expound on the functionality of a given aspect of human behavior, especially when undertaken during studies. Consequently, a lot of theoretical approaches can exist simultaneously, but all of them tend to revolve around the same base of assumptions. Mainly, these perspectives depict various strengths and weakness, which pose great differences among theoretical perspectives. To cater for this limitation, psychologists and scholars utilize different approaches that help to fulfill the need to study and analyze both human and animal behavior heightens. The central topic of the paper gives a detailed comparison of three theoretical approaches in the field of educational leadership, pointing out differences and similarities in each case.

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In education, behaviorism is treated as a theoretical approach to people’s behaviors, understanding, and learning. According to it, humans have clear state initially, and their behavior (respond to the environment) is affected by positive or negative reinforcement. Thus, it can be said that this method mainly deals with the way individuals are influenced by stimuli (Moore, 2012). Being developed a long time ago, it has had different revisions. For instance, Pavlov provided a range of mechanisms that can be used to illustrate the approach. In the previous century, a methodological behaviorism was described by Watson. According to it, learners’ traits can be measured when focusing on observable characters and events. Additionally, Skinner emphasized the importance of such variables as thoughts and emotions. Finally, Watson and Pavlov defined the stimulus response procedure that can be maintained to strengthen and weaken human behavior, defining the way students act in a particular situation. In this way, behaviorism allows to transform practice through characters and adapt to the educational environment. The discussed approach tends to explain the reason why people tend to react differently to the same stimuli even if the condition is the same at the exciting moment of action. Scholars and researchers who focus on this approach argue that the study should concentrate more on the observable human behaviors rather than on the individual thoughts or emotions, which may be treated as an authentic basis for the study (Li & Ke, 2015).

It is important to point out the fact that behavioral approach does not deal with mental incapability and related issues. On the contrary, it focuses on people’s actions and habits, trying to analyze their causes and formation in relation to the stimuli. Moore (2013) also mentions that modeling or observation-learning is a critical issue within this approach. In general, children’s behaviors develop due to modeling, which means that students perform both desired and unfavorable actions because they observe others conducting them (Ferencz-Kaddari, Shifman, & Koslowsky, 2016). For instance, a situation when one learner starts being late because his/her friend does the same is often observed. In a similar way, other behaviors are also repeated. Since behaviors of human beings are already studied alone, scholars believe that it is time to discuss them in the framework of new ideologies and uninvestigated perspectives. Such focus is mainly needed when the condition or the outlined behaviors face objection from the societal or scholarly point of view. To stimulate learning and emphasize the necessity of new behavioral studies, Parkay & Hass (2000) stated that a reward should be provided to facilitate the desired response. Teachers and instructors have found this approach effective in a classroom by offering reward and punishment in equal measure.

Humanism approach focuses on the study of individualistic aspects besides outlining differences between people, in the framework of which it distinguishes a particular individual from others. This approach confines the behavioral studies of the person not only from the observer’s perspective but also from the viewpoint of the subject under the study. It is considered to be a phenomenological approach, as the personality on which research is focused is subjective to the perspective of the individual. Within it, the focus gradually shifts from the observable behaviors of the subject to the unconscious and thinking outline of the individual. Different views and perceptions of how people relate and interpret events define unique human mental states and activities. It is important to point out that this approach was coined to bridge the differences outlined by both the behavioral and cognitive approaches. This fact explains its nickname a ‘third force’ that was used by Maslow (2003). To bridge the gap effectively, this approach firmly rejected the phenomena of the behaviorism stimuli response. Moreover, it rejects cognitive approach, as it tends to be deterministic with some subconscious irrational forces attributed to human behavior influences.

Cognitive approach mainly focuses on the comprehension of people’s behaviors, perceptions, and actions that can only be influenced by the understanding of the internal process of their minds (Goldstein, 2002). This approach focuses on the study of relationship that exists between the individual’s thinking, behaviors, and emotional attachments in connection with their mental capabilities. During the learning process, human beings tend to treat information differently depending on the situation and those conditions that exist at the moment. The style of this treatment of information (or stimuli, as behaviorist would call it) becomes the main focus of cognitive approach. Consequently, scholars mainly take into account the source of the stimuli, the cause and the output effects as depicted by the human mental processes. Researchers who operate in the sphere of cognitive psychology, study all internal body processes thoroughly. In this way, they deepen their knowledge of perceptions, attention, and memory retentions in human beings. Psychologists participate in laboratory studies that allow them to research internal human behaviors. It is important to point out that cognitive approach is the only scientific method that can be used to fulfill such tasks, as it includes physical tests under strict conditions, which allows to avoid biases and undesirable influences on the outcomes of experiments. However, psychological and educational studies conducted in this way and their findings may be criticized because they do not validate the ecological schooling.

In the framework of education and learning, behavioral and cognitive approaches have significant implications on behavior and identification of the determinant. Atkinson (2010) outlined that behavioral approach is an intensive study of human behaviors. The main focus of this study is to identify the purpose of people’s reaction with respect to the causes or the determinant. Evidently, behaviorism is mainly influenced by natural stimuli and is under strict regulations. However, cognition could be outlined as a sectional part of the behavioral approach. Cognition approach mainly focuses on the study and understanding of human mental processes. Within it, psychologists conduct intensive scientific experiments to observe how human behaviors and actions are attributed to their mental capabilities.

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Unlike behaviorism which depends mainly on the stimuli, recognition mainly employs information processing as the principle base in interacting with human behaviors and actions. In Behavioral approach, the researchers mainly consider the physical outlook of the subject under study. More importantly, the approach took into account even the behavioral mechanism of animals during the study procedures provided there were external stimuli. On the other hand, cognitive approach took into consideration the mental studies of human beings. The experimental study analyses the human mental metaphor as the abstract influencing the human behaviors.

However the behaviorism and Cognitive approach have significant similarity index. Referencing from Wimberley (2004), it is evident that significant similarities encompass the Behaviorism and Cognitive approaches. The assumption is the main essential mechanism in about the approaches. In behaviorism, it relies on the assumption of the physical behaviors of the individuals or the animals in relation to the external stimuli. Likewise, cognitions is based on the assumption of an influence of the human internal brain process as the main contributing factor to the behaviors and actions of the human beings. Moreover, the mechanism of contradiction finds wide applicability in both Behaviorism and Cognitive approaches (Atkisson, 2010).

Behaviorism, for instance, attempts to explain the relation that exists between the reactions of an animal or human beings about the introduction of the external stimuli. Furthermore, it sets its analysis of inquiry depending on the affordance of the mechanism. Equally, the relationship existing between information processing and the human actions and behaviors forms the backbone mechanism of cognitive approach. The mechanism further explains the human perception, mental information retention and the level of comprehension of the natural environmental surrounding. More importantly, the two approaches seem more complementary to each other. Cognitive is affected by the criticism of behaviorism whereas it tends to overcome the all the limitation which are depicted by the behavioral approach (Atkisson, 2010).Howler, the scientific mechanism of the cognitive process gives a framework of the process which facilitates decision making, errors evaluation and information retention in the brains. Tehsil experiences cannot be sum-up by the physical observable behaviors only.

On the same note Behaviorism and humanist tend to be diiffrent when percived from an academic point of view. DifferencesIn the article, Behaviorism Is Also a Humanism by McLeish (2006), the behavioral approach is mainly perceived by as an animalistic stimuli approach. Therefore, behaviorist does not give the subject room to use their brain but are expected to react in response to the external stimuli. In this approach, the behavioral of the subject can be observed if subject to positive or negative reinforcements. Positive and negative reinforcements involve the use of reward or punishments in an attempt to mould and facilitate the response of the subject in relation to the outlined stimuli. The approach pressurizes on the ability of the observer to comprehend the behaviors of the organisms in question by observing the reaction while under the influence of the stimuli.

However, in humanist approach, the subject is capable of understanding its awareness condition which influenced choices making, the need to fulfill responsibilities and the understanding of the growth and development of the physical manifestations (McLeish, 2006). In the humanist approach, it is believed that the self-awareness of the subject is greatly enhanced by social interactions. The interaction could range from meeting with parents, friends or even peers in the given age groups.

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Another significant difference that exists between that exist between the behaviorist and humanist approach is the contradiction mechanism; humanistic approach mainly depicts human beings as unique. According to humanist, the level of human being uniqueness is mainly attributed to their intellects, psychological and social capacities. On the other hand, behaviorist does not place a notable difference that exists between animals and the human race. Another notable difference that exists between behaviorism and humanist are based on the emphasis on different reaction expressed by individuals based on their prior experience to the external stimuli.

The explanation of motivation about personality poses a striking difference between behaviorism and humanist approaches. To motivate learners and scholars, behavior stresses on the use of reward and punishments to mould and shape learners especially while in classrooms. Further, it stresses on the primary motivation as the external stimuli. Contrarily, the human beings believe the motivations of the human being is based on their desire to achieve for them to survive. This is motivation usually driven by the self-actualization; the primary concept in humanism theoretical approach. The humanist approach stresses on the ability and capacity of the individual to respond to the stimuli as a motivating factor to facilities achievements. In fact, the subject of study in this approach applies the essential concept of self-actuates help them to relate their achievements to the past experiences. Nonetheless, the similarity of the behaviorism and humanism approached s are also evident in the personality concept depicting similar lights in the field of education (Masthoff, Grasso, & Ham, 2014).

Nonetheless, behaviorism and humanist approaches constitute various similarities in their concepts. Although motivation plays a critical role in attempting to distinguish the two, it is also an essential concept in both approaches. They recognize internal and external motivational factors. Human beings are motivated by stimuli that are vital as they influence both external and internal reactions, depending on a particular situation and moment experienced by the subject. More importantly, internal urges that comprise of the need to have sex, hunger and the need to quench thirst can affect people’s behaviors. In this way, a person can be distracted from learning because of their influence. This reaction is basically long-lasting, and the focus on stimuli does not reduce until the need is satisfied. In a similar manner, human behavior is subjected to one’s interactions with society. Thus, the individual is motivated when being offered support and involvement due to the association with members of the group. In this case, the internal factors may be attributed to the fulfillment and the feeling of actualization while external factor may be outlined as the experiences the individual gains as a result of engaging oneself in a group.

Another important aspect of both behavioral and humanist approaches is the recognition of both internal and external response to given stimuli. In humans, the urge to fulfill internal desires compels the subject to seek social interactions. Furthermore, these two approaches emphasize the involvement of another individual that is targeted at the promotion of one’s personal development. Social groups are essential as they provide room for individuals to express responses and to point out the contribution of other people’s experiences at the same time.

Furthermore, humanistic and cognitive do exhibit comparable differences. In humanistic approach, individuals are studies as a whole. The behavior of an individual is looked at not only from the observer’s eye but also from the particular individual being observed. In humanistic approach, individuals are considered to be unique in their ways and hence cannot be generalized. On the contrary, in the cognitive approach, the ability to remember the content is used to measure the character of an individual. The mental ability to remember the information recorded in the brain is the crucial factor in this case. For instance, the cognitive ability is assessed in students when they are given exams o write. The exams are mainly based on theoretical part of learning.

Conversely, although humanistic and cognitive theoretical approaches are engulfed by dissimilar assumption and focus, the two are also similar some ways. The desires and needs of an individual, in both cases, can be attributed to the influential external factors of that relate subject. As a result, the two approaches causes juxtaposition of each other. Another essential similarity lies on the self-efficacy with relation to the persona aims and achievements. Personal goals and achievements are the main focus of the humanist approach. According to Atkisson, (2010, the reciprocal determinism in the Banduras theory, he showed that humanistic theory could be explained as a social aspect as well. From this, it is evident that the personal achievement is directly attributed to the external stimuli such as hunger and the need to lead in the classroom.

Both approaches require awareness of the problems and the set goal as an effective way of changing the human thinking orientations. As a result, the approaches are effective in addressing the mental disorders which affect the brain such as depression, neurosis among others which can be managed by slight mental orientations. More importantly, humanistic and cognitive approaches seem to be idiographic in that they assess the base case con the individual. This is done regardless of fitting the individual to the outlined law which may affect their response to external stimuli. On the base of their objectives, the two principles lacks measurable theories a fact that has attracted criticism from behaviors scholars.

Thus, it can be claimed that behaviorism is extremely important for education because it allows educators to reach new effective techniques they can use in practice. Being employed, they give professionals an opportunity to promote behaviors and actions they believe to be significant for student’s development, while those behaviors that affect the effectiveness of learning and teaching processes negatively can be discouraged. For instance, if an educator works with students who miss classes, he/she should implement negative consequences followed by punishment to prevent such behavior.

Controversies of the Behaviorist Theory

The Charles Darwin theory has been widely accepted and acknowledged by scientist all over the world. A result, the theory of behaviorisms have been facing criticism consistently as it tends to contradict the natural selection theory. The theory is depicted to point out some ideas in the Darwinism that contradict with the Darwinians law of natural selection. In the theory, Darwin stipulates that human beings and other animal are constantly on the verge to improve their self –control over natural intuitions (Dugatkin, 2001). Thus the ability besides edge free will of the individual has been heightening as the evolution advance. From this point of argument, it is clear that the positional argument of the behaviors theory is a direct contradiction of the put forward by the father of evolution.

In addition, the behaviorist behavior of the animals is assumed to have a positive reinforcement drive whereas the natural selection mode is the main drive in the Darwinian a proposal. The sensory satisfaction remains to be the contributing factor for the survival of species. In contrary, Darwin’s put it clearly that species survival is directly dependent on their ability to select the survival bounds which best suits their needs. The difference in the perception of the external pleasure on the surface of the animal skin further raise concerns on the controversy between the two theoretical concepts. In behaviorism, undesirable pressure on the external surface of the skin is likely to cause an adverse reaction on the organism. However, this is not always the case as human being indulges in more risky activities regardless of the risks associated with the activity such playing football.

Thus, it can be concluded that behaviorist, humanistic, and cognitive theories provide various ideas of reaching the best outcomes in the framework of education. Still, they tend to agree on the fact that success and better achievements are usually reached by all learners when they are recognized. According to humanist approach, the educators should reveal respect towards the learners because it encourages students. Moreover, it allows them to feel like a part of the interactive social set-up. Consequently, the instructors are to interact with the learners constructively as this is the only way in which they can assist the learners and let them achieve self-realization. Still, it is also critical not to forget about the scientific study of the brain mechanism of the learners during the learning process.

It should be essential because it will create a room to understand various behaviors and respond in relation to the brain mechanisms. In addition to that, their academic achievements can be greatly improved if they are reinforced by both positive and negative reinforcement, which is discussed in the framework of the behavioral theoretical approach. However, showing respect by comprehending internal and external behaviors of an individual can offer a firm foundation for the development of the individual. Humanistic and cognitive approaches, in their turn, are not that focused on the behavior. While behaviorism uses natural stimuli and strict regulations, cognition turns into a secondary element in this approach, which deals with human mental processes. Still, according to the cognitive theory, it is tightly connected with people’s actions, as they affect the mental capabilities (to remember information, for example). Thus, behaviorists focus on the physical outlook and cognitivists on the mental ones.

Professionals, who support behaviorism, encourage the educators to use reward or punishments in order to encourage the learners to respond to the stimuli, without emphasizing the necessity to give them an opportunity to reconsider the situation. Still, according to the humanist approach, the learners are expected to be aware of what influences their decisions. Thus, the emphasis is put on the learners’ self-awareness of the subject. It is also critical to pay attention to the fact that humanism considers all people to be unique, which means that the learners are to be treated differently, and their personal characteristics should be considered. Behaviorism, on the other hand, tends to generalize and reveal universal approaches. According to humanistic theory, reward and punishments can shape learners, affecting the way they think, perceive the world and behave and emphasizing the value of the self-actualization. Thus, motivation is critical for both behaviorism and humanism.

Behavioral theories tend to require uniform standards to evaluate all learners equally but separately. Those who support cognitive approach underline the necessity to define students’ considerations made while deciding particular problems and responding to stimuli. The educators also serve as facilitators that help children to evaluate themselves. As a result, they receive an opportunity to control personal learning behavior. In the framework of humanism, educators are encouraged to provide the learners with the freedom to choose and make decisions. Thus, they are expected to meet personal educational goals without external assistance. Unlike behaviorism, this theory allows the learners to develop personal standards according to which they can assess their work. Behaviorism and humanism tend to oppose each other because of the way they treat a human beings.

Even though these theories differ greatly, they all tend to explain why people do certain things in the way they do them. Of course, the emphasis in each is put on different concepts, but they all are at least partially present in one another. For example, the connection between the mental processes and behavior that follows them is of great interest. At the same time, humanistic and cognitive approaches presuppose that people are not static, and their personality can alter. They presuppose that people can understand the issues they need to address and are able to prepare a plan of appropriate actions. These approaches can be used to affect people’s mental and emotional condition. Still, scientists tend to prefer behavioral approach when implementing some changes, as it includes more measurable elements and can be assessed better than others.


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